Monday, December 1, 2008

Yasha Butler

Yasha Butler, Philadelphia, USA

1. How would you describe your style?

Simple, clean, tactile, organic

2. One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look? What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

Figuring out what it is that I like in a letter press print or in a white onion has helped me find new directions to take my work.

I began taking pottery classes about five years ago. However, I have only been seriously pursuing ceramics for the past two and a half years. It took me about the first year of those two and a half to begin producing pieces that I felt confident calling my own. But, I am still trying to find my own voice. I like to be constantly evolving and creating new work. My advice is to keep pushing yourself and to avoid getting stuck on a single successful idea. I also like looking for inspiration outside of ceramic arts. It is fun to look at other ceramists' work, but it is easy to fall into the trap of imitating the work that we like. I suggest looking for inspiration in everyday forms as well. Figuring out what it is that I like in a letter press print or in a white onion has helped me find new directions to take my work.

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get into ceramics and where did you learn your craft?

I got a degree in design as an undergraduate, which gave me a strong visual foundation. However, after a year of sitting in front of a computer and doing AutoCad drawings I realized that I craved working with my hands. Since I enjoyed three dimensional design I decided that ceramics would be a craft that I would enjoy. At the time of this epiphany I was living in Oakland, California, so I opened the yellow pages and found a local pottery studio in Berkeley and began taking classes there.

After a year I returned to Istanbul, Turkey (where I grew up) to work with my parents on renovating an Ottoman era alcohol factory into a small hotel. During this time I took classes from a Turkish ceramic artist in her studio. When the hotel project was done I was faced with two options, either to continue with interior design or to seriously pursue ceramics. At the time I wasn't sure if I would really like working with clay on a day to day basis. So, I signed up for a two month clay concentration at The Penland School of Craft in North Carolina. At the end of the two months I was still unhappy with the work that I was producing, but at least I knew I could work with clay tirelessly. After this realization and with the encouragement of a special someone, I moved to Philadelphia where I have been focusing solely on ceramics for the past two and a half years.

...after a year of sitting in front of a computer and doing AutoCad drawings I realized that I craved working with my hands.

4. What was it that made you want to start making/creating in general? Do you think you were born to make? Did something specific trigger it?

I was raised by architect parents, who always encouraged me to be creative. Whenever I got bored as a child my mother would give me a piece of paper and crayons. I don't know if it is genetic (my sister is a graphic designer) or if it is just the way I was brought up, but I have always enjoyed making stuff.

5. How do you come up with your lovely designs? What's your process?

I spend a lot of time just coming up with ideas and visualizing them in my head. I'm not too good at sketching out ideas and working through them with pen and paper. For some reason I am better at just staring blankly at the ceiling for hours and coming up with new ideas. This is great in someways since I can do it anywhere at any time. However, since I don't always document my thought processes, I can easily forget them. Once I come up with an idea I try to figure out how to produce it. At this point I go into the studio to see if my idea and production method will work. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes while trying to figure out something I end up coming up with a totally different design. Magazines and blogs also get the creative juices flowing.

6. What part of the throwing process is your favorite?

I enjoy the part when I am done throwing and move on to altering and carving the symmetrical piece into its final asymmetrical, organic shape.

7. Do you do this full-time? If not, what pays the bills?

I am lucky enough to be doing this full-time. I work at the pottery school at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia two days a week, where I get free studio space. The Clay Studio is a large organization with a gallery, store, rental studios etc., so there are always odd jobs that I end up doing. I have also begun teaching ceramics to kids. Mostly, I make my own work and try to sell my pieces through galleries and online. I make only enough to get by, but right now that is all that I need.

8. How has your experience been with Craft Fairs/Bazaars? Would you recommend participating in these types of events?

I really enjoy Craft Fairs, although preparing for them can be stressful. I like putting a face to the person buying my work. It's nice to get feedback from the people who end up using my ceramics or wearing my jewelry. I make my work to be used by people, so the human aspect is very important to me. I also enjoy meeting the other vendors and seeing how they go about presenting their work. Craft Fairs can be hit or miss. Each fair has its own style and attracts different groups of people. It takes time to find your own niche. Two pieces of good advise for a first-timer would be: 1) make sure you have a display that reflects your work and sets you apart from the other crafters. 2) don't expect too many sales early on in the day, most people like to visit all the booths and return to the ones that they like at the end.

9. You collaborated with your parents in opening a small hotel in Istanbul. I found the following quote:"Yasha realised an ingenious treatment of the interiors that takes it cue from the buildings waterside setting..." Can you tell us a little about the project and your contributions?

My parents and I renovated an Ottoman era alcohol factory into a small hotel, Sumahan On The Water. This project was my parents' life long dream. I was tasked with designing the interiors. This was an amazing project and a great learning experience. It was both very stressful since I so much personally invested and very rewarding since I got see my own designs come to life.

10. What can we expect to see from you in the future? You've recently started producing porcelain jewelry, which are beautiful by the way. I know that you've recently gotten into silk screening, have you figured out a way to incorporate this into your work yet?

I have been a bunch of new projects in the works. I have begun working with terracotta and terra sigillata, which produces a soft, paint like surface. I have also begun making slip cast work with plaster molds. I really enjoy working at a small scale, so I hope to add new items to my series of jewelry. I have yet to incorporate silk screening into my work. Actually, while researching silk screening as a technique for surface decoration I ended up coming up with another technique where I incise the wet clay and inlay color. This is what led to my Red Tree series. I get bored of making the same stuff over and over again, so I try to introduce new designs and methods to my work as much as possible. However, I try to stay true to my overall aesthetic.

Thanks Yasha!!

Images from and Yasha Butler


Melissa de la Fuente said...

I adore Yasha's work, especially those beautiful earrings! So fun, I love peanut butter on my bananas too! YUM!

wren said...

I absolutely love your work. I am sending a link to my husband right now for holiday ideas!
One day I too will get away from autocad.

wren said...

after seeing yasha's work here i had to post about it on my blog. i also mentioned heart handmade as the source of this beautiful find.