Spotlight Artist Nami Assir
Thalo loves to promote artists and each month we spotlight a member of our community!
This month we are pleased to have Nami Assir as the thalo Spotlight Artist for March.
Thalo Team: What is your artwork about and what do you want people to take from it?
Nami Assir: With every piece, my goal is to remind the user where the piece came from. I believe that true connection to the world around us includes not only being mindful of our relationships with other people, but also with our things. I often include carvings, raised sections, stamps and other unexpected forms of imagery and texture to constantly remind the user of all the steps that were taken before the final product reached their home. As you feel the piece in your hands, my hope is that it will bring a sense of mindfulness to the way in which we consume, and allow the user to appreciate all that was done by others to provide what is in front of them.
TT: Which artists do you feel have influenced your art the most?
NA: Indian ceramic artist Vineet Kacker, and Japanese potter Toshiko Takaezu. I have also been influenced by working closely with potters Donna McGee and Molly Cantor.
TT: Do you have a preferred method of presentation for your artwork and why? (Examples: workshops, gallery shows, Instagram, etc.)
NA: As of now, most attention goes to my instagram page in the hope that it will bring more traffic to my website and etsy shop. However, I believe that my work looks its best in small gallery settings for small group show/sale events.
TT: Out of all of your creations (or bodies of work) which one did/do you find the most cathartic in creating?
NA: It is not so much one piece or body of work, but one step in the process for all of my pieces. I am extremely comfortable on the potters wheel, and find working with wet clay on the wheel relaxing and centering. Because our culture is so visually focused, working with my hands on the wheel is one of the only chances where my eyes get a chance to relax, and I have the opportunity to work based on feeling, or touch. For me, working on the potters wheel allows me to get out of my head, be inside my body, and watch as pots seem to grow out of my hands.
TT: When was your “Aha!” moment that led your work to where it is now?
NA: Winter break, during my second year of college I was allowed to go use the ceramics studio at my old high school in Lebanon. For two weeks straight I spent almost all of my time in that studio. It was the first time that I had a studio all to myself, without the pressures of an assignment for school, for selling to a client, or anything other than creating purely for my own enjoyment.
During those two weeks, my work improved greatly. I broke through the walls I had created for myself about what I thought ‘pottery’ was, and was able to create with clay no matter if it were functional, practical, or even successful at all. It is this sort of freedom and solitude that I work best in.
TT: How has your work (or technique) changed over time?
NA: I used to make pottery that focused on the form created on the wheel. Slowly I have come to appreciate and celebrate surface decoration. I am hoping to continue to learn more and more about glaze development, different surface decoration techniques, and firing methods.
I believe that opening up this entirely new, 2D element on 3D artwork is where most growth will happen in the coming years.
TT: How do you promote yourself and your art?
NA: I attend craft events such as Artspace’s pottery sale, or the Historical Societies ‘Longmeaddowe Days’ craft event; I also have held private art shows and small shows with friends in a rented space.
I post almost daily on my instagram page, and try to check in on facebook as well. My hope is to direct more traffic to my website and etsy page through those social media profiles.
TT: Do you have any tips or advice for fellow artists based off of your experiences thus far?
NA: Try to get involved in the community. Not just focus on your own artwork. You may have all the skills in the world, but no one will buy your work if they don’t see it, don’t know you are even making work, don’t know who you are, etc. Selling artwork is about creating a brand for yourself, and that becomes 100 times easier with others, higher up in the community, guiding you up with connections and opportunities.
Work with other artists, teach, write, go to events, network.
TT: What are you working on right now and why?
NA: My goal at this point in my career is to try everything and anything. I have been doing carvings, inlaying, using texture rollers and stamps, creating a variety of different forms, and work with four different clay bodies.
I am talented with clay, but I do not want to feel stuck within one aesthetic or technique. Over time, as I try different techniques, use different materials, work with different firing methods, and style will slowly emerge by way of natural selection; finding out what works, what doesn’t, what people like and what I like as well.
TT: What would you consider to be your "biggest achievement" with your work thus far?
NA: I had a solo exhibition at Judies Art Bar in Amherst, MA. I served wine and snacks, and had a full house packed with people. I made a good amount of sales, from friends, family and strangers, and was able to get my name and work out quite a bit.
TT: What was your first work of art that you were proud of? Where is it now?
NA: In high school, I created a ceramics exhibition of over 40 pieces. I was judged by a jury of teachers from within the school and outside of the country, and received top marks. Many of those pieces are still at my mothers home in Beirut, Lebanon.
TT; Do you take commissions? Why or why not?
NA: Yes! I enjoy making commissions the most- it allows me the opportunity to try something different. I also enjoy creating pottery with the person for whom it is being made for in mind.
Most people who commission me contact me via instagram.
TT: What do you do when you aren't working on artwork (hobbies, job, etc.)?
NA: I also teach ceramics courses, work for other artists on their work, and work odd jobs. I used to be a high school art teacher, but I found that the job required too much focus to also make my own work. Making a living off of pottery is a lot less secure, yet a lot more fulfilling.
TT: What is an area in your work that you feel weak in that you want to improve upon and how are you going to get there?
NA: Glaze development. I have plenty of experience mixing glazes from recipes, but I have never developed my own glaze recipe. Ideally, I would like to become comfortable enough in the next 5-10 years with glazes to the point that I feel I can control the colors comfortably.
There is a little bit of mystery in the glazing, and some of that will always be part of that process. However, part of me feels that with some pieces, I put on a glaze as an afterthought, and hope for the best in the kiln!
I hope to take a glaze development course at Snowfarm craft school!
TT: How do you overcome art blocks?
NA: Part of being creative is allowing yourself the time and space necessary to create. It is not like solving a math equation, and most of us can’t just be inventive on the spot.
Most of the time, creativity flows naturally for me; however I did have an ‘art block’ for about two years. Most of my art blocks come from too many ideas, and not knowing where or what to put my time into. Rarely do I ever not have any ideas; it just has to feel right and that I am spending my time on something worthwhile when I do decide to create.
Most of my work, when thrown on the wheel and later decorated, is dependent mostly on my mood that day. I try very hard to allow whatever I am feeling that day to come through in my work. Although its representation is in no way literal, the intensity of detail, or imagery, or puns or jokes, or colors are all decided based on what feels right for that piece, during that time on that day.
TT: Where do you see your work taking you in the next 5-10 years?
NA: My goal is to be able to develop my work further so I may start to get accepted to residencies. Mudflat and Harvard residencies are both on my radar; and I would like to be able to have these residences take me around the world. There are amazing residencies in Sonoma, in the far east, in rome; anywhere. All part of my learning and experiencing as much as I can around the topic of ceramics.
What I want for myself is to be a true clay and ceramics expert, so that by the time I am 50, I will be looked at as one of the top artists in the field. I am trained as a teacher, and would like to be able to teach workshops around the country, sharing what I know.
TT: If you have links for your website, Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, etc. that you would like to share, please include these addresses below.
Facebook: assir studio