In September the American Craft Council tapped several artists as gold medal recipients for their “Masters” series, joining the ranks of 300 other winners since the awards began in 1975.
Above image: Woodman at work in the studio.
Among those honored this year was Betty Woodman, a ceramic sculptor who works between New York and Tuscany. The ACC points out that Woodman entered the field at a time when women weren’t taken seriously as artists, but she has since created a name for herself internationally.
Artists selected for the honors were invited to do an interview with the ACC. In the video above Woodman talks about getting started with clay at Alfred University, the moment she pulled one of her first works from the kiln and realized she was a ceramist and her career in the years which followed.
Among the more interesting parts of the interview are Woodman’s thoughts on sexism in the field, which she believes has since been broken down. Here’s her anecdote of meeting with female artists in Italy:
“I remember having visits from women in Italy to my studio and who had been told, no, they couldn’t study at the school in France, which was one of the big ceramic programs. They could not study or take the wheel class, because women weren’t supposed to work on the wheel. Women could decorate. So they came to see me and see what I was doing, working on the wheel and stuff. These are all things that today have been broken down, but they were very real. In fact, it grew very irritating for me living in Italy, which I’ve done for 50 years, but just being considered in Italy not an artist, not a potter, just a nice American who likes Italy. I thought, now wait a minute, I want to be part of something and make it my business to be an artist among other artists.”
Another angle on the interview is Woodman’s work ethic, which combines loving what she was able to accomplish with an earlier piece but also being critical enough to see how she can improve upon it. Rather than resting on her earlier successes or hitting a wall of self-deprecation, Woodman uses the conflict to push herself forward.
“I’m always interested in the next piece I’m going to make perhaps more than the last one I made. Well, [you can be] seduced by the last one you made because you think, oh! Look at that. I’m the kind of person who may be totally seduced by it and think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. How could I be so good? Isn’t this wonderful? And then I look at it for a few days, and then I sort of realize, well, you know, this has got a lot of problems. Maybe it’s not that wonderful. Maybe I need to go back and think about something else, do something else.”
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