Who: Miki Glasser
What: Ceramicist and print maker
Where: Holy Cross
Artist’s chosen location for interview: St. Coffee with two dogs, Louise and Fester, to accompany her
Q: When did you stop hiding a certain part of yourself?
A: Whoa. Okay, we are going right in. I think discovering a part of myself was the first step and then unhiding it came naturally.
Just this year I became more comfortable around people. I have been a super strong introvert my whole life. Wicked shy. Don’t talk to strangers. Hate social gatherings. Until this year.
I noticed this a few weeks ago, but this has been emerging for a year or two. I caught myself scheduling and making sure I had something to do, and I was getting really excited about these social gatherings. Before, I would schedule things, but I would schedule things because I felt like I had to, and I would be bummed out not to have time at home. Alone. Puttering.
Now I’m more outgoing, and I love being around people. It’s restorative. It has been a massive life change, and I have no idea how it happened.
I’m really conflicted about it because I spent so much of my life being quiet and reflective rather than being reactive, and now all of a sudden I’m not those things as much anymore. I’m not sure if I’m completely cool with that. For the first time in my life I’m not planning out everything I’m going to say before I say it, and that used to be a really important part of my personality.
I guess I am unhiding the part of me that speaks.
Q: What is something you feel like you still need to do?
A: All of it. I still need to do all of it. There’s more ahead than behind. I want to finish saying what I have to say with my work, which I don’t even think I’ve found what I’m saying yet.
I haven’t always done ceramics. I was a print maker, and I did copper plate etching. That’s how my etching became part of my ceramics, and I love etching because I love the history of the craft and why the craft became popular in the first place.
Printmaking was this way of mass producing images in order to share them with a large group of people. It resisted that idea that one person gets one piece of art, and since they own it, it rarely gets shown or seen by anyone else. Printing multiples was a way to spread thought and knowledge. It was about making thought and art and knowledge more accessible. More democratic.
That contrasted with how much time it takes to make something out of copper and acid is really interesting. You are scraping away metal, pouring acid on it, and there are so many processes going into it. So it’s all this time and process and specialized knowledge going into making something more accessible. I am interested in that contradiction.
I had to stop the print making because having to have an acid bath and ventilation as well as access to copper plates that had to be mined and processed and flown in from really far away all seemed really screwed up. It was like I was trying to kill the planet all by myself.
That’s the other part. I want to learn to love myself and other people more completely. That’s pretty big stuff.
Q: What aspect of your craft do you wish could be translated into your everyday existence?
A: I wish I could time travel.
I just read an article recently about a clay pot that was excavated, and it was hundreds and hundreds of years old. Inside that pot were perfectly preserved squash seeds that had been extinct for hundreds of years. They took the seeds out of that pot, grew the seeds in a lab, and now that squash has been brought back to life.
That pot was a vessel acting as a time machine to carry those seeds into the future.
I do store secrets in the pots I make. Sometimes I’ll write notes and put them in the pots before they get fired. That way they burn up and they’re gone, but the ash gets absorbed into the pot. That way the sentiment is always there.
Wait, can I amend my answer to question number 2 about what I still need to do? My dream is to be picked up by NASA as their resident artist so I can make things for them. The Voyager is a spaceship that they sent out with a golden record on it, and that record is used as a way to explain humans to the aliens, should they ever find the record. I want to be the ceramic artist that gets to put a teacup on the spaceship in order to explain humans.
Q: Where or when do you find that you daydream the most?
A: That’s really all the time for me. I listen to Podcasts, and that sparks a lot of new ideas. Listening to music also sparks a lot of new ideas and daydreams.
Sometimes when I am teaching the things the students talk about will set me daydreaming or fuel daydreams later. One time I had my class designing spaceships that they would take to a made-up planet and they had to include all of the things they would bring with them. One student drew a fish tank full of fish. I said it was smart to think of bringing food and they said “No, the fish are for when you meet an alien. That’s how you shake hands with an alien. With a fish.”
Q: What hieroglyphics would be etched on the inside of your body, telling the tale of your life?
A: There would be a brontosaurus. They’re story is so fascinating. When we were growing up a brontosaurus was a dinosaur. Turns out, up until last year, a brontosaurus was not a recognized species of dinosaur. There was this other kind of brontosaurus-like dinosaur that none of us knew about because it’s name wasn’t Thunder Lizard and it wasn’t in The Land Before Time.
During the bone wars there were two paleontologists competing to get the most number of dinosaurs named under their belt. They both found incomplete brontosaurus skeletons, and they brought them before whatever board decides that a dinosaur is a dinosaur. The board looked at one and said, ‘Yep, that’s a dinosaur, and they named it something.’ Not a brontosaurus.
Well, the other guy who brought the dinosaur skeleton didn’t have a skull with it, so he just popped some other skull on it. The board thought, ‘Yep, that’s a totally different dinosaur. It’s the brontosaurus.’
Then they did some testing on it, and they figured out that it wasn’t real. So the guy lost the brontosaurus. The brontosaurus was taken out of the dinosaur ring. Then they did more testing, found that the skeleton was the skeleton of a brontosaurus, and now it’s back as a species again.
The thing is, we all knew the brontosaurus was real, even though the people who get to name things said it wasn’t real. Then finally they said, ‘Oh, you’re right.’ But we already knew it. There’s something very poetic about that.
Miki Glasser’s ceramics are currently on exhibit at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and they will be on display through June 28, 2016. She will also be teaching a hands-on workshop at the Ogden on June 5th, and the classes she teaches at Byrdie’s begin April 27 (visit byrdiespottery.org for info). You can also follow Miki’s work on Instagram and Facebook.