Bonnie Fercho is a Clay Artist from Brainerd, Minnesota. She creates distinctive Clay Sculpture, Art tile and Pottery, and I'm excited to have had the opportunity to interview her for my blog.
Bonnie shares her wonderful insights on the sources of her inspiration, and her perspective of the Artist's life.
I feel enriched by this glimpse into her creative journey…
Bonnie, at work in her Studio.
Bonnie, how long have you been working with clay, and would you describe it as your calling in life?
Bonnie: "It is my chosen calling. Its entirely possible I'm in the wrong profession, but its as close as I have been able to come to understanding what I'm supposed to be doing in this life. It was kind of a "here goes nothing" decision, but here I am. I have had a long lasting love affair with all the different forms of clay art that I work on, sculpture, handmade tile, and pottery. They complement each other and kind of meld together as I multi-task working on one while another dries or sets up, for example. I loved working on art projects as a child, I remember wanting to be a sculptor when I was very young. I also worked with clay in a high school art class where I had my first exposure to the potters wheel. Most of my life was spent in a "regular" job, but off and on I had the opportunity to take classes in clay work and participate in workshops and informal apprenticeships. And then several years ago I left my job in corporate America, set up my studio, and started to do clay work exclusively. But it really has been a lifelong interest."
Handmade Tiles in a bathroom setting.
Bonnie: "I'll try to explain what I understand about this. Although I am just beginning to scratch the surface of what Art is, and I know I have a very long way to go, I can say that my world view and so my efforts to create Art are organized around the idea of spiritual evolution. First, I believe that most art is subjective, but some of it can, if we are open to it, communicate objective truths that can affect us in such a way that they help us to become more fully ourselves, which means they can help us develop spiritually. But beyond my basic understanding of this, my art is an attempt to discover what I believe real Art would be. Very little is really known in our modern world either about real Art or about how to truly proceed on a spiritual path. Much knowledge has been lost over the ages, and most of what we think we know is subjective and based on illusion. (This premise, of course, as asserted by some Eastern religions.) So in choosing to make Art, my objective is to create a piece that might somehow make life more meaningful for the viewers of my art and for me. Granted, that is a monumental challenge, but I am convinced this is my calling. I don't know whether I am on the right track to something that is real Art, I can only try to find my way. I know there is great Art historically, and there are modern examples of it.* But it is a constant challenge that I believe in, and will try to keep it as a question to be lived, more so than an answer to be found."
'Navajo' Wall Sculpture.
Bonnie: "Another source of inspiration for me is that in ancient civilizations, hand made items were essential to life, and creating them, I believe, enriched the lives of the people who made and used them. So, basically, I think making art and having art in our lives is good for us. For those who are called to it, it gives us the possibility of having a depth of experience that was a way of life in the ancient civilizations that understood more about the art of living than we do."
'3D person in a 2D world' Wall Sculpture.
Bonnie: "I also think about inspiration in terms of the age old axiom, "know thyself", and as I understand it, the subconscious mind holds many keys to self knowledge. Again, I don't understand a great deal about this, but it is interesting to study the messages that come to us when we choose different forms to work with. Working with sculpture, the "language of form", as the sculptor Henry Moore called it, (and all Art is form), can allow us access to the knowledge that is buried deep within us. Our subconscious contains some captivating fantasies, and I believe there is also a possibility of finding a connection with something more true there. And so I am exploring Art as a means to understand myself, and maybe even someday to communicate something important about this marvellous world we live in. So my inspiration comes from trying to listen to and understand this deeper current of life, which I hope can bring me in contact with something greater than myself. I guess that was the long way to explain what inspires me, but that is how I understand it."
* "I think the painting titled "Impression" By French painter Paul Reynard is an example of this, although it is a given, of course, that any experience of art is dependent on the viewer's state of mind."
Do you always have a clear idea about where a work is going, or does it surprise you sometimes?
Bonnie: "The biggest surprises for me have been the happy accidents with glazes, pieces that had flaws that I almost threw away, but at the last minute decided to try to salvage them. Some of these turned out to be my favourite pieces! Just a coincidence, I guess. But no, often I don't have a clear idea until I have worked with a piece for a while. With my sculptures, I try to take a piece of clay and just start making random designs with it, until one of them begins to come together. I try to make as many of them as I can, and then wrap them up and put them away for a few days.
When I look back at them later, I can decide which of them I am interested in making full scale. Most designs seem to springboard off of an earlier one, but I try to get as much diversity as I can. Once I choose one of them to work on, though, I often try to scale and reproduce it exactly."
Do you have a day job, or are you able to live the Creative life full time?
Bonnie: "For the past few years, I have been focusing exclusively on my Art. My plan is to have my Art working to produce an income for me within the next few years. If that doesn't materialize, I will probably be back in the job market at least part time."
It’s always great to see someone creating individual pieces in a mass produced world… I think pottery has always been popular, but there does seem to be a higher interest in hand crafted items recently.
Have you seen any change in the market for your work?
Bonnie: "To me, it seems that there is a market for traditional pottery, and some of the classic forms are very challenging to recreate. But my focus has been more on using unexpected colours and shapes, always trying to find a combination that is truly "original". A lot of Art is about innovation, what is new, what is refreshingly different, what jogs my sense of the familiar so that its not "been there done that" and I can experience it in a new way. It brings me to my senses for a moment. There has also been interest in my wall sculpture, and I am hoping to find a market for it in the area of commercial interior design, where I can work on a large scale."
(Some of Bonnie's Wall Sculptures pictured above.)
Wonderfully colourful plates (I want some!)
Do you express your creativity in any other ways?
Bonnie: "I am a risk taker in general, and try to be open to all possible outcomes, even those that might seem like long shots to most people. I think I bring a sense of originality to the different parts of my life, trying not to do anything, really, in the same old way. And trying to be more in touch with who I am as opposed to what is expected of me."
What do you like to do when you’re not creating Art? (As if being up to your elbows in clay isn't enough fun!)
Bonnie: "Funny you should say that, since when I'm working on the potters wheel I normally get clay not only up to my elbows but on my face, too! As for other activities, I am a kinship partner / mentor to a 12 year old girl who loves working in my studio. And spending time with family is very important to me. Just trying to live life to the fullest. What else, oh yes, then there's my strict social media diet of one hour per day!"
Thank you so much for sharing Bonnie! I love what you say about Art being "a question to be lived, more so than an answer to be found." It's been such a pleasure hearing your thoughts, and best of luck on your journey.
More of Bonnie’s work can be found on her Website Sunstone Clay Works