Architerior talked to ceramic artist Camila Apaez, based in Guadalajara, Mexico. We discussed the interesting medium of ceramics, the need to feel the weight of the objects and to have some sense of materiality. Camila shared her thoughts on how ceramic art goes between decorative and functional states, and how the future home of the ceramic object plays a big part in her creative process. We also discussed the past year with Covid and the lessons she learned from it as an artist – “As long as you are true to your work, and know why you do it, or at least are faithful to that impulse of making, for long enough, things will happen”.
Camila, how did you find your way into art?
I´ve always been drawn to creating things; when I was little I used to make clothing, I found poetry in elementary school… then later on in high school I was always taking photos and doing performances and making some sculptures… I was actually studying Fine Arts at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago but for personal reasons I decided to go back to Mexico. Then I strayed away from creating, but in college I took a ceramics class and from then on I never left it.
Was education in art a part of your journey to become an artist?
My mom is a sculptor and a painter herself, so I´ve always been close to materials and creative processes. My brother is a pianist so art has always been there for me. I studied arts and cultural management, but there I saw art from the side of the spectator, but ceramics has been a process of intuition, lots of asking questions, and from now and then I have taken workshops where I have learned lots. I can spend a lot of time just learning stuff on my own and then sharing and talking with other people. Ceramics is a lot of trial and error and a lot of advice such as “I do it this way, but you should try this way and see which suits you best”.
What techniques do you use?
I started wheel throwing but now I do mainly hand building, and for the permanent collection I use casts now, though the originals where handmade too.
How would you define your art style?
I like to think of it as corporeal, abstract and organic. I like the materiality and weight of the pieces to be visual, and also I always try to think of them in a context, meaning that I like them to relate to a place, be that a home, a studio, a natural spot.
Has your style or technique changed over time?
Yes, specially when I transitioned from wheel throwing to hand building.
If you had to summarize your art in three words, what would they be?
Bodily, organic, corporeal.
Which artists or art styles have inspired you?
Definitely Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, also Jean Arp and Noguchi. Photographers like Flor Garduño, Bill Brandt and Edward Weston, as well as dance companies like The Netherlands Dance Theatre.
When other people view your work, what are their reactions and thoughts?
Mmm, I don´t always know, but I think people like that the pieces are able to accompany them in their home, they like that the silhouette, although abstract to some extent, can still have functionality and share a space with them in their daily life.
Is there something in particular that you wish to convey to the viewer through your work?
I think I´m really drawn to that relationship with the home, this is why I still consider functionality and have not dedicated my work to completely sculptural pieces… I like people to feel the weight and have some sense of materiality; that they want to touch and interact in some way with them and to become intimate with the pieces, through their daily use. I think this contact and closeness is important to me, because I think it’s important to humanity in general… although objects are part of the “material realm” I do not consider this to be superfluous, on the contrary, I think that taking care and selecting the objects that are to be with us in our day to day is a way of extending our identity and being aware of our surroundings.
When starting on a new artwork, what goes through your head? How does your planning and creation process look like?
Mmm.. I´m always drawing sketches and sometimes making collages as part of explorations and research, but sometimes when I´m working on a piece the material and its relationship to gravity imposes some changes, or the shape itself asks for something different than what I had in mind… so every piece has its unique process. Sometimes I do this weird exercise where I do physical explorations/meditations of how It would feel to be that shape hahah…
What are you working on right now?
Right now I´m working on some pieces for the 1000 vases exhibit and also I´m trying to plan an exhibition in my city.
How has Covid-19 affected you as an artist?
It has had many different phases and repercussions; to some extent, being able to stay at home and away from social situations has been really good for my creativity, since it gave me some time to explore subjects and aspects of ceramics that I couldn’t explore because of time… and also… I guess that since people started spending more time in their homes, they started caring more about what surrounded them, so in that regard its been good because there has been a lot of movement and people interested in my work.
Inspiration is important when creating, where do you find inspiration?
Nature, silence, walks, observation… relationships… human relationships and interactions inspire me a lot. Lately also sound.
Is there any artwork that you’ve created that is extra significant to you?
There’s a piece that I have been trying to create for months now, and I was able to finally make it but after I fired it the piece was crazed, so it still isn’t complete, but I feel like I´m getting there and every piece that has been part of that process has become really significant.
How do you define “good” art?
I prefer not to get into that, but to me it’s about movement. Something has to shift inside when we are close to an artwork.
What are the best things about being an artist?
I think the world compels you in a specific kind of way. Of course, there are a lot of types of “art” and “artists” but I guess that if there is a thing in common is that the way we engage with the world always has a special quality, so a lot of things can´t go unnoticed; some things hit you differently, those things vary from person to person… and I think that permeability with the world, that presence or engagement is something I cherish.
What are the worst things about being an artist?
All of the above hahah.. I think the same traits of being an artist have a shadow to them.
Are there any special moments in your art career that you’d like to share – moments that perhaps brought you forward, gave you clarity or changed you?
I think that this whole year that went by has been a very special year in that regard, since it boosted my work in ways that i didn’t expect. In that sense, I think the lesson to me has been that, as long as you are true to your work, and know why you do it, or at least are faithful to that impulse of making, for long enough, things will happen.
What does it mean to you to be able to work with art?
For me its the greatest gift. Honestly it´s not something I expected or I conscientiously looked for, but it somehow makes so much sense and although I also have other desires that go along with this, professionally, for now I do not see myself doing anything else. It is very rewarding to dedicate every day to a material that is so noble, so transparent and so humble. To work directly with the body, to be able to make physical effort while I work… and also to work along with people that understand and are passionate about creative processes is something that I am forever grateful for.
In ten years time, where do you see yourself and your creative work?
Hmmm.. good question. Right now I´m also studying psychotherapy, so I see myself having studio days and also working with people and sharing with them the benefits of the creative process as a therapeutic process itself. I would like to have a studio where I can be close to nature, and have a city somewhere nearby to show and promote my work. I would like to work with different scales, and have a close connection with community through my work.
If you could go back to the beginning of your art career, what advise would you give yourself?
Not to hesitate or be timid about trying things that seem intimidating.
Discover more at www.ilaceramica.com