Here at Arrow Creative we like to highlight, local Memphis creatives. This is our way of making sure that when people ask what Memphis has to offer? We can refer them to this blog and say that we always knew where to find the best and the brightest. This week is no different than the rest we are spotlighting an amazing ceramic artist, Olivia Avery.
Can you tell us a little bit about the moment you realized you were an artist? The moment I realized I was an artist was probably when I was 11 or 12. My family is really passionate about music and I tried instrument after instrument but nothing ever excited my soul. But drawing, oh man, I could transport my mind anywhere with a pen in my hand. Somewhere restful, quiet, and full of possibilities. I don't think it was until high school that I realized the weight of the artistic path I had chosen but it is what lights my soul on fire.
How did you learn your necessary skills?
The skills I have learned thus far have come from multiple mentors and instructors. But the most intense way I have learned the practices I have is by trying and failing. Art, especially ceramics, is a continuous cycle of trial and error.
Are there specific opportunities or challenges that focused your career?
Let's cut right to it, the biggest challenge for me has been the business side of art. It requires me to create focus when I am working, maintain it, and put a lot of value into what I do. COVID-19 was a huge challenge for me in terms of creating. I will be honest, I lost a lot of money. But it also gave me the opportunity to step back and take a look at where I was spending my time. I got the chance to connect with a lot of people in places I wouldn't have, working at a local plant nursery during the intensity of quarantine.
Who do you consider as your most influential mentor?
My most influential mentor would be my high school art teacher, a known Memphis artist as well, Gwen English. She mentored me all through college and I call her my "Art Mom". She recently moved out of state but we stay in contact and she continues to bless me with connections here in Memphis.
Artists are extremely resourceful and often create multiple streams of income. How do you generate income to support yourself and artistic practice?
I ran my own housekeeping business, worked at a local ceramics studio, Belltower Artisans, and taught homeschool art - Pre-COVID-19. But currently I work full time at a warehouse, teach private pottery and art lessons while maintaining art sales, commissions, and frequently selling at local farmers' markets.
How do you measure success in your work?
Success for me is confidence in my work, as opposed to monetary success. Making work that feels true to who I am and not what someone thinks I should be making has been life-giving for me.
What artist inspires you the most?
Picking one artist that inspires me the most is so difficult! I draw inspiration from many different types of art and expression. Art movements from the '60s and '70s, nature, Couture fashion, Architecture, brilliant ceramics artists, painters, draftsmen, metalsmiths, and sculptors.
Do you have a creative hour, or a time/ place/ or activity that inspires your creativity?
There are places I frequent that keep my soul at peace and certain days I sit down to create designs for the ideas rolling around in my head. But honestly, Artistic inspiration is like a child that pukes on you, you never know when it's coming. In the middle of the day at work, during a deep conversation with someone, when I'm trying to sleep at night, or while I'm driving down the road.
Do you have a ritual or do you set specific assignments for yourself?
In my day to day I map out studio objectives to stay on top of orders and date expectations. Some large projects require different time and care, I adjust to the commission needs and get it done! Structure is so important when working for yourself and keeping deadlines tight.
As a kid what did you see yourself doing as a career?
When I was a kid I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I always loved the idea of fashion designing. I love clothing and self-expression through wardrobes but couture struck a chord with me when I was really young. I used to design bed-sheet evening gowns for my six sisters and have them put on fashion shows for my parents. A lot of the things I love(d) about fashion I carried into my early artwork and still use today.
What told you ‘this is the life for me’?
When I was in middle school I felt really different from everyone I knew. I realized, as much as my young brain could, that in terms of art I could be exactly who I was, not putting on a show for anyone. I had an arena in which to express parts of myself I didn't know I needed to set free. I will follow that for the rest of my life.
What compromises have you had to make in order to succeed? Was it worth all of your effort?
There are unexpected compromises that come when you doing this type of work. The biggest one for me would be the people you lose. Building an art business and pushing yourself year-round is a really lonely endeavor even if you are introverted! (I definitely am). I find myself wishing for more time to spend with my huge family and the handful of friends around me. Some romantic relationships have also suffered when a partner doesn't understand the level at which I am consumed by my work. But I operate with helpful philosophies like 'What is for me won't miss me.' and 'Sometimes you have to let go of good things to make room for GREAT things'. It has been worth every bit of effort.
What do you love about being a creative in Memphis?
Memphis as a whole is an experience unlike any other. There is so much city pride, community support, and rich history of art and soul. Being a creative in Memphis comes with a grind and grit, like most things in this city. There is a hard edge with deep expression, passion, and honesty at the heart. But what speaks volumes to me is that vast group of unique individuals who make up the arts community. They are brilliant, creative, and hard-working, I am privileged to be a part of something like this.
To keep up with all things Olivia Avery Art please follow her on Instagram @oliviaaveryart!