artist interview - amy santoferraro

While we're all busy using clay to whip up wonky finger pots that only our mothers could love, Amy Santoferraro is making fantabulous creations that could very well have come straight from a Dr Seuss book. We had a chat with the ceramics pro about the messy medium and how she ended up being a master of moulding.

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What is your name and how old are you? Hello, my name is Amy Santoferraro, most people call me Santo. I am 34 years old, but 3-4 years old might be a more accurate description.

Where were you born and where do you live now? I was born in Akron, Ohio. Akron is home to many tire manufacturers, making it The Rubber Capital of the World! I currently live in Manhattan, Kansas nestled smack dab in the middle of the States and am surrounded by the Flint Hills and Konza Prairie. It is beautiful!

How did you get started with this medium? I wanted to be an optometrist and was having a difficult time getting through the math. I took a ceramics class in an attempt to relax and have some fun while toiling over repeated math failures. My ceramics/ceramic art history instructors and peers at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio were all amazing, brilliant and kind people. I liked being around and they liked having me around.

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Please describe the space where you do most of your creation – whether it's your art studio or kitchen bench! Most of my ideas come while doing other things: walking my dog, watering plants, waking up, waiting in line, etc. I am a bit spoiled by have four different studios. Two are for messy/dusty things like wood and clay, two are for clean things like resin and sewing. Two are at home, and two are at Kansas State University where I teach and run the Ceramics Department.

Are there any downsides to this medium? Oh yeah, clay is quite possibly the dumbest material to work with, but that's also why it's so great! Clay is the great pretender - it can be anything, do anything, be any colour, take any form, it's cheap, it's ample. It can be incredibly fragile once fired, but it can also go to the moon! (Space shuttles are covered in ceramic tiles)

What makes your work unique and truly your own? I do what I want. I use materials and stuff anyway that makes sense to me at that moment. I transform and pretend a lot. Balls can be bubbles one day and fruit the next. I selfishly make things that I want to see or better understand and hope that people might relate, smile or at least look.

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How has your style changed over time? As I become more confident as a maker I am no longer forcing every idea or trick I have into every piece or body of work I make. My grad school pal, Laura Ashley (http://laurakashley.com), is a fantastic potter, and so appropriately described this unfortunate phenomenon as the baseball card pot. When a pot or a piece is so concerned with showing off and is overloaded with too much information it reads just like stats on the back of a baseball card, and ceases to provide any mystery because it all right there staring you in the face.

If you were to teach an art appreciation class, what kind of lessons would you try to teach your students? Funny you should ask, as it just so happens I do teach a course titled Techniques in Teaching Art at Kansas State University! Our main objective is to be thoughtful and curious about what artists and students are able to communicate visually and to respectfully question, contemplate and celebrate every viable way to become better teachers, makers, and appreciators of art.

What is the strangest thing or thought that has inspired a piece of work? It's a toss up between a defunct tropical fruit store and an abandoned autographed Hawaiian record.

What's the coolest art tip you've ever received? Trust your teacher. My neon instructor Fred Tschida, an amazing educator, artist, and human, coined this phrase. He uses it in a multitude of situations and quite frequently. One day Fred came to class with a bucket of flint, carbon cloth and steel and told us we all had to make fire. With each fire we started, our collective doubts and insecurities quickly turned into the most empowering and beautiful moment we'd ever experienced as a group of makers. Trust your teacher.

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What do you doodle when you are daydreaming? Cacti and bridges right now. Last week was dogs and rivers. Next week could be calculators and fences, but it'll probably be buckets and balls again.

What other budding artists do you love? Jennifer Degges and Joey Watson. These young makers are beautifully working with clay, ideas, scales and processes that are intimidating and challenging to most ceramic studio practices: the human figure and digital fabrication. Jennifer has an amazing command over the human figure and knowing when to stop, and Joey is simply digifabulous! Their commitment, fascination, and grasp of the ceramic material is admirable, fresh and exciting.

What would you be doing if you weren't making art? Whoa, I don't know! Run a hotel with curated rooms that guests could buy objects from. Dog walker, florist, or mail sorter would be great too! Pretty much any job that involves putting things in order or making people/animals happy.

Where can we see more of your work? My website mysanto.com or my tumblr claylikeachampion.tumblr.com.


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