Sunday, March 1, 2009

Featured Artisan - JoAnn Aquinto

Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is JoAnn Aquinto. I am a native Detroiter and currently live in Eastpointe, an inner ring suburb of Detroit. I have been making my living, from clay work since 1992. I was first introduced to clay in 1975 and have been involved with it, in varying degrees since then. I studied clay at the Mt. Clemens Art Center, Oakland County Community College, and Pewabic Pottery. I returned to college as an older student and received a BFA in 1990 from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, majoring in painting. Shortly after graduation, I focused on clay, deciding to make it my profession. I take my wares to market at art fairs, galleries, and private shows. Current passions besides clay are studying the lovely Italian language and culture, gardening, and learning to teach through the patience and guidance of my students!

What first made you want to become an artist?

Art has always been a good companion. Being an only child, I had a lot of alone time growing up.
I always liked to draw and make things. In junior high, I had a great art teacher and an honors art class after school. I fit in with this group, loved it, and discovered that I wanted to do something that involved art. Mrs. Shelton encouraged me to go to Cass Tech High School and I majored in commercial art. I think in retrospect that it wasn't physical enough for me. I loved painting in college but couldn't see supporting myself with it. After college I returned to clay with a new passion for it and felt that the majority of my knowledge was with clay. I can't say there was any one moment of realization, art has just been a constant.

Describe your creative process.
I work in cycles that are dictated by kiln firings or upcoming shows. I work in stages of the process of clay. The first stage, I am making pieces, wheel thrown, hand built, slip cast, and press molded, enough to fill a kiln. Very often this stage feels like I am making canvasses and I choose to make simple forms that will support later decoration. I strive for good craftsmanship and as my mother used to say... finish. I load it all up and bisque fire. Then they all come back to me ready to be dressed, decorated, painted. Now I get really excited and a little scared, similar to looking at a blank canvass or blank piece of paper. The next week is spent dipping glazes, decorating with brushes and wax resist, washing off unwanted areas of glaze, and refilling these areas with final color choices. I think by busying my hands with all the tasks of clay, true expression comes through unconsciously.

Where do you draw the inspiration for your work from?
Nature is a huge inspiration. The way a new sprout unfurls, the geometry of it. The colors nature puts together, unlikely combinations. I love looking at prehistoric art and craft, the older it is, the more modern I find it.
Spanish still life paintings for the feelings that the colors evoke. Textiles for pattern and color. I am fascinated by anything inlaid. I enjoy being amazed, asking how did they do that? I have a large library of books that I regularly enjoy looking at. I am also inspired by using other peoples pots and being aware of the way everyday handmade items contribute to my quality of life. Inspiration is pretty much everywhere, and quite simply, it is a matter of what catches my eye and paying attention.

JoAnn Aquinto's featured items include the spiral bowl ($25), abstract floral tile ($22), spiral wall vase ($65) and striped bud vase ($25)