Meet the Maker: Giselle Hicks

In this month’s Meet the Maker, Lindsay sits down for a virtual interview with Atelier artist Giselle Hicks in her Montana studio.

What originally inspired you to start your first collection? 
My work has evolved over time and I’ve made lots of different kinds of work from floral still lifes to slip cast wall tiles, so there I don’t have an idea of a ‘first collection’. Right now, I’m mainly focused on making the pinched vessels. I started making the pinch pots in response to frustration with some other work I was making that required lots of steps to get to the finished product. I wanted to make something with a process that was as simple and direct as possible. Coil and pinch is a basic fundamental technique and I use as few tools as possible when I make the vessels, so it’s just my hands and the clay. My goal is to create forms that explored volume, proportion, posture, shape, color, and composition. The qualities I am looking for in the work are generosity, stability, slowness, softness, simplicity, and beauty.
Where do you look to find inspiration, especially during these times when it is difficult to  travel? And when do you feel the most inspired?
If I feel stuck in the studio I usually look at other pots to awaken that sense of awe and curiosity that hooked me as a young student. I’m still a nerd for ceramic history. I love Greek, Chinese, Korean and Japanese pots. I love early English slipware, the extravagance of 17th and 18th century French and German porcelain, as well as the more humble American salt glazed pots. l can’t get over the sense of design you can find in Islamic or Turkish pottery. I could keep going. I have such tenderness for all of it. So much can be read in a pot - about the maker and the culture and customs from where they came. There is a pottery tradition in almost all cultures and it's such a fascinating lens through which to learn about how people lived all over the world.
The ultimate place to inspiration for me is a trip to the Met in New York. Seeing some of the oldest objects that humans have created is such an affirming reminder that we have always had an impulse to create beauty.
I love minimalist paintings and the abstract expressionist movement as a whole. That’s my favorite work to stand in front of and experience. I’m not sure if it impacts what I make, but it reminds me how powerful art can be and how it can change how we experience or perceive the world around us. I like being reminded of that.
Lucie Rie, Ruth Duckworth, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, and Rachel Whiteread are the artists I look to for inspiration for their ambition, strength, originality, and dedication to their work.
What feelings do you hope to evoke from people who see your work? 
I want my work to be simple and elegant, strong yet soft. I used to make work with lots of  flowers or patterning. Eventually, I started thinking about the work I would want to live with or the work in the world that I respond to and it was quieter than the work I was making. Once I  started to make the work that I wanted to live with, the pinched vessels emerged.
What are the most difficult/rewarding parts of your creation process?
The most difficult part is trying to make friends with the voice of doubt that seems to be ever present. Also having faith in an idea enough to stick with it through its beginning awkward  phase. Ideas in my mind’s eye are always ahead of what my hands can do. So if I can handle the  humiliation of making something awkward a few times, eventually it will evolve into a more  resolved idea or object. The problem-solving and discovery through the process of making are  the most challenging and rewarding parts of creating.
Do you have a piece you are most proud of or most connected to? Why?
I made three big pieces for my Thesis exhibition in grad school and I'm proud of that work  because I had to trust my instincts with every decision and stay laser-focused to finish the work  even though I wasn't sure how I would resolve it. It was this experience of being in a flow state  for an extended time and when it was finished I looked at the work and wondered, ‘Who made  that?’ The finished work was just strange enough to hold my attention and curiosity. I appreciate  artwork that asks more questions than offers succinct answers.
Is there a particular shape you have been drawn to lately? Do you conceive of your shapes  only in 3d or is there a sketching process first?
Lately, I’ve been interested in soft, round forms that have a gentle presence and a sense of breath.  I draw basic quick sketches to brainstorm or remember an idea, but they’re more quick notations.  I mostly figure form out in 3-D.
Anything you can share with us about your studio space that you particularly love?
I love that it is big and sunny and heated. I've worked in so many cold studios, that I’m always  grateful for a heated space. I purchased my first home with a studio attached three years ago and  I feel fortunate to have a studio that makes sense for my process.
In regards to your process, is there something you wish people knew more about? Or anything else you'd like to add?
I want people to know that I love to make things. With my work, I hope to celebrate the skills and idiosyncrasies of my hands and bring beauty into people’s lives. I think it’s important to live  with beautiful handmade things. Handmade objects have stories built into them. They can make a home feel really alive.
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