Briefly describe the work you do.
I have found myself intrigued over the past couple of years at the thought of artists who make work about their material. I work extensively within the confines of a ceramic studio and because of this my work has slowly become about the act of creating. Everyday objects and structures are highlighted through the use of found object or recreated in wood. These structures are built to accompany, and house ceramic objects that are either offshoots of the ceramic process or fully realized sculptures. The intentionally created sculptures derive from simple processes of wheel throwing and coil extruding. The work aims over time to incorporate more and more aspects of process as these processes become relevant to my practice.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
Growing up I was never immersed in the arts; in fact I was quite loathsome of any occurrence when I had to try my hand at painting or drawing. Ceramics entered my life by complete chance within the last semester of my senior year in high school. It was one of those unexpected moments of complete clarity that I felt lucky to have as a 17 year old. Within one week of working with the argumentative yet obedient material I knew that I was willing to make this the focus of my life. As I shifted from functional wares to sculpture I was constantly focused on the idea of vessel and how I could interpret that in a way that remained directly honest to the ceramic process.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice in most senses is fairly traditional. I don’t find myself outside of the physical studio all too often. I think, read, write and create all within the studio. Where some artists find inspiration in spaces and content outside of their studio spaces, I thrive and feed off of the workings of a studio. The process of creating and the architecture of the space is what fuels the work. In short, the work is all about working, and if I were to leave the studio the work would not exist.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
When I first started creating work I truthfully did not have any idea what to expect, so instead I came at it that I needed to be prepared for everything. It has been exciting to discover aspects of my practice over the years that I need to take care of for myself. I have recently become very enamored by the process of self-marketing. It has allowed me to see my work and myself from a completely different angle. I question often how can I market myself in a continuous fashion as years pass while in parallel the work is changing constantly. (REPHRASE)
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
As I spoke about earlier I am generally constantly immersed within my studio. In regards to the actually creation of work I have realized I work differently in various times of the day. When I know that the work being created needs to be thoughtful and methodical I work during the day. In opposition to this, a lot my work arises out of intuition in which case I work well under the urgency of what I’ve come to the call the night shift. I’ll arrive in the studio around 10pm and will work rapidly until the nearest coffee shop opens its doors in the morning.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
Being relatively new to creating artwork its fair to say that my work has visually changed drastically. My early sculptural works focused on the on solely the ceramic object. They were abstracted forms comprised of individual components that were dependent on the contours and shape of their interlocking counterparts. Over time I started incorporating other media and focusing less on the singular ceramic object and more on its relationship to structures derivative of the ceramic making process. I believe its safe to say that there is an underlying display of dependency between components within past and present work.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Since my work depicts aspects of my process its not directly affected by friends or family, but I certainly do have to give credit to other artists and writers. Since the being of my practice I have always loved visiting artists studio, more particularly, I am always fascinated by works in the very earliest stages of production. I have come to enjoy subtle nuances of a studio’s architecture and how a random stacking of books and art supplies occupies a given space in an artist’s studio.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I can honestly say that creating is the only path that I ever truly intended to follow to its fullest extent.
Ben Skiba was born in a small frigid town far too many miles north of Madison, Wisconsin. By the time he became a senior in high school, he was finally wrangled to sit down long enough to learn how to throw on the potter’s wheel. From there he never went a day without the plastic groggy material being stuck under his fingernails and in his hair. Today, he is studying sculptural ceramics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison graduating this spring as a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Within Madison he has shown in spaces including the Commonwealth Gallery, Art Lofts Gallery, and the 7th Floor Gallery. After completion of his degree Skiba is moving to Portland, Oregon to begin his residency with Ash Street Project, led by Thomas Orr.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.