Briefly describe the work you do.
I am a ceramics artist living in Madison, WI. Most of my work is made of cone 6 stoneware. Some of my work is meant to be purely functional while other pieces are meant for exhibition. However, all the pieces I make are functional in some way. My influences come from Hiphop, Music, Philosophy, Ancient Cultures, Friends and Family.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I started doing ceramics my junior year of High school. I ended up spending a lot of time throwing on the potter’s wheel. At the time it was just a fun past time though. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I decided to make a career out of ceramics. I kept up with my ceramic work through college although I never took any art courses at the University I graduated from. The owner of a local ceramics studio allowed me to use her studio and continue my passion for throwing pots in exchange for helping out around the shop.
While in school I majored in Philosophy. I also took courses on Ancient Greece and Rome, Religious Studies, sociology, and anthropology. These classes as well as my interest in music, specifically hip-hop, r&b, funk, electronic, shaped the majority of the concepts behind my work. I see my work as trying to capture specific emotional/ mental states, that I experience in the attempt to reflect them back to the audience. For example, The three jars that make up my self portrait are meant to capture as much of my inner self as possible. Each Jar has a name: Rage, Peace, and Ecstasy. They are meant to each capture a particular part of me, each playing an important role in my life. I believe that life itself would not be as fulfilling without all three. This does not only hold true for myself but I think this also holds true for each individual that sees the piece and for society on the whole. Part of the meaning in my pieces is on an individual level and part on a macro/universal level. My hope is that as I continue my work I can broaden the ways I can capture both types of meanings.
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.”
I spend most days in the studio. I don’t always work on my own pieces while their however. It is actually hard for me to not go to the studio for more than a couple days because I feel like I wasted the day if I don’t at least work on something. There is a good amount of work I do at home as well.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
The role of an entrepreneur. It’s amazing how little this is discussed within the art scene. Knowing how to manage your finances, do promotions, and having a basic understanding of business is crucial to artistic success. Without a good understanding of business, it is hard to know how to live off of making your work. Which for me is the ultimate goal.
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?
I don’t have any specific times to create. Sometimes I work at 10am sometimes at 3am. It all depends on when I can get in the studio and when I’m inspired.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
Considering I have only been doing ceramics for 7.5 years It has changed considerably. I think the quality of the pieces have come a long way as well as building more techniques in to my repertoire. I also see many themes that I keep coming back to that can be traced back to when I started.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My inspirations come from so many places. My siblings are very important in my creative process. I always want them to like whatever I make. All of my family supports me which means a lot. Musically, I draw from Michael Jackson, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, KRS ONE, Lupe Fiasco, P Funk, Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, FKJ, Erykah Badu, Bob Marley, The Wailers, Daft Punk, Frank Ocean, etc.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
My second biggest passion as you might have guessed is music. I have also played trumpet since I was in 4th grade. Ever since music has played an important part in my life. I often listen to music when I create and it helps to get my creative juices going.
I also am a cook as my job that pays the bills, so I enjoy thinking about the food that goes into the dishes I make as well.
Isaac’s experience with ceramics began in middle school where he threw his first bowl. He didn’t get another chance to work with clay until he reached high school, but somehow the desire to throw again had never left him. During his junior and senior year at Madison West High, he had the privilege to learn under a great teacher and artist named Philip Lyons. Since high school Isaac has worked out of the Craftshop Studio at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and now works out of the Midwest Clay Project which is also located in Madison. Despite not attending Art School, Isaac continues to grow as an artist and develop his skills on the wheel outside the classroom. With 6 years of experience, Isaac has decided to make a career in ceramics and continues to be inspired by family, friends, music, and his dreams.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.