Briefly describe the work you do.
As an artist, I see myself as a maker of objects, spaces, conversations, and communities. My art practice is socially based and often takes form as events, installations, and interactions. In many situations I perform acts of generosity towards the viewer in exchange for an active and personal engagement with the project. My recent projects have ranged from serving homemade pies on handmade plates to museumgoers to creating pop-up diners in forgotten and unused spaces. Most recently, I exchanged handmade ceramic cups for stories about home. I hope to create experiences and art that can allow for a new reflection on our relationships to other humans, spaces, objects, and ideas.
Working with materials that have often been labeled as “craft,” such as ceramics, and baking, leaves me with a vocabulary that reflects my personal imprint on each piece of work. My media ranges from sculptural to performative, and each gesture I make asks the viewer to question the line between art and everyday life, community and individuality, function and aesthetic, and artist and viewer.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
My family is full of scientists and engineers, but from very early on both of my parents encouraged my creativity in the arts. As a child I was constantly making something, whether it was a concoction in the kitchen or a sculpture of cartons and cardboard. I was taught to think outside the box, to try things that other people hadn’t tried before, and to work hard. I took many art classes throughout high school, but it wasn’t until I took my first sculpture class in college that I realized making art could be something I pursue for the rest of my life.
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 have somewhat of a nontraditional studio practice. I find that most of my projects require me to escape the artist’s studio and interact with people and the world. I can be found making art and working on my projects in ceramics studios, community centers, my kitchen, anywhere I can work on my laptop, libraries, or simply walking down the street. That being said, I am often drawn to working in community or shared ceramics studios. There is something extremely powerful and motivating in sharing a space with other passionate ceramic-based artists.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I never envisioned my art as something that would bring me so far out of the studio and into the world working with so many different people. Making art has given me the roles of event organizer, teacher, community leader, facilitator, and grant writer. The romanticized idea of the solitary artist working alone in her studio for countless lonely hours is so far from what I am doing. Making art is extremely social.
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 try to set aside at least some time everyday to make art. Many of my projects involve meeting and engaging with people and working with community centers, so often my art making time revolves around these plans. I like to wake up early to work, because there is a clarity and quietness in the morning. However, I am most productive when I have deadlines. I find a sense of immediacy when I must work late nights and early mornings while the world is sleeping.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
Five years ago I was making art that was more about the objects and less about how the objects could be used to create social connections. My materials and process are constantly shifting and changing. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of working with video or pies, but now these are really important pieces of my art. I hope my practice never stops changing and evolving in unexpected ways.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I am fascinated by artists who are pushing the boundaries of form and function in art. Harrell Fletcher and Rirkrit Tiravanija are two artists, amongst countless others, who have greatly informed my art practice. I am constantly gathering ideas from anywhere and anyone; the world is big and there are so many people doing amazing things!
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I have always loved to create, but I find that we can do this is so many different ways. Art does not always have to be the end product of creative pursuits. I have many interests, including food, social and environmental justice, community development, and teaching. I think art will always be an important focus for me, but will probably coexist with other pursuits in my life.
Juliette Walker was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and received her BA in Visual Art at Pomona College in Claremont, California. In the spring of 2015 she completed a semester as a post baccalaureate student in ceramics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Most recently, she exhibited her project, “Collections of Home,” a project of exchanging handmade ceramic cups for stories about home, at the Madison Central Public Library as a part of Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s citywide Gallery Night. She is interested in how art and artists can facilitate connections, conversations, and community.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.