Pippin Drysdale | Episode 332
An acclaimed International Artist and Master of Australian Craft, Pippin Drysdale’s career as a ceramic artist spans 30 years. Her passion for the craft merges with a love of the landscape, which has travelled across continents and in most recent years has focussed on the vivid dessert landscapes of Australia. Working from her studio in Fremantle, Pippin Drysdale continues to interrogate her practice from the perspective of an artist without borders. Through a continuing investigation of the flora and landforms of these unique areas of Australia and a commitment to engaging with the cultural, social and political agendas that are shaping them, she is open to embrace each new creative challenge.
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Do you ever get artists block?
Constantly. I just have days where I can bear it. I pace the floor. And certainly in my earlier days I used to get so stressed out I would go and lie on the couch and watch television for an hour or go to sleep because I couldn’t face anything or I couldn’t make any decisions. Because when you are creating work you are always looking for a beginning of the journey. Once you’ve got a beginning you pray and hope that you will go into the subconscious and create a piece and once you come out of that zone you go, Wow that was really a great trip and it was so easy. In actual fact it wasn’t because you can’t do it again. Those are the gems you create when you are actually working in the subconscious and many times you are in the conscious and you are hanging about trying to find a way or find a beginning. Whether it be color or an image or whatever, you just have to find a beginning and allow the journey to take its own course.
Does making energize you or exhaust you?
I sometimes work 8 or 9 hours a day in studio and I love to walk out of there knowing I have achieved or I have got a firing on so that in 48 hours I can have a look and see where I am at, and there is great disappointment sometimes. But some days it’s hard and I really struggle and I go, I can’t do it. And I have that pre-creative tension which makes me very anxious because you are alway working toward commitments and deadlines.
How do you get past pre-creative tensions?
You just have to keep trying. One of the ways of getting through pre-creative tension is to re-test and make a whole lot of new colors and hues and see if you can get them technically to work. Because what happens in ceramics, it is very frustrating, it’s not like a painter who can just gesso out his canvas and start again. It is really technically difficult. There are always anxieties and frustrations because you are never in the safe zone.
What is a common trap you see young, aspiring ceramic artists making?
I did three years doing an advanced diploma and then my passion was to go to Colorado. So I went to the states for about 8 or 9 months. I worked in San Diego and did this amazing summer at the Anderson Ranch. We had all kinds of artists from around the world and that was where my commitment was made. Because Daniel Rhodes and some of those wonderful potters that I only ever learned about in books suddenly became my friends. I remember one night at the Anderson Ranch I would sit there and always be wanting to make beautiful tea bowls that had a lovely sense of spontaneity and one night he stood in the shadows watching me and he just came out and looked at me and he said, Pippin you’ve got the makings of a great potter. Now I hung onto those words for many years. Of course, he is long gone now.
The trap is, the moment you are not stressing and challenged you might as well give it away. And that is what happens to a lot of people, they just get sucked into a thing and they don’t stretch their horizons and keep extending themselves.
Does a big ego help or hurt an artist?
I think you certainly need a certain amount of ego,it is a very interesting thing you know, people say to me, Ah you are so famous! And I say, I don’t think so. They say, But you have just done so well, Pip, it’s amazing. But I think at the same time you spend days on your own and you suddenly think, look I could drop dead here and no one would know.
How do you respond to the accolades of others?
I just take it all in my stride really. I just try to be gracious and say thank you. People come around here and they are in awe of all the vessels and color and of course having done this big renovation I’ve got this nice, open contemporary space at the back and the heritage cottage in the front.