Interview with Christen Baker
1. Describe your influences- what source, artists, do you look to for inspiration? What is your research process (or however you come up with concepts) like?
My work is often inspired by the places I go and experiences around me. For example, the terrazzo components in my work do reference terrazzo floors, but this surface relates so much to food, cultural significance and visual noise that I think can go un-noticed or under appreciated. Clay, glaze and glass are my favorite materials to use because of their ability to render surfaces, create depth and reflect light. My research is never all that formal, where I take a photos of spaces and colors I am interested in, and I go back and reference them for future works. Sketching in a journal or digitally is also an important part of my practice when deciding on compositions and shapes.
2. Where is your studio, and what does it look like? How do you find materials and resources to make work?
My studio is at Belger Crane Yard Studio in Kansas City,Missouri. I rent a semi-private space with a couple tables and shelving units for storage. This space is great because of additional access to a much larger community studio. Thankfully this space is equipped with almost everything I need, from pottery wheels, to kilns, and a generously sized glaze and plaster lab. Conveniently, there is also a ceramics supply store attached! So I can find just about any materials I need.
3. Describe your typical week- in the studio, at home, other activities?
I usually like to get into the studio earlier rather than later, so if I can, I am there by 8 or 9am. If I am not working at my part time job, I will spend a full day there. If I am working, my day is broken up a little where I may spend a few hours in the studio in the morning or evening. I have an intern I meet with on Saturdays, and a community class that I teach. Saturdays are very busy! I do try to give myself one day a week for myself, whatever that may be for like tidying my apartment, sewing or catching up on books I like to read.
4. How do you balance your art practices with other jobs, art or non- art related?
I manage to somehow, but I will say it can be difficult at times. It’s easy to be very absorbed in what I am doing in the studio and forget about everything else. Work/life balance is really important, and setting personal boundaries is healthy. I do work a part time job, and teach outside of my artist practice, so I carry a planner with me, and bullet journal to stay on track for deadlines and work schedules. As I mentioned before, I try to give myself a day where I can do non-work related things and relax. That can also be difficult when trying to meet a deadline.
5. Can your share your process of getting your work out in the world (types/exhibit planning process)?
When it comes to applying for exhibitions, I do research on the places I am applying to show at and see the type of work they typically show. Most exhibition applications have a cost, so I seek out shows that either have exhibited work that I like or could see my work showing with, while paying attention to the exhibition requirements. You definitely don’t want to apply for a show that is asking for photography if you make ceramic sculpture, right? CallForEntry.org is a great place to start, but there are also some exclusively free exhibition opportunities like offthecost.com. Residencies are another way to gain professional experience, networking and exhibition opportunities. I have seen immense growth in my work because I can take more risks with composition and scale while I am in a residency that is in the same city or art center where my work would be exhibiting.