One fascinating way to engage with space is through art. The work of artists spurs thinking about our place in the cosmos, which ultimately affects how we go about expanding into it. One artistic medium that is beautiful and plays a mundane role in everyday life is ceramics. Plates, cups, bowls, kettles… they can be art pieces but also ones that have obvious functions. We spoke to Amy Hill, an artist who specializes in space-themed ceramic pieces. She explains how she came to have this focus, how her practice has evolved, and what her plans are.
Where did the idea come from to make space-themed painted ceramic pieces?
It all started by accident! I’ve always loved painting and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. My first art job was instructing at a paint and sip studio (where people do art and have something to drink while doing so). Once I left that job, there was a non-compete contract that prohibited me from working at another paint-on-canvas studio for two years. I was lucky enough to have a friend who managed a paint-your-own-pottery studio, and she said they were opening a new position and that I would be a great fit. I couldn’t paint on canvas… but they never said I couldn’t paint on pottery! I got the job and worked directly with the owner who is incredibly knowledgeable, extremely organized, and all around amazing. Together, her pottery glazing techniques and my background in traditional painting synthesized beautifully as I created samples for the studio.
I’d always had a love for science fiction, but in particular, I was very interested in this little text adventure called “Lifeline”, where you attempt to rescue a young astronaut stranded on a moon. So, at a staff night at the pottery studio, we were given the freedom to paint whatever we wanted – I decided to use some of the glazing techniques I’d learned to paint a moon on a plate. Once I finished the moon plate, I just knew I had something. The depth created by the glaze made the vision of outer space come alive. I saw so many possibilities in front of me, I had to keep doing this.
And I did! What started as a technical experiment, trying to find glazing techniques that created a more believable illustration of the universe, turned into an outlet where I could deal with personal and societal struggles using space as a backdrop. While I’m naturally drawn to the excitement and risk of the fired arts, I think I stuck with ceramics because it’s something most people can use in their home. Objects we interact with every day that deliver views of space and get us thinking about the unknown – that’s what’s important to me.
How has your approach to art changed or evolved over time?
I’m definitely more organized nowadays. I go in with more of a structure or a plan. I used to dive into a painting without thinking about how to overlap colors and edges or paying much attention to composition. But that leads to a lot of frustration and work when you have to inevitably go back and change something. I would say I’ve ironed out my whole process so it goes more smoothly, which makes it more enjoyable too.
Conceptually, I think my work is a lot less bleak nowadays too! Things were rough for me personally around 2016, on top of the political state of the United States. There used to be themes of isolated astronauts standing to face their certain demise, but now I am feeling the urge to show more human connection in my work. I think we’re starved for that with all the political and pandemic turmoil, and I figure we need to find our compassion and sense of wonder in the arts. You’ll see more astronauts embracing, helping each other, or just more colorful and inviting nebulae in my current work. Space is one place we can really let our imaginations play, so it’s a great stage to act out how we want life to be going forward.
What plans do you have for your practice going forward?
With the uncertainty of the pandemic, my plans changed from doing craft fairs to almost entirely custom work. Once we pull out of this thing (whenever that may be), I want to have more of a balance between craft fairs and online sales. But heading into 2021 at this point, I plan to scale back and restructure a few things about custom orders, as I’d like to make room for more original pieces to hit Etsy again!