Hello SOFA Community,
As part of my blog, each month I’ll be featuring one or two artists to introduce you to. I hope you enjoy meeting artists I have met through my own artistic journey. Cheers!
Artist Interview: Andy Boswell
Hello Andy! Great to have you here. To kick things off, how’d we meet?
We just messaged on Instagram and it was a hit!
Where do you create your gorgeous work?
Sugarloaf, New York, about an hour away from the city. I live in an arts village like in a movie -- there’s a candlestick maker, a soap maker, me and another potter, jewelers. I love it.
You and I have talked a bit about the struggling artist or starving artist myth, would you like to talk about that at all?
I’d like to starting by sending a shout out to all the struggling artists out there. I would consider myself a thriving artist, but being an artist is hard. You have to make things that people value, and you have to do it within the confines of making an hourly wage, paying rent, and buying supplies. And, you have to figure out how to do it efficiently because the math has to work out as a business model. I’ve definitely had to do that as a potter. Plus, when you’re a self-employed artist, you have a lot of difficult things to learn that take time to master. You have to wear a lot of hats, and it’s hard to be good at everything.
How long have you been employed as an artist?
I’m 38 now, and I finished my degree in ceramics at 20-21, so 16-17ish years.
Are you full-time or part-time?
Where can people find you online? Website, social media handles, etc.
To give a little background on the name Kaolin, it is basically like the root raw material for all porcelains. There's this really famous mountain range in China called the Gaoling Mountain Range. It's one of the most famous porcelain deposits in the world. And for me, I sort of knew that within the field of ceramics, I really wanted to work with porcelain. So, that's how I arrived at the name Kaolin Tiger.
I love that. So what about the tiger part?
I just like tigers a lot. Also, my approach is vicious efficiency.
Describe your artistic process.
The main way that I describe my process is I’m goal-oriented. I want to do things in a way that creates both an obvious and general sense of raw beauty. I want to make things where people don’t have to know much to know the work is beautiful. I gravitate to nice curves and having elegant, semi-classical forms and shapes. In terms of my specific creative process, I use whatever process is most appropriate to get to that end goal, which typically involves throwing on the wheel. Though there have been times I’ve done slip casting, modeling on a computer, 2D work, and hand-building.
Who are your artistic inspirations? Have they changed over time?
Alphonse Mucha is one of those artists people still buy prints of his work as posters. If you google him, you’ll probably recognize his work. He was an illustrator and painter on the commercial side and was criticized for not changing his style much. I view it as he found exactly what he loved and kept refining it. It can be a wonderful thing when people reinvent themselves, but there’s also something great in finding exactly what you want early in your career and staying with it.
My professor in college, Julia Galloway, is also a potter and, at its root, what she does is similar to what I do. What is beautiful about her work is very obvious and apparent -- the curves in her work are absolutely stunning. She’s been a big influence on me not only in her body of work, but also in her practical approach.
Another is Beth Cavener, also known as Beth Cavener Stichter. She’s a ceramic sculptor that does figurative and animal pieces. Her work is so poignant.
The last is a painter, Jeremy Mann. He does these really wild cityscapes and figurative work like Alphonse. His work has a strong presence of a mood that I really appreciate.
What is an obstacle you’ve faced in your art or as an artist and how did you overcome it?
Where do I even begin, there’s been so many! One that stands out the most is figuring out how to get the business model straight. For me and many artists, you want to act like a monopoly – if you want what I got, you have to come to me. For a while, I felt like I was working really hard, but I was kind of a generic, above-average potter and that was okay. But over time, as I worked and explored my field of ceramics more, I found a home. My forms are a lot more stylized, and I’ve overcome being just average to becoming unique, and that makes my work a lot more satisfying.
Speaking of stylized and becoming unique, I’m a collector of your work! I have three mugs with that gorgeous wooden-appearing handle. It’s like magic, and the pieces I got remind me of a lake with lily pads and a stick resting in the water. Would you describe that as a shining success story in your artistic career?
The wooden handle is definitely unique and stylized. They’re also technically difficult to do, and if you want something like that, you have to come to me. So yes, figuring out how to do the wooden handles was a big success. Another one is crystalline glazes - they’re really tricky and it took me awhile to figure out how they work. Without getting too technical, I figured out how to avoid having to use what most potters are forced to use with dripping glazes, i.e., a glaze catcher. Everyone said “you have to use those glaze catchers,” so one of my goals was to cut them out of my process. Eventually, I figured out a way to do that and that’s been a huge success.
What things have you learned from your artistic failures?
Being self-employed is a comedy of errors. It sometimes feels like two steps forward, one step backward. One thing that didn’t work well for me was deadlines, so I’ve cut them out almost entirely. Before then, there had been explosive bursts of work and then a crash, because I’d pull multiple all-nighters in a row. I didn’t like living like that, which was a very important lesson.
Do you support any causes through your work?
I haven’t, but I’ve always wanted to. I have a good friend who is a Type 1 Diabetic, and that can be really tough. That’s one cause I’ve been interested in finding a way to support. The other is the environment. We’re burning huge swathes of land and filling the ocean with trash, and that’s something I’m considering helping to fight against.
Is there anything else you wanted to talk about that I forgot to ask?
I want to give a general shoutout to aspiring artists. It’s a rough but beautiful life. A lot of clichés are true: you do just have to believe in yourself and keep working. There’s not a whole lot of mystery in becoming a successful artist other than to work really hard. You just gotta know that it’s going to be hard, but it is very fulfilling.