A Color Blind Art Teacher Makes Colorful Pots | Christian Bailey | Episode 640

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Christian Bailey | Episode 640

Christian Bailey is a dirty hairy potter in the piney woods of south Mississippi, with a BFA in Sculpture and MaED from the University of Southern Mississippi. Christian shows high school students the wonders of art. Christian’s work is a smorgasbord of layers, functional, sculptural, color, imagery, and process.

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I noticed you had a potter’s wheel on your feed. That’s a Skutt wheel right?

Yes, it is. It is a Thomas Stuart Legend, I believe. I got it actually in an interesting way. I used to do a lot of scuba diving and taught scuba diving and I had a bunch of tanks when I stopped teaching and I put them up for sale and this guy contacted me and said, Hey I see you make things out of clay! I’ve got this wheel and it’s brand new in the box and I’ll trade you for it. And I was like, Well, send me the details on it.  Then he sent me a picture of it and was like, You got a deal!  I will meet you in Pensacola. So I drove 2 and a half hours and traded these 8 tanks that I had for 15 to 20 years and got this Skutt wheel and brought it to the house and set it up. It was new in the box bu the box had been sitting in a barn apparently and I was having problems with it holding speed straight out of the box. So I called up Skutt and they sent me the parts I needed. Apparently a capacitor had lost its energy and its become my primary wheel in my studio. I love that thing.

What kind of parameters do you put on your commission work?

So I will make just about anything that I feel comfortable with. So if somebody says that they want a mug or a cup or a set of something. I tell them, That’s great, I can do this, but I have got to be able to put my style on it. You see what I do. I am not going to veer from this, but I can do multiples, I can make sculptures, I can do things in that aspect. But you have got to give me the freedom to continue to do what I do with your piece. 

When you get commission work do you get paid up front?

When I do commission work I will do a 50 percent upfront and then 50 percent when it’s due. Because that way, I have the money to pay for the materials that I will be using and then it actually gives me the a reason to make the piece and get the rest of the money. I find that that seems to be the best way to go at doing commission work because it put the onus on both parties. And I also try and get everything in writing too before I do it.

How do you find the balance with being in a family, being a teacher, and being a creative? How do find the balance without dropping one of them?

It’s actually been pretty easy.  My wife is extremely supportive of what I do in both my classroom and my studio. So that’s been the best part is having a partner who is supportive of what you do. She knew getting into it, I told her straight up, Honey, art is my first mistress. And she was like, I will deal with that. And from that point on it was perfect so it’s been working. The hardest part was setting aside the time after I go to school to go to the studio to do the work. Luckily I only live seven minutes from my school so it’s really easy to come home, kick off the shoes, put on the apron and flip flops, and walk out to the studio and get to work. But it also helps that I try to schedule everything out. By doing a schedule it keeps me focused and getting the things done so that I don’t drop the ball. So I don’t burn my candle at both ends trying to get things done for everybody.

What kind of inspiration do you bring to your students for them to know that they have permission to be creative?

That’s kind of the hard part is getting them to accept that they have that permission. I go in there every time and I will give them all a base and I say, I will give you step by step instructions that will get you  from point A to point B and get you a grade and here is your rubric and you can work within that. And then I give them an alternate set of instructions that say, Here is the open-ended instruction set, where you can take whatever you want as long as you hit these points on this rubric, you are good to go. It’s getting them to buy into that. It usually takes a couple of weeks of getting them to trust that I am not setting them up for failure or I’m not trying to do a gotcha on them or something.  Once they start trusting you as a teacher they will start opening up and getting creative and putting it out there and trying different things.

I creativity something that can be taught or do you have to have that special gene?

I really think it is something that can be taught. Some people are just more open to it and more free. But I have seen kids come along that were very tightly wound as you could say, and not wanting to makes mistakes, and would come in and say, I can’t draw anything but a stick figure. And then teaching them how to see things a little differently or explaining it to them, they start to understand. And showing them that, in  a lot of cases they are creative and have been creative. You know, when they made up stories as a kid, when they had an imaginary friend, when they would go out and create a game, and now of course with all the technology they are able to develop their own characters in video games. They are being creative. They just don’t understand it. Then you can take that and you can grow it, I guess, more so than teach it. I think everybody is creative.

How are you selling all of your cups or your work?

So I just kind of update and actually put a decent store up on my website, which I probably need to update again to make it easier to navigate. A lot of my stuff is sold through, I do a festival called the Peter Anderson Festival, which is here in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. It is done in November so I do that one. I do what is called the George Ohr Beer and Art Fest. put on by the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum. I also sell my pots through the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum gift shop and also through a gallery here called Local Creatives. Just a couple of little spots. I am trying to branch out and get more of my work out there which is not easy for me because I don’t like talking to people that much, I guess.

Book

The Ceramic Spectrum by Robin Hopper 

Contact

christianbaileyceramics.com

Instagram: @christianbceramics

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