Taylor Robenalt | Episode 644
Taylor Robenalt attended Southern Methodist University for her BFA in bronze casting and stone carving. Taylor then discovered her love for ceramics and decided to study at the University of South Florida to receive a post baccalaureate. Taylor received a graduate assistantship at the University of Georgia where she accomplished her MFA in ceramics in May 2011. Currently Taylor is employed by Ringling College of Art and Design and has taught at State College of Florida, Auburn University, and Columbus State University as an adjunct ceramic professor.
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Is there a lifespan for a sculptor?
Can you go into that a little bit deeper?
For instance, you said, I am going to make until I can’t make anymore. That made me curious about-is there a certain time where you say, I know once I hit ____ I won’t be able to do this ?
Gosh, I hope not. Some of my favorite artists, like Louise Bourgeois, you know that woman made until her fingers didn’t work anymore. And Georgia O’Keeffe, some of these artist, they make until their body can’t do it and that is kind of where I think I am going to be. I had an artist’s block right out of grad school where I just didn’t know if I was in the right field and I had a real hard time making work that I liked and I was really struggling. And what I learned from that is that when I don’t make art I am pretty weird and I need to be continuously creating or like I am going to rip up the carpet. I feel like I have to do this. I have settled into that. Where ever I go, even if it’s in my kitchen, even if it’s in the backyard or where ever, I am going to find a way to continuously tinker and make clay. So the life span I think is forever for me which is a true gift. At the end of the day I think I am really lucky I found something that resonates that well with me. When you first asked me I thought you meant is there a timeline for a piece when I am just done with it? And I was like, Yeah, that happens. (laughter)
When you are making do you have a story line behind each piece?
I would say one out of five is a real distinct moment where this image pops into my head and it’s a reaction to an emotion that I am feeling and I make that. And I would say the ones in between have some of the same themes behind them but aren’t an absolute link to a moment or a thought or an image. That is something that took me a while to understand was okay. I thought every piece had to have an absolute story behind it and I am now in a place where it is okay if I don’t know what it is say two years from now. Say, I am making something over and over again and I just can’t figure out why it needs to happen, usually it pops up later on, the discovery of why I made it. I was just too close to the emotion to really register what was happening.
You have had a lot of influence of various teachers in your life, why is it important for you to be back into teaching yourself? Is it just because you need to have the cash flow or is it because you feel the pressing need to give back?
Definitely giving back. Teaching-I was a student that struggled a lot, definitely when I was really little and even in college, I am not very great, I am dyslectic so I have a hard time writing papers and stuff like that. I just had all these amazing teachers who were so patient and kind and I remember realizing that I was going to be able to provide that same assistance. I have been super lucky because I teach at Ringling College of Art and Design and it has the best students I have ever had so my job is super easy there because the students really, really want to work. So when I show them something the light bulb goes on and they can make some amazing work. I feel very grateful because I am in a place where it is easy giving back because the students really want to learn. And teaching is something I think I am decent at, you know, over time I have learned how to phrase things or to repeat stuff and give demos. It has really become something that I enjoy doing a fair amount. So it’s easy to get up and go to work which is cool.
How do you find your audience, the people who are potentially going to become your customer?
That is a really interesting question. So I can tell you the process in which I went in order to get into the contemporary ceramic field which was to eventually find my audience. I was making a bunch of work and I thought it was pretty good and I wasn’t putting it out there , I was just making a bunch and showing my friends or my teachers and I got to a place where I realized if I wanted people to know who I was I had to start showing a lot. So I went through a stint for about two years where I just applied to anything that applied to my subject matter. I applied to mainly ceramic shows because that is where I wanted to get a reputation and in through getting that reputation and showing all over the nation slowly but surely pieces started to sell. and then I started to approach galleries and galleries started to approach me and I would say that I don’t know exactly who my audience is but my galleries do.
Do you prefer representation besides you having to hawk the wares so to speak?
I hawked the wares for two years at these art fairs in Florida where you travel and set up a booth and stuff like that and I hated it. I was not into the constant talk about grand kids or whatever, I had a really hard time being there and present for it. It was really nice when you do those shows because if I had a good show I would get a really large profit and when I got into galleries, of course, they would take 50 percent. So it was a little bit of , Okay, is that going to work for you? At the end of the day it does because I do not have to do that hawking anymore. So I like representation because it’s something where I make a piece and it’s awesome and I pack it up and I’m done and then I get a check. I try to piece it so I am okay with whatever the fifty percent is, you know what I mean? So I don’t feel totally slashed but that has been so much better for me.
Why all the extra effort with so many Instagram accounts?
That’s a good question. The ceramic causality which we kind of discussed earlier, I just really wanted to have a site in which people could go to and relate to all of the issues. I also started that when I was teaching at Albern because a lot of my students wouldn’t listen to me. So I am going to show image after image of what happens when you don’t wipe glaze off the bottom of a pot, even a small little dot you think isn’t gong to do anything is definitely going to stick and maybe rip off a chunk of your cup. So I did that for that purpose. And then I started the contemporary clay culture, it was a different thing a couple of years ago where it was a collective and we worked together and that dissolved and I kind of picked it back up to a place where I really just wanted to show as much clay and I wanted to have a feed that was all sculpture so everyone could see all the different varieties. The last one is a little collective in the Sarasota/St Pete area and I started it with another ceramic artist named Andrew Long and we started it because we got locked up in a Pandemic and decided something good had to come out of this. So we made this little collective and I think we are going to do a raffle pretty soon for BLM and we are doing a weird exquisite corpse where we are sending each other pictures and building off of that and we plan to have shows. We are hoping to grow into a ceramic voice down here in Florida.