Dealing with the Inner Critic | Antoinette Badenhorst | Episode 672


Antoinette Badenhorst | Episode 672

Mostly a self-taught potter in Southern Africa, Antoinette Badenhorst obtained permanent United States residency for herself and her family because of her “extraordinary ability in the field of ceramics”. While in Africa, Antoinette taught ceramics in her studio, workshops in schools, and she also trained potters. After Antoinette and her family moved to the USA, the artist was not allowed to earn an income, so she kept herself busy with training of local potters, who allowed her to create work in their studios. Once she obtained working visas for herself, and her children, and specifically after she was rewarded with a green card for her and her whole family, she resumed teaching in her own studio, while she was doing volunteer work in schools, libraries, churches, and other community related programs.


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Do you think everyone has an inner critic within themselves?

If I understand you correctly when you talk about an inner critic you mean it is how they view themselves, kind of like your self-esteem, do I understand you correctly?

Yes. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. 

I think people should have that. But it needs to be balanced. I think if people do not have it…you know, I hate to say this but I think the internet sometimes brings out a part of people that is kind of…I don’t want to use the word ignorant because that might be a little harsh, but people don’t always realize that they have to go through processes before they really can put their work out there in the world. Some work is really just crude and it not refined enough to share to the world out there. But I think the internet kind of put the face behind the computer where nobody can see it and they would throw out the work there. Many times it’s junk. I am sorry if I am very, very blunt with what I am saying here but that is the way that I teach and the way that I believe, we should be honest with the people that we care for. I wish I could tell some people, just hold back for a little bit. I am a very strict critic of myself, and I learned that if I want to be a self-critic then I have to hold back on my work a little longer until I feel completely comfortable with putting it out there for the world to see it. Something I always tell people is, if you don’t have the language of the art then you cannot express yourself with what you are saying. So I don’t know if this is what you were looking at or interested in hearing but I think there are two sides to things. Some people would be too far out there and some people are too within themselves and hold back too much. I think there should be a good balance between the two.

So when should a person listen to the inner critic? What are the cues that say, This is the time to hold back?

My husband that will be the first person that would tell you that what comes from my brain is instantly going out my mouth. I am very quickly to say something. Many people are very quickly to take what they have in their hands and put it out there. I think we need to observe a little longer. Start measuring yourself again other people’s work. Start looking and when you make something hold it back for a little bit. The best place to go really taste it is among a group of people that you can trust. I am of a firm belief that you do not…when somebody comes to me and asks my honest critique on something, I will give them my honest critique. I try and bring it in a way that I will not put that person down or hurt that person. For example, if I see someone makes a handle that I know is not going to be a comfortable handle, I will ask that person, How do you feel about that handle? And normally they will tell you. Most people know what is good and what is not good.

Do you think we need to be kind to our past maker and be kind to yourself about old work that might not be that good that you put out there?

Yes and no. There are really some pieces that I made in my lifetime…there was this one piece, and it was a porcelain piece, that if I look at the picture now, fortunately it is broken now, I put it out…we document everything. The pieces looks like a bunch of teeth that is looking at me and it is not intending to look like that but every time I look at the piece it looks like a whole bunch of teeth. So that piece never should have made it out there. But I have learned a lesson from that and the lesson is that the way that I feel about something today is probably not the way that I am going to feel about it tomorrow. And I think that is something I think we need to give ourselves slack.

When you are making your work do you have a specific audience in mind?

That’s an interesting question. I’ve never thought about it like that. I do know that I have an audience. A very specific audience. I think my audience are people who live closer to the coastal areas, people that are more interested in nature, people that are thinkers, I would say.

How do you keep from following trends?

(laughter) It is so difficult for me to try and follow a trend just because of the nature of my work. Now, I have to give you a little secret here and I told it before as well, many times people would look at my work and they would say I’m the Georgia O’Keeffe of clay. When I came to the United States I didn’t know who Georgia O’Keeffe was. She is an American icon and I didn’t know about her. So I decided to pull up one of her pictures and remake what she was doing. For one, I got very quickly frustrated with what I was dealing with and secondly I was about half way into trying to do it when I realized, No, no, no, Antoinette. For one you will not be able to replicate what she is doing, and secondly you will be so dishonest if you try and do what she is doing. If we make a simple bowl or a simple bottle, I think everybody’s touch that goes into it, if you think about it is kind of like your soul through your hands and it goes right into the piece of art that you are making.

Is it important when you come to a blank ball of clay, is it important to leave your ego outside of the room?

You are asking such difficult questions. You know that right? (laughter) Porcelain does not allow me to have an ego. The diva has got the ego. My students many time laugh because I really gave the porcelain a personality. When I first started talking about the diva I was comparing it to the princess and the pea. That the pea was how many mattresses down and she still felt it. I don’t refer to porcelain like that anymore but you know, the minute that I am thinking that I am getting better than the porcelain that the porcelain is teaching me another lesson again. It’s just the way it is.


The Arcanum by Janet Gleeson


Instagram: @porcelainbyantoinette

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