“It Can’t Just be a Money Suck!” | Jaimie Nagle | Episode 646


Jaimie Nagle | Episode 646

Jaimie Gusman Nagle is a poet and potter living in Kaaawa, Hawaii. Jaimie has an MFA from the University of Washington and a PhD from the University of Hawaii. She is the author of the book of poems, Anyjar (Black Radish Books, 2017). Jamie makes functional art under business name Icky Love Pottery in her garage studio and teaches workshops (when there isn’t a pandemic) when she isn’t mom-ing to her two little kids.


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You said, It just can’t be a money suck. What does that mean as an artist?

Well, in poetry you don’t have this conversation because the financial exchange of words and monies are not really on the table unless you are talking about publishing. However, this is new for me because thinking about art in terms of exchange…it seems like a necessary evil. I don’t know if it’s even evil, but it’s a necessary thing, right? Because in order to make more pots you need money to buy more material and yada yada yada. But when I mean it can’t be a money suck is that, well a couple of things, so it’s important to support art and the artists who make that art. I think some of the feedback I have gotten when I have taught workshops or done big group events like a bridal shower or something like that is that people finally understand that, Wow this is hard! This takes a long time, I didn’t really realize that’s why that’s so expensive. That is the kind of feedback you get so there’s an education part of the exchange of money saying, Okay that mug is fifty dollars, that seems like a lot of money for a mug but educating people about the process and whatnot. And I always like to that in markets and say, Oh, this is how this was made and this is the temperature it is fired to and how many times it needs to go into the kiln and yada yada yada. I think understanding helps people also, you know, bite that dollar, but it also makes you feel like your art is worth something.

Do you find it difficult for you to look at yourself as the artist that should be supported?

I mean, I don’t know. I think I have the kind of personality that has always kind of just believed that what I do matters because I care about it. I think that there is a difference. You can tell that I have twelve mugs for sale on a good day at a market because it takes me a lot of time to make them and I consider it artful practice and when people buy them you feel validated. So it helps that people also are feeling that way about me. You know, you put yourself out there, you believe it,  and people give you that feedback by purchasing your work. I mean in the poetry world it is very similar but with a whole lot more rejection. So I come from a different discipline too, so if someone buys a piece of my work, wow, it feels so good. If people buy my book, it feels so good. It’s all labor, you know?

You mentioned that you see what gets sold in the marketplace and that helped to dictate your work. Whose work are you seeing that is attracting the sales?

Well, I think it’s not just potters, but this goes for fiber artists, people doing glass or whatever it is, soap, anything that is locally inspired has more meaning. It feels like there is an authenticity there and I think that that sells. I think it is real and it sells when it feels real. It is different than going down to the flea market with decal-ed mugs with a lotus flower on it, that really doesn’t have anything to do with Hawaii, and selling those for three dollars versus going to a market and seeing something that was sun-printed, for example, from local flora. That’s an amazing and very thoughtful process and I think people really respond to that in the markets I have been to.

So it’s locally inspired work that tends to sell, you are not looking at say a hibiscus and saying, Oh, hibiscus sells. I am putting that on my cup. It is locally inspired. It is the local that is more the inspiration than the actual image itself or the actual theme. 

Yes, I think so. I mean, that’s what I believe to be true. I think that even people who are visiting that come to these markets they want to feel like they have gotten a piece of real Hawaii from people who really live here. I don’t know if this is the same as in the Pacific Northwest but there are aesthetics that exist all over the world that you believe in their authenticity and you want that, you don’t want a copy of that. If that makes sense.

So you are not suggesting then, when you look at what is selling  , you are not suggesting then that you are imitating other people’s work, correct?

Correct. Yes. There are potters that are making tarot root mugs or dishes and other things. We are all inspired by the nature around us, about culture, and you have to do those things obviously very carefully. I am a white person that lives in Hawaii and I am making from that perspective too, so I am very conscious of those things, so I am not going to be giving false narratives and making mugs with hula girls on them. I don’t even think that would sell. I don’t think  people buy into that. I mean, I could be wrong. There’s that, right? But then there’s, I’m not making things other people are making, I am literally looking outside my home and I’m in the valley and the sun in coming up through two peaks and that’s what I see and that’s what inspires me and makes me feel like, This is where I live. This is what people should know about this place.

How do you go about putting a price tag on your work?

I don’t know. (laughter) I mean I have done comparisons. Lots of people do this, you go to Etsy and you kind of see what people are pricing at. Then I also think about my time. I mean I used to do this as an adjunct and Hmm, I am making about two dollars and thirty cents an hours teaching five classes this semester.  It is hard not to feel like you want people to know the craft aspect of whatever you are making. Same thing goes for books I think. So I kind of price at what I feel comfortable taking home and also comfortable saying this is what I would buy it for.

Which way would you define yourself? Are you a poet who does pottery or a potter who does poetry?

I don’t know. Honestly, I have tried so hard to compartmentalize my life in such ways, having different Instagram for different things I do or not telling people in the pottery world that I  also write poems and vice versa. I don’t know why. I don’t know, I feel like it feels strange even for friends who say, Oh now you are doing this thing? That doesn’t seem to make sense. My parents are like, You went to school for poetry! Get a job as a professor or something like that.  So I think I would just say that I am just an arty person. I don’t know…who likes language and clay.


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Anyjar by Jaimie Gusman



Instagram: @ickylovepottery

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