Artist Spotlights Series:
Paula West, Potter
Welcome to the Artist Spotlights Series, a collection of interviews with local artists. I am pleased to introduce you to Paula West, an artist currently living and working on San Juan Island Washington. Read on to learn about Paula's thoughts on making artwork, creativity, and a potter's life. Thanks for visiting!
If you like this page, read more interviews at Artist Spotlights.
Please share a brief biography, including where you’re from and how you got started as an artist.
Born Hartford, CT, the youngest of nine children. Grew up in CT and New Hampshire. Graduated University of New Hampshire, BA Studio Art, 1981. Fell in love with making pots in high school. Continued with ceramics in college.
Why do you do what you do?
I have always loved working with my hands: knitting, sewing, gardening. I have always been more of a functional artist, creating the things that I can use or wear. We are affected by what surrounds us and having handmade objects in our lives makes our world more personal and meaningful.
What motivates you to begin a new project, and what keeps you going?
What motivates me the most is the love of the work and material. Also the desire to push myself and try something new.
How much time do you spend doing your work every week?
My work is my job. I am in the studio at 8 or 9 in the morning and work until 3 or so. I work weekends too and have the studio open most days. My work and my home are intertwined since the studio is right across the driveway. I usually work around the school and sports schedule. I want to be there for my kids and enjoy being with them. Having the studio and working at home allows for this flexibility but it can be a challenge to stay focused on the work.
How do you describe your style?
Contemporary, whimsical. Most people that come to the studio say my work is different, unique and not what they expect when they think of pottery. Most people think brown and blue drippy glazes and that has a place but I love the white porcelain and drawing on clay.
Has your work changed over time? How?
If you stay with your work over time it evolves. My forms have gotten stronger and more confident and my craftsmanship has improved. I noticed a big change in my work when I went full time to pottery, more focus and follow through and the ability to resolve issues because I was able to be in the studio more.
If there was no chance of ever being paid, would you still do your work?
What jobs have you done, other than being an artist?
My parents owned a restaurant growing up, so I was always very comfortable in that environment and could get a job anywhere. Six years ago I left restaurant work to become a potter full time.
What role, if any, does an artist play in society?
Artists share their way of seeing with the world and open us up to new ways of seeing and thinking. As potters we share a very old tradition and create the most basic objects that people use everyday. These objects are very intimate; we hold them, put them to our lips, share food with our loved ones.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself still in the studio, doing what I love.
Any advice for aspiring artists?
Do what you love. Be intentional and do honest work. Stay with it, even if it is difficult. It will certainly take you somewhere and you may be surprised.
This interview with Paula West for the Artist Spotlights Series was completed on May 22, 2012. For more information about Paula and her work, please visit her website.
Read more Artist Spotlights:
Robin Atkins, Patti Barker, Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, Cinda Sue Dow, Beth Hetrick, Peggy Sue McRae, Jan Murphy, Kevin Roth, Tom Small, Lewis Spaulding, Nancy Spaulding, Margaret Thorson, Virginia Van Camp
Return to Artist Spotlights Series, OR
Return to Simply San Juan.