Interview with ceramics artist Amanda Blair Dexheimer
Personify Shop talks with Amanda about inspiration, business, artistry, and ceramics.
When we first started thinking about opening a shop we wanted a mix of handmade, vintage, and newly produced items to share the way we have tried to make our own lives beautiful. Our motto of “personalizing your world” is really about the search and dedication it takes to bring special things into your home and world. We strive to put the same care into our curated selection of items in Personify Shop as we have in our own lives.
Mandy, known as Amanda Blair Dexheimer Studio, was introduced to us by a friend and as soon as we saw the pictures of her pieces we knew we had to have some at Personify Shop. Her pieces are spectacularly unique and we really appreciate her attention to detail in her work. We now have the privilege of having some of her work online so we can showcase it to a broader audience. I was really excited about this blog post because I wanted to share a glimpse into the thoughts and processes of the artist behind the work. We are so happy to be partnering with her on this new journey!
Check out her pieces online at personifyshop.com or come visit in person… they are even more beautiful! Enjoy today and be inspired.
How long have you been making pottery?
I have been making pots formally for about ten years. I did take a few pottery classes in college but it was always just a fun, experimentation type thing. I will say that I met and started purchasing my first porcelain pots when I was twelve. That is where my love of the medium began for sure. Ian and Jo Lydia Craven made the most inspiring tableware in the mountains of North Carolina and as that relationship began little did I know I was meeting two of my greatest friends and mentors in hand building. She was the artist and creative mind as far as design and hand building and he was a scientist which translated into the most intense and technical glazing. Ian and I still talk about once a month. My pottery love certainly started there, but I would also just say I knew I wanted to be an artist that young.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
My favorite part of the process is letting go. Not having an expectation, just an idea. I just think we try and make things work and it does not often go well for me. When I am uninhibited and unbridled the results are always so unique and speak the most of who I am and what I want to bring to the table. It almost does not make sense unless you know me. I just think my imagination runs wild and although it needs to be reeled in just a little to be translated it is captured best in the moment. It is why there is always a common component when you see my work, but it is always changing. You can certainly tell it is mine, and yet it rarely stays just the same. That is why I make a collection and yet allow myself the freedom to interpret and change elements every time. Some call it the inability to focus, for me it is the positive element that keeps my work new and my passion and creativity are always evolving. There is always room for growth, I never want to assume I have just figured it out. I am always interested in learning more.
How has your education impacted your art and business?
I believe in both formal and life education. I say that only because I do not believe I would be who I am with out both. Formally I studied at Flagler College and TUFTS School of the Museum of fine Art and I hold a degree in Fine Art with a minor in business. My sweet business+minded father strongly suggested I have something to fall back on in my undergraduate studies. I always studied business begrudgingly, but have to confess it is one of the many things that sets me apart in the art world. I said if I could create beautiful art and not write a contract or negotiate my terms with a gallery, what good was a beautiful piece of art with no representation. I love the business of art. I am very thankful for the encouragement by my dad to make it a priority, but I did not realize that until much later in life. I would also say that the lessons and mentors I have had throughout my life count for just as much. Certainly working in and out of the a Cravens studio, a summer at Penland School of Crafts, and all the incredible artists I have the privilege of gleaning from daily have just as much if not more to do with shaping my aesthetics in artistic process. Daily business is truly just a culmination of all my life’s work, skills and influence. You can’t minimize or take away anything, even the mistakes.
What inspires you?
Wow, I will try to keep this short. My kids, nature, history, people, community, color, love, texture, boundaries all inspire me. Mostly it is life that inspires my work. Sometimes the beautiful qualities and simplicity and other times it’s pain and what I don’t understand or my own limitations. My mind is never at a lack for ideas but there are some that I just have to see taken to full fruition. I think that is why I am not just simply a potter, because I am inspired by so very many beautiful things and people. I believe you have a born drive to do things with integrity and be your best always. One hundred percent is not good enough for me and I am driven to pull up my boot straps and try again. You have to care about all the details, and I truly do. The fine details, the integrity and thought behind something, this inspire me.
What does a day in the life of Mandy look like?
Constant prayer. I get up early because of the kiddos. We home school and spend the morning talking and learning. We cook from scratch around here and so at some point prep for our family dinner begins. There is quiet for about an hour mid day because I think it is imperative that everyone slows down and turns off everything. In the afternoon when my husband gets home from teaching we trade roles and I get my time in the studio. It is usually late afternoon that I also unwind at the gym. I am truly a mother first and I create as time allows. I have to say I would have never sewn or crafted small items if I was not squished for time. I just grab what is there and have a creative hiatus when ever possible. Those are usually the most intuitive and inspirational pieces for me. The kids work alongside me a lot. It is very special and I do not know what I would do without the support of my husband and kids. I am invested in them 100% when we are together but when I work I get very focused and they let me! Getting to do what I love everyday is such a blessing. It is still hard work you have to be very driven.
What is your process for starting a new collection?
When I start a new collection I sketch and collect lots of information. I research and the mundane becomes very important. I like to be very specific about what is going to be new and yet I can’t have a box around me so even within a collection things vary and change. Let’s just say cookie cutter is not my thing but the business minded part of me knows that there must also be some kind of consistency. I think about what people want and the feedback I get from my collectors and followers about what they use and need most. Sometimes I make or add something to the collection because I want something and cannot find it. The history and timelessness of ceramics intrigues me so I spent a lot of time looking at different methods of building and the history behind shapes, colors etc. Every element you find in my work is usually a very intentional detail.
What do you hope for in making and selling your art pieces?
I hope that it ends up in the right hands when I make and sell something. Each piece that comes out of the studio was intended for someone to love and enjoy. There are very few things that I keep an that is because I believe it belongs to someone. I hope they live with it and don’t just put it on a shelf, I hope it inspires them every time they see it. I hope it is seen and loved with the same intention it was made. When I read this question I specifically think of the words you can find on the bottom of some of our wares. In everything I do, my main hope is to encourage others. Mostly, I hope my work inspires and encourages others.
Do you have a favorite piece you ever made?
My favorite piece is actually a flag I made out of vintage fabric remnants. It is made off a template of the American Flag but says LOVE ONE ANOTHER in the corner instead. It made a huge impact on my neighbors as it hung by my front door and still flies, though weathered, for special events like our MAKER weekend. I truly love vintage scraps and I love making something out of nothing with lots of layers and texture. Rings true in my work no matter what medium I find myself using.