Havens of Simplicity

Artist Profile — Vicki Hartman

The concept of a home has a simple beauty, and I find myself attracted to objects depicting that. it’s what caught my eye about the art of Rochester, New York ceramicist Vicki Hartman; and I thought you’d enjoy visiting with her, and learning about her work.

2 People House

HomeWorkshop (HW): Have you always been an artistic person, and when did you realize you could make a living doing art?

Vicki Hartman (VH): I remember being around five and really identifying as an artist. I had a teacher say something to me about being able to draw well. This small mention had a big effect on me. I have kept a journal since then, full of drawings and ideas and I think time spent journaling has been a great exploration for creative ideas. Even recently, I went back to a sketchbook from college, about thirteen years ago, for an image idea that for some reason is relevant again.

2 Houses by Ceramicist Vicki Hartman

I still struggle with the idea of making a living from my art. Sometimes I get such a great response that I am determined to keep going, and other times I feel like I might not have the energy it takes to keep making and keep pushing. So it is a process for me. But this is my first year really giving it a try and I think I am doing quite well when I look at the big picture.

Vicki Hartman Ceramic House Boxes

HW: How and why did you come to create ceramic houses?

VH: I started making ceramic houses for my BFA show in 1999. I made them then as an exploration of suburbia and our monotonous, consumerist culture. A decade later, and a family and home of my own, I have a very different reason for making them.

The houses I make now are a celebration of what makes a family and how our home is our haven, a safe place full of the people and things we cherish that bring meaning to our lives. I also love thinking about the little things that everyone, no matter how different we are, appreciates; the same simple parts of life. I want the houses to feel simple like that, and accessible.

Houses - Ceramics by Vicki Hartman

HW: When you need inspiration for your designs, where do you most often turn?

VH: I often find myself with forms created and no idea what to put on them. When this happens, the best thing for me to do is to take a walk. I live in a small urban neighborhood that has lots of great parks. So when I go for a walk, I can choose to walk the streets and be inspired by people interacting and working and serving and all the things we do, or I can quickly take myself to a quieter, more inward natural place and look at shapes of leaves and seeds and a landscape.

Living in upstate NY brings four seasons, so each time I take a walk, so much is different. I love looking at the reservoir and the way ice forms and melts on it as much as I love the brick church across the street or the sprinkler watering my neighbor’s lawn. There are forms and colors and themes in all of this that inspire me.

Vicki Hartman Ceramic House

I keep up with contemporary ceramic artists, as well as all the amazing crafters in the handmade world today. I get inspiration from them, but I do try to not look too much, as I want to be influenced by my environment and my own ideas more than other artists. I want my work to look like it could only have come from me.

Red Poppy by Vicki HartmanCity House
Bike House123Houses

HW: Talk about the imagery you use on your ceramics:

VH: I choose my imagery for a few reasons; I want viewers to feel a connection to what they see, so I look for things that have some universality to them. The people I use are meant to be ambiguous and not portray any certain gender or type of person; I want them to convey part in all of us that makes us all human beings.

The nature images I use, like the ferns and seed pods, I see as similar to the people in the same way. Although they are from a specific plant originally, I want them to take on a little from all plants. I also love the thought of seemingly unimportant objects we each have in the home and what they do for our lives; why we keep them. This is why, for instance, I use the compact fluorescent light bulb on my work.

Ceramics by Vicki Hartman

HW: Name two to three other artists (past or present) whose work you admire:

VH: I have so many artists I admire so much, this is a hard question. But one ceramic artist that really inspires me is Mary Fisher. Also, the painter and ceramist Mary Frank, although it is her paintings dreamy quality that I am really drawn to. Jun Kaneko and Cy Twombly are also favorites I will always return to. All of these artists so successfully create with layers and depth that I aspire to.

Ceramacist Vicki Hartman

HW: What do you know now, that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

VH: That is a question that will probably have a different answer each year, but right now, I would say that I wish someone had told me to take more risks, do things that don’t feel quite right and comfortable but that I think I might learn something from. I have two kids now, so taking risks is not as easy as it might have been once. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said something like: “Do something each day that scares you.”

I think as an artist, getting myself out of a comfortable place is a great thing to do to keep things fresh and new.

You can reach Vicki and view a gallery of more of her ceramics at her Web site. And you can buy her ceramic Houses at her Etsy shop.

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2 Comments for “Havens of Simplicity”

Very nice interview. I love Vicki’s work.

Thanks, Ron.

I love the simplicity of her forms, and her interesting use of graphics, don’t you?

Thanks for stopping in!

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