Posted by Cindy Bracker, Communications Director
Where do you currently live/work?
I reside in Portland, Oregon and am the co-founder/ co-owner Mudshark Studios, Eutectic Gallery, Portland Growler Company, Kept Goods, and The Clay Compound
What do you like most about your job? OR What do you like most about where you live?
I wear many different hats: At Mudshark, I love that we are continually solving problems and trying new things. with every email or phone call, we never know what new project or challenge we will be presented with.
Running Eutectic gallery is satisfying in a different way; by giving ceramic artists a platform to show work and having a place for our community to come together is very fulfilling and humbling. Selecting works and preparing each exhibition is also a creative outlet for me.
My primary function for the Portland Growler company is overseeing marketing. i enjoy the collaborative efforts as well as realizing an object all over the world. Getting my photo taken with Japanese tourists visiting the studio is an additional perk.
Kept goods is a newer venture, so the most exciting part is the design process. i enjoy the ideation and collaborative design process. Managing the compound is interesting as it is layered with community studio philosophy but also drawing from things i have learned from growing Mudshark from a 2 person company to a 30+ person company. while they are both two very different things; one is a community studio rental facility and the other is a production studio, there are many elements that overlap allowing me se the value in building more community in Mudshark and to building more structure in the Clay compound.
Portland is home to an amazing creative and entrepreneurial community.
Where did you grow up?
i was born and raised on Cape Cod Massachusetts. More specifically a small town called Marstons Mills which is central inland. my neighborhood was surrounded by cranberry bogs and one of my fondest memories is the fall time when they flood the bogs to harvest the cranberries and they are all floating on the surface, coupled by the leaves changing color, it is quite a sight to see!
What was your childhood nickname?
i had a couple: Beanpole- i was raised a vegetarian and was tall and skinny…
the other was Binnie, short for Binford, i suppose.
How did you first find out about NCECA?
my highschool teacher, but the first time i went was Kansas City 2002 while working for Jonathan Kaplan at the Ceramic Design Group.
Tell me a story about your first conference
Chris lyon and Julie Anderson and i went to get sushi and it was Chris’s first time getting sushi. he thought the wasabi was avocado and ate the whole pile in one bite. we have been best friends since and have been business partners for over a decade.
What’s your favorite color?
Depends on my mood and context. I am actually colorblind, so i love brighter colors like Orange because i can actually see and identify them with confidence.
What or who inspired you to get involved more deeply in the organization, and what was your “entry point” to the board.:
My entry point has been working with Dylan Beck as Onsite Liaisons. i had no idea that it would go so much deeper than just planning local logistics. in our two board meetings we have been part of deep discussions about the direction of our field, strategic planning to keep NCECA evovling with its membership’s needs and planning beyond just Portland.
Describe your position with NCECA:
i am an onsite liasion. i have been responsible for locating venues, working to place juried shows at venues. we are currently wraping up the collector tour routes and moving onto coordinating the shuttle routes. i am looking forward to installing “The Evocotive Garden” curated by Gail Brown.
What’s your favorite thing about being on the board?
being surrounded by such passionate people is amazing. being surrounded by such intelligent people is intimidating.
What’s your favorite part of your specific position?
most recently, i feel honored to be able to identify and make nominations for the Regional Excellence Award.
Who are some of your mentors, and how have they shaped you as a person/artist? (both in and out of the organization/field)
Francis Johnson: my high school ceramics teacher that stood by me while i was a troubled youth. not only did she always give me respect, she gave me the benefit of the doubt when others didn’t; she saw through my adolescence and saw that i was a kind individual deserving of opportunity. She is the reason i didnt drop out of school and went to college. one day she leaned over me while i was throwing a pot and said, “did you know you can make a career out of this?” i was dumbfounded… she pushed me to apply for college, told me all about Afred, “if you’re going to go, this is the place” and she helped me photograph all my works, complete my application and reviewed my essay. Without Francis, i would probably be a drug addict on the side of the road still on Cape Cod.
Jonathan Kaplan: After leaving Alfred, i was seeking a more pragmaitc approach to making a living in the ceramic arts, other than being a production potter or a teacher. i was struggling with technical knowledge of the material among other things. Jonathan not only exposed me to Molds, RAM pressing, Jiggering, etc, but he really took me under his wing to show me how to trouble shoot problems. this gave me the confidence in my own artwork to dream bigger and without bounds. it also showed me that there was an untapped market out there: private label manufacturing. Jonathan is the reason Chris Lyon and i started Mudshark Studios. we loved working for him on all the different projects and wanted to forge a path for ourselves just like what he had done.
Thomas Orr: After my time in Colorado with Jonathan and some time away from the studio, i became convinced that going back to school to finish my BFA was important; i felt that having “that piece of paper”meant something and would open doors for me. i moved to Portland to attend Oregon College of Arts and Crafts (OCAC). Although Thomas was my advisor, we hadnt actually talked once in the first two months until i had my advisory meeting with him. in the first 5 minutes of our 30 minute meeting, we covered what classes i should take to fulfill my credit needs the next semester. Thomas then slid the paperwork aside, looked at his watch and noted that we had 25 minutes to kill. he proceeded to ask me what i had been running from all this time and why i carried so much guilt around. i proceeded to cry, told him of my adolescence, he told me of his, we cried together, and then he said the most poignant thing, ” Brett, i hope this isn’t my ego speaking, but i think you came to Portland because you and i needed to meet, but i don’t think we need this construct (school) to have the relationship that we will bear together. You don’t need school to do what you want to do(Mudshark), you just need to start your path.”
Thomas gave me the confidence to follow my dreams; I dropped out of school the following semester and started Mudshark. Thomas and i have remained close for over a decade now, and i continue to look to his sage wisdom for how to live life, share my strengths and weaknesses with others and to “operate from the right place”.
Tell me about your work as an artist.
My personal work is about me. It is a reflection of things I have endured, things I have enjoyed, people I have loved, people I have lost, and as I look back on works I find it to be quite autobiographical in more layers that I could have initially intended.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
the cold ones.
If you were a glaze, which one would you be and why?
well, as i look out my office door into a gallery full of Celadon, I would say Celadon! where I’m deeper, I am darker, on the surface I am shiny and light. And I am transparent about what I am.
that said, I think I could be any glaze and find meaning in it.
What are a few of your hobbies?
Hobbies, what hobbies?! I work nearly 80 hours a week on all these ventures in clay. and when I have “free time” I generally think about clay, community, designs, or conceptual ideas that I dont have time to begin to complete. my work is clay, my passion is clay, my life is clay, and I think my hobby is clay. oh, I do love eating in bed and watching movies, but I dont think that counts as a hobby.