The Ebb and Flow of Creativity!!!

Posted by on Jun 16, 2019 in Artists & Their Work, Marty Biernbaum | Comments Off on The Ebb and Flow of Creativity!!!

Marty Biernbaum loves ‘throwing pots’…clay pots!!! Our June interview includes a video that features Marty moving clay from a ‘lump’  into a beautiful stoneware shape on the potters wheel. After you read this post, caffeine and peanut butter will be at the top of your shopping list. 

Marty’s work is also available in the Charleston Craft Online Store.

How long have you been a member of Charleston Crafts Co-Op?
25 years.  I stepped back to associate membership for a few years when my art show travel schedule was too demanding.

Many artists have been ‘makers’ all of their lives? Have you always been creative and what mediums did you explore before moving to stoneware?
I have been a ‘maker’ all my life.  I have many happy memories of sewing clothes for my dolls and all our cats.  Although the cats did not seem to appreciate my efforts.  I continued to make all my clothing for many years. 

The long happy hours of my carefree childhood were spent making mud pies and pinch pots that we put in our pretend oven made of bricks from my father’s garage project.I was also fortunate to be exposed to many craft mediums through Girl Scouts.  Even our chickens were involved when I took to making feather hats to wear to church.When Macrame was all the rage I became the Macramania Queen!  And Decoupage…. get out of the way….

Art classes were never even a consideration in our large crazy family.  My father worked three jobs to support us, so we did not even consider such things.  There was never enough money, but we did not think we were poor as there was always plenty of food and love!

Yours is a very complex process. What made you move from ‘traditional’ glazes to formulating your own?
Buying glazes was not an option for me 39 years ago.  Traditional potters formulated and made their own glazes in the studios where I first started.   In my early 30s I studied at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts with Bill Foglia and learned glaze making while helping in his studio for three years.  Although I have no objection to buying and using the beautiful choices we have now, I am still fascinated by and enjoy making my own glazes.
What is the most important tool in your studio? 
My hands…and of course, the potters wheel.   I call myself a wheel-aholic.  I LOVE throwing pots.
(The following video was filmed in 2012 for the YouTube channel Art by Tracer.)

Several members of the Charleston Crafts Gallery moved from careers in other fields to find a new career as an artist. Is this your path as well?
I began my professional life as an Elementary School Teacher and Child Development Specialist.  However, when I had my first child (Charleston Craft’s Wood Artist – Robb Helmkamp) I wanted to be a full time mother.  After a few months of diapers and baby talk, I sent for a Morton Salt booklet on how to make bread dough craft items.  Three years and another baby later (Brian, who is now a professional metal sculptor in Australia), I was passionately creating and selling bread dough but frustrated with its fragility.  So, I took a pottery class and discovered CLAY! By the third night of class, I knew I was born to be a potter and have been making pots with a passion for the last 39 years.

How do you see your work evolving in the next year?
14 years ago, I discovered painting.  I have tried to paint and make pots since then, dividing my time between the two.  As a result, my clay work is evolving in a more painterly direction.  I want to make “clay canvases” in the form of wall pieces and decorative pots.  I am developing my own techniques to utilize clay and glazes with the extreme heat of the kiln to create beautiful, unusual painterly surfaces.  After all these years the endless challenges of clay continue to keep me excited and moving forward.

Where do you go for inspiration…other mediums, other artists, art shows and/or galleries?
I most certainly enjoy Fine Art Galleries and beautiful publications that elevate expressive clay works from exquisite functional and sculptural works to passionate social statements.  However, I find I have to withdraw from the crazy buzz of today’s multimedia overload and be still to let my heart and mind create without too much outside influence. So, my real answer to this question is:  Caffeine and Peanut Butter.

Aside from the Charleston Crafts Co-Op, do you belong to any other artist organizations?
I am a current member of Lowcountry Artists Gallery, Piedmont Craftsmen, Oil Painters of America and The American Impressionist Society.

What are the steps in your creative process?
Brainstorming, journaling and sketching seem to be the initial anchor to most of my ideas. Then, as I move forward with new concepts, I have to let go of my preconceived notions and let the project unfold in ways that I had not imagined.  Knowing your medium and its strengths help guide you, but letting go and enjoying the process always yields the most magical results. 

Creativity has had an ebb and flow in my life.  When I am in a dry spell, I know I just need to get out in the studio, get a start and “prime the pump”.  Good music, a block of uninterrupted time and plenty of Caffeine and Peanut Butter is all it takes! Clay requires plenty of time and patience.  After forming the work it has to dry slowly and be fired in a kiln one or more times.  Making and applying glazes and then the final firings up to 2200 degrees finish the work.