Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Beth Hall |
Meet Faith Whittle: A love of the arts and an encouraging creative family led this Fayetteville ceramicist to strike out on her own with a growing collection of functional, artful pottery pieces
Q. How did you become interested in ceramics?
A. I got started in ceramics while I was in college at Arkansas Tech University. At the time I was pursuing a degree in fine art with the intention to pursue graduate school and teach in higher education. The Beginning Ceramics course was a required elective, and I ended up taking it in fall 2013. I was terrible, but I fell instantly and completely in love with it. I found myself daydreaming about ceramics while I was in my other classes, which is something that hadn’t happened to me with any other medium. I only had a year left in school after that, so I took as many ceramic courses as I possibly could! After graduation I was lucky enough to spend some time as an apprentice potter for Dahlstedt Pottery in Mountain View.
Q. Do you come from an artistic family?
A. Yes, my parents are both musicians, so I was always encouraged to pursue music as well as visual art. It’s amazing the parallels that can be drawn between the two. Most particularly, I find myself assessing the balance in each form, rhythm, and repetition in my carved patterns, and harmony between form, function, and design.
I’ve also got a bit of family history when it comes to pottery. My great-uncle was James Chappell, author of The Potter’s Complete Book of Clay and Glazes. He was an amazing man and did all of the research behind each formula in his book himself. Unfortunately he passed away while I was very young, so I never knew him. But my mother has told me stories about him and about how she used to sit with him in his studio. I think of him often, and every once in a while I’ll comb through his book to try out a new glaze or slip recipe.
Q. What types of pieces do you create in your studio?
A. Currently, I create functional ceramics with specific purposes and intentional design. Throughout this past year I’ve been building my main collection, which features simple forms with a variety of earth-tone glazes and designs. My intention is for the pieces in this collection to fit together eclectically without necessarily matching. Certain pieces of this collection can currently be found in numerous retailers in Northwest Arkansas.
One of my favorite things to do is partner with other local makers or businesses to make something custom and extra special. Recently I’ve made ceramic candle containers for Little Bison Co. in Springdale and Hobby & Hum in Fayetteville, custom miniature planters for C by M Creative, which is located in Siloam Springs, and custom logo mugs for Fayetteville’s Freckled Hen Farmhouse.
Q: How do your ideas become tangible pieces?
A: Many of my favorite ideas are born out of necessity. I’ve been trying more and more to think about what objects I need, what I need them to do, and what I’d like them to look like. Sometimes an idea will spawn out of annoyance while using a store-bought object. For example, it drives me nuts when I use a pitcher and the spout dribbles. This prompted me to hunt down the best way to make a pitcher belly and spout through a mixture of meticulous research and trial and error. Eventually, I was able to make pitchers that poured smoothly every time. Sometimes I’ll brainstorm in my sketchbook, but overall I tend to work a bit faster and better by just diving in on the wheel.
Q. Do you have a favorite design in your collection?
A. My most meaningful design is my sgraffito foliage motif. (Sgraffito is a decorative process where the surface is scratched to reveal contrasting color that lies beneath it.) It’s special because it’s one that has grown and evolved with me over the past several years. While I was in college, prior to my first ceramics class, I worked primarily with 2D materials. My favorite methods were reductive in nature—as in, I work better when I’m taking something away rather than adding to it. A great example of this is block printing. I’ve always loved the linear quality and high-contrast of block printing, and I loved the process of carving the block. When I figured out I could carve into clay too, it seemed like a natural fit. So I’ve been carving into my pieces as long as I’ve been throwing, but the process and design reflect my style as a 2D artist as well.
Connect with Faith and find info on her upcoming events and shows as well as local retailers who carry her line at faithwhittle.com or on Instagram (@faith_whittle).