Talk Crafty to Me — An inside look into Arrowmont instructors’ connection to craft, Gatlinburg, and studio practice.
Artist-in-Residence Maia Leppo interviews Mitch Gathings – Arrowmont student, work study and ceramic artist from Little Rock, Arkansas. Mitch visited Arrowmont for the first time in 2015 and took a ceramics workshop with Sam Chung. Mitch returned this summer for a pottery workshop with Matthew Long. After Matthew’s class, Mitch decided to apply for the work-study program. Mitch was selected as a fall 11-week work-study working in the gallery department and registration office.
What is something you learned about yourself and/or your practice at Arrowmont?
I’ve learned many things during my time at Arrowmont, but the best piece of advice about my practice came from a class I took with Sam Chung. At that time, my forms were starting to become more complex. I was struggling with altering thrown vessels and the identity of being a maker that was working exclusively on the wheel. Through talking with Sam, I discovered that the wheel wasn’t vital to my work, but represented a single tool in my arsenal of creating my products.
What is your connection to craft?
Originally I got my degree(s) in drawing and education. Then I went back to school in Little Rock for an applied design program operated by instructors Mia Hall, David Clemons and David Scott Smith. John and Robyn Horn are also affiliated with the program providing opportunities that generate a phenomenal craft-based environment and introduce others and myself to schools like Arrowmont.
What is a non-art inspiration in your current practice?
Automotive history and the cultures associated with it play a huge role in developing my formal and conceptual language. When I was young, my dad acquired a family-owned car dealership and salvage yard. He passed down his love for custom cars to me. I think growing up around those objects removed them from being just a tool for transportation and really had a big influence on my vessels.
Tell us about your studio space. What is your favorite part of it?
My studio at home is my garage. Half of it is occupied by a car that I am working on and the other half is my ceramic studio. Working in a shared space with my car and my vessels definitely helps to reevaluate form and construction processes in different ways. Being at Arrowmont with so many diverse practices and people has also created new inspiration through collaborations and conversations that I don’t have access to in my solitary home studio.
Why do you make art?
Like many people who make work, I started at an early age. But through the years, it became a way for me to get past my deficiencies in writing and speaking. It allowed for me to get my thoughts and ideas out there.
How do you want someone to feel while using your work?
I want them to feel that objects can be both practical in their utility but also serve a greater function. A cup is so much more than an object for holding liquid, it can challenge the user and help them to consider the objects they choose to surround themselves with.
Tell us a guilty pleasure or secret hobby of yours.
Lowes. I’m definitely a home DIY’er.
What are you currently listening to in your studio and why?
I listen to a wide variety of music. It ranges from soul, 80s pop, to classic country and hip hop. I find that it helps to separate me from the work sometimes in a way that podcasts and other options can’t.
For more information about Mitch and his work, follow him on instragram @mitch.gathings