Interview: Faith Givings of
Faith Ann Originals
Nov 29, 2010
I discovered Faith Givings' work in June when I was searching for an artistic wedding gift for an outdoorsy friend. I ordered this ceramic wall hanging with a beautiful relief design of canoes on a river's edge. Faith told me later that the piece was developed from a sketch she had drawn while camping on the Escanaba River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, just a bit west of where I grew up. I felt like the gift had found me, and thus its eventual owners, who are also lovers of Michigan's wild places.
At her Etsy shop, Faith Ann Originals, Faith sells different types of ceramic pieces that start with a sketch and finish with two kiln firings on her signature watercolor glazing effect. Her pieces are surprisingly affordable and diverse. With gift-giving season here, I thought I'd ask her a few questions about her work and spark your interest in giving original art this year. She also has a selection of ceramic ornaments and gift tags, and some affordable buttons and pins that make nice present embellishments.
Interview: Faith Ann Givings of Faith Ann Originals
Tell me about your background in art.
I’m primarily self-taught. I spent my babysitting money (50 cents/hour) on one kind of paint after another and experimented my way through junior high and high school. My mom used to joke that if something didn’t move fast enough, I would paint it.
I majored in Poli Sci, but while I studied and raised a family, a once weekly course in pottery through our local Recreation Department got me hooked on clay. When my husband became disabled, I returned to the University to finish my studies in law and mediation, but I couldn’t help padding my courselist with a couple of courses in pottery and watercolor, thinking all along that it was a shame not to be able to do the two at once. So I studied and worked 6 days a week, then stole away to the UW ceramics studio to throw, pinch, and pound on clay or spread out on the lawn with huge, thick sheets of cold pressed watercolor paper, studying the ebb and flow of water and colors.
Do you work in any other media?
I still throw both pottery and art pieces on the wheel, with standard high fired or Raku finishes. I’ve also worked in oil, acrylic, wood, mixed media, and fiber, sometimes producing coordinating fiber and ceramic pieces.
What makes your work unique?
Wow, that’s a huge question. Most of my pieces are functional as well as art, but in a way that’s different from other functional pottery. My work is intended to function as art for the home or office, like a fine painting. Then, with nothing more than a moment’s notice, the owner can pluck the piece from its stand or right off the wall and put it to use offering crudités to guests, serving sushi for two, or showcasing that extra special treat. Dual-duty art for the economy-minded, for the down-sized, for the minimalist, the modern home, or just as a lovely conversation piece.
More notably, I’ve looked and other artists and gallery operators have looked. So far we haven’t discovered anyone else doing what I do. It wasn’t until a family friend and docent for the San Francisco Museum of Art visited and concurred that I began to wonder if my work was truly unique.
Without the benefit of a traditional education in art… I didn’t know whether watercolor and pottery techniques could be delicately and effectively combined, so I just kept trying.
Clearly, you're inspired by nature. Are there any other sources to which you regularly turn for inspiration?
Architecture inspires me, on occasion. That can be anything from an 1800s structure to an aging barn or silo, to a 50s-era landmark. Children inspire me, too. Always have, always will.
What's your favorite wildflower?
I think I go in stages, depending on what’s just about to blossom in my mom’s, my five sisters’, or my own backyard. One day it could be Wild Geranium, another day Bloodroot, Spiderwort, Solomon’s Seal, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Lady’s Slipper, Bellwort, or even the common wood violet. The Trillium has always held a special place in my heart, though. As a youngster, discovering one in the woods seemed a solemn and magical occasion.
Say someone wants specific flowers or plants, or a custom sized tile for wall installation. Do you accept commissions?
Yes, I do. With plenty of lead time (and available plant life!), I am happy to consider commissioned pieces.
Recently, with my son Theo’s assistance, I delivered a commission of more than 100 custom tiles to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, featuring original watercolor scenes from their grounds. Other recent requests ranged from a set of four square hanging trays in graduated sizes, each with a single, perfect, fall-watercolored maple leaf, to a single holiday ornament of a sailboat on Lake Michigan at sunset.
What's your favorite piece in your shop right now?
My favorite piece in my online shop is a 2’ x 1½’, highly textured, single leaf piece called At First Light [pictured below]. The watercolor effect is delightful and the feel of it is amazing! It just begs to be touched!
Any new product ideas on the horizon?
Yes! Just released, small works of art. And coming soon, tiles for installation. With tightened pocketbooks and a number of galleries and shops closing, the joie de vivre that art brings with it is probably needed now more than ever. With that in mind, I’ve designed different kinds of small pieces that are as easy to afford as they are to hold. Each is still an original design. Each is still handmade.
A number of local galleries already have an assortment of these delicately colored pins, unique ceramic ornaments, decorative buttons, one-of-a-kind brooches, and cube jewelry (aka, tasteful “jewelry” with which to adorn one’s cubicle). You can see examples now here. These designs began as gifts I once made exclusively for family and friends with a combination of hand-carved designs and impressed leaves and blossoms. In addition to making perfect gifts, they can be a nice way of sampling my designs and colors while considering larger pieces.
Next on the horizon is a host of standard sized tile tests, requested by some of my wildflower and herb tile collectors who are currently planning home renovations and rejuvenations. Walking the fine line between maintaining the handmade and natural aspects of my pieces and achieving standardized measurements (accounting for shrinkage of the clay at 4 separate stages) has been a bit of a wrestling match. The nice thing for shoppers and collectors is that nearly every one of these "experiments" is a lovely tile in its own right! Some of these tiles and many ornaments, pins, buttons, brooches, and Cube Jewelry will be available at my online shop and at an upcoming event at Boerner Botanical Gardens Holiday Celebration in Greendale, WI on Sunday, December 5.
Why did you decide to focus on ceramics?
I think pottery and ceramics decided to focus on me. We lost our oldest son at about noon on Thanksgiving Day, shot and killed while our next youngest son was held at gunpoint, only about a mile from our home of 25 years. It’s been almost five years to the day, and I still can’t say that without having to stop and stifle a scream, and then remind myself to breathe. After months of shrieking and sobbing in agony, for the rest of my dear family’s sake, I returned to the relative silence of the pottery studio. It wasn’t that I stopped crying; I cried non-stop some days, wetting every bit of clay in front of me. But I didn’t have to talk to the clay, or explain my tears, or stop them. The clay absorbed every tear. And it still does.
What's on your own holiday wish list this year?
When family asks, my pat answer is moisturizer. You can catch me almost any hour of the day up to my elbows — literally — in clay, with clay clumps between my fingers, glaze smudges on my face, and clay dust in my hair. Seriously, though? Peace is my heart’s desire. Peace, and to keep as busy as possible… and maybe just a little more clay.
• • • • •
Thank you, Faith, for sharing your personal story and your creativity with Dwelement's readers. If you'd like to give the gift of original art this year or to contact Faith about commissioned work, visit Faith Ann Originals at Etsy.com. —Diane
TAGS: faith ann originals etsy faithannoriginals ceramic art for the home giving original art gift christmas hanukkah ideas wisconsin wildflower herb plant art floral tiles custom
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