Artist Interviews

Meet Cindy Guajardo

Cindy Guajardo - Soda Fired Bottle
Cindy Guajardo – Soda Fired Bottle
Please introduce yourself:

My name is Cindy Guajardo and I’m an artist/potter living in Fort Collins, CO. I also manage the Colorado Potters Guild website and social media channels. Chances are that if you’ve messaged the guild through our website, I’m the one that responds to your general query. 

How many years have you been a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

I joined the Colorado Potters Guild in 2008 at the same time as Penny Woolsey and Wendy Kochar.

What does it mean to you to be a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

When I applied to be a member of the guild, I was a recent ceramics graduate and had been taking classes at the Art Students League in Denver to bridge the gap between school and real life. I had set up a home studio in my garage, but missed the interaction and community of being in a group with like minded and clay focused people. 

For me, the Colorado Potters Guild is a wonderful community of people from all walks of life who share a love of all things related to clay. I still work solo at home most days, but enjoy firing at the guild on occasion, learning from other members, coming together for our biannual sales (shameless plug – our next sale is May 4-6, 2017) and eating really well at our pot lucks. In short, the guild keeps me connected to other creative clay artists in Colorado.

Cindy Guajardo - Soda Fired Planters
Cindy Guajardo – Soda Fired Planters
How many years have your been working with clay?

Short answer: 15 years

Long answer: I always describe myself as a late bloomer. I worked for United Airlines for almost 17 years and attended college part time while working towards a BFA in studio art. I was about half way through my art degree in 1997 when I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter. At the time, I had planned to take a beginning ceramics class, but the instructor discouraged me because of the danger of working with potentially harmful chemicals while pregnant. I was disappointed, because I just knew that I would love clay. I ended up taking a leave of absence from school until my daughter was about 4 years old and in preschool. In 2002, the first class I signed up for was Ceramics 101 and the rest is history. 

Do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?

Yes, I earned a BA in Studio Art with a concentration in ceramics and a minor in art history from the University of Southern Maine in 2004. The head of the ceramics department at the time was Ray Chen – a fantastic sculptor who is currently the director of Fine Art at the New England Institute of Education in Falmouth, ME. 

I have also taken classes with Mary Cay at the Art Students League of Denver and numerous in person and online workshops with Annie Chrietzberg, Diana Fayt and others.

Cindy Guajardo - Sketch to Pot
Cindy Guajardo – Sketch to Pot
How do you work (techniques/glazing/firing methods)?

In addition to making pottery, I enjoy dabbling in 2D work like printmaking, painting and drawing. In 2015, I took a series of illustration classes from Lilla Rogers, an artist and director of an art licensing agency, with the thought that I’d like to dip my toes into the commercial art world. At the end of the courses, I didn’t take that path, but the exercises did spark a new graphic direction in my work. In fact, my work changed so much that visitors to our shows asked if I was a new member because they didn’t recognize my work.

Since taking this class I keep a sketchbook and often use some of the icons in my work because I like to add an illustrative touch to my pottery. To translate 2D imagery to a clay surface I employ techniques like sgraffito and slip inlay – I typically hand build my forms for a more organic feel, but also use a pottery wheel. I have also narrowed down my color palette to make my work more cohesive. At home, I glaze fire my work in an electric kiln in oxidation – but about 6 times a year, I enjoy firing in the guild’s soda kiln with a group of women who share similar desired outcomes firing wise.

What does “being creative” mean to you?

I’m not content to make the same thing over and over, so for me, being creative is a continued desire to improve both technically, but also to push myself to explore new ideas and forms. I think this is why making illustrative work is so appealing to me right now because it keeps my “canvases” fresh.

Currently, I’m exploring sculptural aspects of ceramics and plan on expanding my offerings beyond functional pottery. Scaling up is both a creative and technical challenge for me.

Cindy Guajardo - Mugs
Cindy Guajardo – Mugs
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

Because I am a self employed artist, my schedule is my own – like many people, I can get sucked down internet rabbit holes or otherwise waste time. In the past couple of years, I have had to set limits on my internet browsing and to schedule studio time. I treat my ceramic practice like a job.

Typically, Monday – Friday, I allow myself one hour to peruse the internet while I drink my coffee. This allows me to wake up and to catch up with friends, read the news and research a potential glaze or new making methods. After this, I get to work in my studio. My system is not glamorous and involves referring to my planner that I map out daily/weekly and monthly depending on what time of the year it is. I definitely work in cycles and the items I work on in the studio depend on what events are on the horizon. Unless I have a show or other major deadline, I work Monday – Friday so that I can spend time with my family on the weekends.

I do allow time for creative exploration which often sparks new ideas and directions in my work. I also listen to podcasts while I work to keep my mind active. Favorites are Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, The Potters Cast, The Moth Radio Hour and more.

How do you overcome obstacles or difficulties working in clay?

Clay is a demanding medium and it can be humbling when things don’t turn out. Bad firings, rushed work, cracked handles, glaze mishaps and ideas that don’t turn out the way that they look in my head make me want to quit some days. During this time, I take a break and do something else. I try to take daily hour long walks with my dog which always clears my mind, I’ll switch to a different medium like painting or drawing, I’ll do administrative tasks like working on my website or book keeping and more to just switch the gears in my brain.

Clay is very process driven which is something that engaged me in the beginning – it’s very much about problem solving which keeps me interested in the medium. By taking breaks, it gives me time to approach the challenges differently. I also brainstorm with other clay people if something is really stumping me. Asking for help can be difficult, but it offers an opportunity to hear about different approaches. Are some of my ideas bad? Yes, but ultimately, overcoming obstacles is about not quitting, just rethinking. 

Cindy Guajardo - Small Plates
Cindy Guajardo – Small Plates
Do you pursue any themes in your art work?

After taking the illustration class that I mentioned above, I have started pursuing more themes in my work. In addition to art, I also have a background in landscape design so I tend to favor plant and animal/bird life in my work, in addition to patterns.

In a sense, I enjoy creating little landscape drawings on my functional pottery. I have a “ground” and an “above ground” area. The ground is often a pattern like stripes, lines, dots, arcs, chevron, or herringbone. The above ground area is flora, fauna and sometimes other objects like little homes.

My newer sculptural work is literal, yet stylized translations of plants, birds and rocks.

Who or what inspires you?

So many activities inspire me – being outdoors, gardening, listening to podcasts, going to the movies, drawing, looking at other art, traveling, cooking all spark ideas. 

As to specific artists, I tend to admire a lot of ceramic work that is very painterly and graphic like the work of Craig Underhill, Brenda HolzkeAndrew Ludick, Louise Gelderblom and others. There really are so, so many more….

Where do you see your work progressing over the next year?

I plan to continue to explore sculptural work and to scale up in size. My immediate goal is to make some prototype stacked sculptures that I plan to install in my garden. I’d also like to work on more ceramic wall art. 

Where can people find your work? (websites/social media/galleries?)

I’m all over the place including:

My artist page

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