Thursday, February 23, 2012

Featured Artist - Tracey Broome

Tracey's work is featured in the upcoming House and Home exhibit at MudFire Gallery.  When we unpacked her houses... we needed to know more!
Tell us something unusual about yourself.
I am an only child, I grew up in Myrtle Beach SC, hanging out on the beach a lot and skateboarding every day. My dad worked in a furniture plant and at night reupholstered furniture in a tiny barn out on a friend’s farm. He would take me with him and I hung out in the barn ripping fabric, nails and staples off of furniture frames for him. He drove a truck and to this day, I love to see an old Chevy or Ford truck pass me on the road. My uncle was a painter and my mom always thought I would end up being an artist like him. My dad worked for a lot of interior designers and I decided that was what I wanted to do, so I went to school, got a degree in design, met my husband, and spent the next twenty years as a designer married to a photojournalist. I worked for furniture manufacturers and retail furniture stores, traveled all over the country and later designed sets and props for the theater. I found clay in my 40’s and took a lot of classes and workshops before I decided to make it my full time profession. I am still married to the man I met in college, he is a staff photographer for the Associated Press and we have a daughter in film school at UNC School of the Arts in Winston Salem. She is studying to be a screenwriter, and we are like most parents, very proud of her!
What is your typical day to day like?
I don’t have typical days. I am not a good planner. I don’t sit down and say, ok, today I will make this and this. I walk into my studio, mess around with the piles of found objects I have and see what inspires me. Deadlines and orders can loom in front of me and I will get distracted and make something completely off track from what I should be doing. I make two or three pieces a day with lots of distractions in between the making. I will never be a production potter. I take a long time with each piece and I work very slowly. I know I should speed up my production and increase the number of pieces I make, but I am a slow southern girl. I once had a boss that called me “speedy” because I was so slow and methodical with everything. I make what I want to make at a pace that I like, that’s the best I can do!  At least once a week, I try to check in with other friends that are artists. We will meet for coffee, lunch or dinner and a movie, but it always inspires me and keeps me in touch with others who are doing the same thing I’m doing. I also like to visit a gallery or museum a couple of times a month just to feel the presence of other artists out there.                                
Apart from making things from clay, what do you enjoy doing?
For years, my husband and I were rock climbers. We climbed a couple of times a week, we had canoes and paddled whitewater a lot. Then he got this job with AP and I found clay and now there is little time for that these days. We still like to be outdoors, camp, hike, he climbs when he can, I don’t climb anymore, but sometimes think I would like to get back to it.  Now, I enjoy time with my friends and family, really good coffee, really good food, good films, art, all the good stuff we need in our lives!

Describe the moment you fell in love with clay. 
When I was a little girl my grandparents liked to visit Jugtown and Seagrove and they would take me there when I stayed with them in the summer. My grandmother had a great love for pottery and I loved those rides through the country to visit the potters down in Randolph County. I remember walking into the shop at Jugtown and feeling such a sense of history there. But I truly fell for clay at the State Fair in Raleigh. There was a potter in the Yesteryear pavilion with a wheel and he was shouting out at the crowd as he made pieces, telling stories and talking about what he was doing. I can’t tell you a thing he said, but I can still remember the sight of that clay on that wheel. I looked down at my daughter who was very small at the time, and I said to her, I am going to do that! Soon after that, I signed up for pottery classes and never looked back. I would love to know who that man was that influenced me so greatly!
Who has been the most influential instructor in your life, and what was the most important thing you learned from him or her?
I have had many amazing instructors and I have taken many many classes and workshops. They include: Meredith Brickell, Ronan Peterson, Susan Filley, Adrian Arleo, Debra Fritts, Steven Forbes deSoule, workshops with Amy Sanders, Po Wen Liu, Hitomi Shibata, Blaine Avery, and there are more I’m sure that I am forgetting. I picked up so many techniques and tips from each of these artists that I use in my work every day.
But the two instructors that have helped me the most are Deborah Harris and Barbara McKenzie. I took classes from these two potters at Claymakers in Durham when I first moved to Chapel Hill. They taught me above all else, the importance of a well crafted piece. They taught me to take the time to do things right. They also taught me that it doesn’t just come overnight, that you have to do the work, you have to not be afraid to try things and fail, and they helped me understand how to move on, not get attached to a piece that was obviously not working and just start over. They have both been endlessly giving of their time and knowledge as I have grown as a clay artist and they have both become very great friends.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Most of my inspiration comes from old discarded objects, antiques and treasures that people give me from their attics and drawers in their homes. If it’s rusty, old or broken, it inspires me! I am inspired by the architecture of the rural south. I love old cemeteries, plantations in South Carolina where I’m from, barns, dilapidated houses out in cotton fields, old paint on weathered wood. I also like to wander around in flea markets and antique malls. I feel so nostalgic when I am in one, especially if they are playing really bad music on their intercom. I love the crazy people that run their stalls at outdoor flea markets. I like to just hang around and listen to the conversations. I hear some crazy stuff, let me tell you. For instance, yesterday I was in an old shop in Asheboro, NC and I heard these two elderly ladies talking about the way things were when they were young girls. One was saying that they didn’t have yard sales when she was a girl, when they wanted to get rid of stuff they just threw it away. She said “why we took a bunch of our furniture one time and pushed it over the bank down the road from us.” Now THAT inspires me!! Only in the south!

Who is your favorite artist not working in ceramics?
Jean-Michel Basquiat  and Andrew Wyeth, I know extremely different, right?! but I love them both. The Basquiat movie is in my head all the time. I went to the Wyeth museum in Maine last summer, I just stood in this room with Andrew Wyeth’s paintings and cried.
Do you ever get potters’ block? How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I do get blocks, I seem to reach these plateaus and I get to a place where I feel that I don’t know what to do next. I get moody, irrational, lack confidence in my ability, question why I do this. And then, like a flash, I get a spark of inspiration from some crazy thing, and I’m back at it. I have gotten more used to it, I can feel it coming like a tidal wave and I just wait it out. I know that it will pass and something will come, I just wait for it. Many times I get out of these funks from something that wakes me at 3am, some glimmer of an idea, and I will grab my notebook and write it down. Recently, a girl I blog with wrote about a note in her friend’s studio that said “just work”. How true is that? If I just go out to my studio and do something, anything, something else will follow. Just Work! When all else fails I call my artist friends and go have coffee with them or I call my daughter and something they will say strikes a chord and I’m good to go.

What book or movie have you read or seen recently that rocked your world?
Movies:  The Radiant Child, Basquiat, Harold and Maude, Stalker by Andrey Tarkovskiy, 2001 A Space Odyssey
Books: I recently read A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance and it changed the way I thought about a lot of things. 

Check out Tracey's wonderful houses the House and Home exhibit opening March 2 at MudFire Gallery.


  1. Nice interview! I enjoyed reading it and look forward to seeing her houses

  2. Tracey Broome is an amazing artist. These forms are simply beautiful, and the way Tracey has incorporated personal objects into her work speaks to people in a unique way. I must have one of these.

  3. Hurray, the show is now up online here lots of photos. Looking forward to Friday night!