Name: Ginny Sims
Current Location: Minneapolis, MN
Education: BA University of Arkansas, Little Rock; MFA University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Preferred Art Medium(s): Ceramics
Children (ages and genders): 14 month old boy, Lewis
Website address(es): www.ginnysims.com, www.powderhornkitchen.com
What is your background (where are you from, education, important details, where are you now, etc.)?
I was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. I came to ceramics by taking classes at the Arkansas Art Center in high school. I was politically active in college and I pursued a degree in political science, but over the years I became more serious about ceramics and eventually it made sense to put my energy into making it a career. My ceramics background is made up of workshops, residencies and experiences abroad. I moved to Minneapolis in 2008 to work as the Materials Technician and Resident Artist at Northern Clay Center. The following year I was accepted into graduate school at the University of Minnesota. I graduated in 2012 and since then have maintained a studio practice and also teach adjunct art and ceramics at the U of M and Minneapolis Community and Technical College. I also taught ceramics classes at Powderhorn Park which introduced me to lifelong friends in the neighborhood, where I now live.
Was there any part of your formal or non-formal training that prepared you for being a creative maker and mother simultaneously?
Not really. I mean, I feel like I have always been seeking opportunities out for myself that may not have existed had I not been up for a major adventure. For instance in my early twenties I spent a year working my way around England, Ireland, Scotland and Italy at family potteries, pubs, and a natural foods store. I went back a few years later for another year to teach English in Spain and work with potter Mike Dodd in England. I feel like those experiences helped me to become resourceful and optimistic in the face of unique challenges, which may be helpful in my life as a new mom and maker. I’ve always made time to make work, so I may have new challenges now but it’s not much different than say when I was in college and juggling waitressing, classes, a social life and going to the studio. I manage to squeeze it in somehow, even if it does mean less of something else, which these days that would be going to the gym and going out with friends–but I know it won’t be this way forever.
Are there any women that you find to be an inspiration for you as an artist/mother?
Oh, so many. There are so many inspirational women makers here in the Twin Cities and back home in Little Rock that have small and grown children. It helps to share stories and photos so we can keep each other going. I love seeing how creative parenting manifests itself in free-thinking, adventurous people. There is so much fun to be had in showing children the world.
Can you talk about how you balance your role of artist and the role of mother? Did you take time off after the birth of your children? How did that work? What about childcare? How did you navigate making artwork?
I’m still figuring all of these things out! I teach so there wasn’t any need to take off work since Lewis’ birth in June was perfectly aligned with my break in the academic calendar. However my production work did stop for a few months after he was born and of course it has continued to remain slow in the making since. The fact that I can, and did, get anything done is simply because my studio is in my basement. Nowadays my husband, Adam, and I trade off working and watching Lewis. Adam is a writer and is currently in graduate school. He works as a handyman so he can really make his own schedule. We have some help from friends and relatives so we haven’t had to explore daycare yet. We do have a daycare cooperative with two other friends where we rotate watching all three kids. It’s nice when that works out but it’s been hard with everyone’s changing schedules. The whole experience of parenting and making ends meet is so new to us that we just take the challenges as they come, which is what I’m sure most people do. We’ve been really lucky in that one of us is usually home to be with Lewis. I can often get an hour in the studio while he naps, or if it is a day when I’m not teaching and Adam is home, I can get a few hours in then, too, and that is a real gift. I don’t usually go to the studio at night, that is really my time to be alone or with Adam, or take care of things other than the studio.
So while I can say I think that parenting is going great, and I really love it, my art-making has really slowed and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about that. Not resentful in the least, and also not surprised. I’m really just holding out for the day when that changes. Everyday is different. And I think we like it that way.
Can you tell us about the Powderhorn Kitchen? How was it founded? How does it work? How has it evolved? What Can we be on the look out for in the upcoming year?
Powderhorn Kitchen is an ongoing project that my collaborator, Jess Hirsch, and I started as a way to bring handmade objects together with our interests in holistic practices. I, being a ceramic artist, and Jess being a woodworker, decided we could bridge our interests in handcraft and herbal remedies, cooking and preserving with our desires to create project-based collaborations that invite participation. In 2014, we converted an ice-fishing trailer into an experimental Ayurvedic dosha kitchen for Northern Spark and in 2015 we worked with the 38th and Chicago Business Association’s Pop-up Storefronts and hosted workshops on fermenting and carving chopsticks. We are recent recipients of a Ready Go grant to create a mobile kitchen so that we can be hired for workshops that will be ongoing and changing. We also have a webshop where we have a rotating offering of our wares for sale. We had to take a little break after Lewis’ birth, but we are trying to get back on track!
You were awarded a 2015 Jerome Foundation Travel Study Grant. This opportunity allowed you to travel to both Staffordshire and London exploring historical practices, collections, object making. Could you give a few highlights from this trip? How has this experience impacted your current studio endeavors? What else should we know?
Adam, Lewis and I spent three weeks traveling by train and coach around England, with a bulk of the time spent in Staffordshire for my research into the history of English factory ware. I’m really intrigued by the historical and social interests that influenced the design aspects of early English pottery beginning about 300 years ago and the early connection of factory workers working creatively within a mass-production framework. We went to nearly all of the old pottery factories and museums and collections including Wedgwood, Gladstone, Spode, Middleport and The Potteries Museum. It was an amazing and inspiring trip and has generated many new ideas. Being in industrial England for over a week we were really able to feel the impact and importance of Pottery’s roots there. It’s not a pretty history either, the people and environment really paid the price. But the revival of interest in the history, geography and pottery itself has sustained a great welcome there and many of the surviving buildings and kilns are being refurbished and even turned into art centers and museums.
A highlight of the trip was seeing the Leeds manuscripts, the original sketchbooks of the factory workers at the Leeds pottery which have been an inspiration to me in my studio for many years, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I was able to spend a few hours in the archives with these 200 year-old books. The pages were so worn from the oils and dirt on the factory-workers hands and the drawings, to see them in person was just incredible. I gasped every time I turned a page, there were definitely tears. We were also traveling for Adam’s research on the poet George Herbert (which he also received a travel grant for) so we ventured down to southern England to Salisbury as well. It is so fun traveling with a kid. Dare I say especially overseas? Naturally people are warmer to you and maybe more interesting experiences come about because of that which is really fun when you are far from home. Lewis was 11 months old at the time. He will always be able to say that he learned to crawl at the George Hotel in Stoke-on-Trent.
Are there any projects, hobbies, or activities (ex. Running, knitting, tea connoisseur, arts organizations, volunteering, etc.) outside of your artistic practice that you feel passionately about? What are they? Do you find them feeding your practice? If so how?
I really enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen. I feel like when I am not energetically charged enough to be in my ceramics studio the kitchen is the next best place. I also love gardening, long walks and traveling… Since our trip to England, we have found that it really helps us to have time away that we can look forward to. So we’re always planning the next adventure.
Anything else we should know?
I just read this article about being a mother and an artist. It really hits on a lot of truths and things I did not articulate. http://velamag.com/mother-writer-monster-maid/
Also, when thinking about what is surprising to me about being a mother, since it is still relatively new, I’ll go ahead and get political here: I am amazed at how transformative and heart-opening mothering is. I remember when Lewis was a newborn and how everything was brighter, but also scarier than ever: everything seemed so much more delicate and vulnerable, all the children, people, and especially baby animals, perhaps because Lewis was one himself. I remember really feeling this primal feeling of fierce protection and morbid concern, and I knew that I was forever changed. I guess we call this the feeling of being a mother. But it seems so unspoken, and as mothers we have to extend that beyond family and friends for the betterment of all children, not just our own. Seeing the world through the lens of being a new mother is a great honor but again, scary as hell. I just hope we can do better for our children beyond our own homes, schools, cities and countries.
I am also amazed at how much work we still have to do for mothers. There have been a few instances in the news lately and also reported on forums about breastfeeding mothers feeling intimidated or outright shamed for nursing their babies. Like the guy at Target yelling at a woman nursing her child and calling her a whore. One thing folks can do when you see a breastfeeding woman in public, look around her and make sure she is safe. Maybe give her a thumbs up. It is sad to have to say that, but it is a very vulnerable position to be in and I have felt a few times that I could’ve used a smile or a quick nod just to know that wherever I was, I was welcomed to do what should only be an encouraged and celebrated act.
Waters Of March-Antonio Carlos Jobim
Love And Communication-Cat Power
Both Sides Now-Joni Mitchell
A Little Lost-Arthur Russell