An Interview with Mirtha Aertker

by Robin Gary

 

How did you get started in clay?

I did not discover my love for clay until I was in my twenties but I have always loved art. My mom and dad both loved to paint and growing up I was constantly exposed to art. When I was little I used to play with clay and make my own dolls and would fill up my room each week with a new set of dolls that I had created. I believe that what you are exposed to as a child works in your subconscious until you are old enough to discover what it is you truly love. For me it was clay!

I started to work with Clay when I lived in Venezuela. I knew I liked to work with clay but didn’t know it would become such a big part of my life. When I moved to Texas and began taking classes here in Dallas, working with clay became a part of my life and became a way for me to express myself from day to day.

How long have you been working as an artist? Did you/do you have another medium as well?

I have been working with clay for over thirty years now. I began to work as an artist ten years ago. I am attracted to all art mediums, but really only enjoy working with clay, glass and mix medias. Most of my ceramic pieces are Raku fired and are normally in the shape of a doll.  In recent years, I have also developed a love for working with steel and welding. The most recent medium I have started working with is encaustics, a medium I am still discovering. Most of my pieces are made up of clay, steel, and found objects. I love creating assemblage pieces and collecting findings to put in my art pieces. My whole life I have always been a collector. In any country that I have lived, I have always looked for antiques and neat objects that I could incorporate into my pieces. Incorporating these found objects into my pieces has really distinguished my work. When I produce a piece I never imagine the finished product. I just incorporate different materials until there is a union and overall composition I am content with. My artistic process can be explained in three steps. First, I use clay as my base material because of how wonderful and versatile it is as a material. Second, I incorporate pieces of steel, because I believe they make my pieces look powerful. Finally, I add my finishing touch to the piece by incorporating findings from my personal collection. I believe it is with this final step that my pieces are given their own personality.

What inspires you today?

I am inspired by ancient civilizations, particularly the Inca and Moche civilizations.  I would say that my source of inspiration has remained the same throughout my artistic career. The only difference is that after developing my own style in clay, I know what it is that I have to look for in order to be inspired. I make it a point to try and feed my muse everyday by looking at the artistic aspect of everything. I enjoy cooking because it is like making an art piece and sometimes after making a great dish I feel motivated to create a new piece. I am also motivated by the thrill of the hunt that comes with finding a new object, idea, or color to incorporate into an art piece.

 

What keeps you in the studio?

My urge to constantly be producing something new is what keeps me in the studio. Art is also something that relaxes me so I try to work on my pieces everyday. Sometimes I have so many ideas for pieces that I want to create that I feel a rush of inspiration to create and create!

Do you have a daily process? 

I have a daily process. I begin thinking about a piece the night before I create it. I think sometimes I dream about the pieces I want to make and then wake up the next day with an idea of what I want to do. If I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to make, I think of what it is I would like for my pieces to communicate.  Then I start making the piece in order to communicate what it is I want others to see from my piece.
 
I never do anything in a certain order. I just work at a certain pace or rhythm and create the final product piece by piece. After finishing a piece, I observe the piece for several days until it communicates with me. When it does,  I will stop putting finishing touches on the piece and consider it complete.

How/Where do you market your work (artist website, galleries, etsy.com, etc)?

For years it was very difficult for me to promote and sell my pieces. Not because they couldn’t sell but because I was always afraid to do so. I wanted to make sure that the pieces I created would be just as special to someone else as they were to me. I started to sell my piece at community college art sales in Plano and during Christmas sales with my classmates. Today, I have a website www.clayniche.com and I present my pieces in art galleries in Dallas. I am not constantly selling my pieces but I still enjoy producing pieces to show and sell.

Who are your current favorite artists (clay and non-clay)?

My favorite artist at this moment and one that has inspired a lot of my work is Frida Kahlo. I study her work whenever I can in order to understand her passion and dedication to art. I am not interested in her personal life like so many people are, because I don’t want it to have an influence on my work. I just think she was a magnificent artist. I also like to look at clay artifacts from the Inca and Moche civilizations.

Do you teach or provide workshops?

I am working with artists in Peru to give workshops about the art mediums they work with. I live several months of the year in Peru to be with my husband who works in Lima. When I am in Peru, I set up workshops for tourists who visit not only to sightsee but to also learn about South American art. The workshop is called “los de aqui y los de aya” (some from here and there) and it is normally made up of 6 artists who sign up for the workshop in order to learn about Peru through art. I have also done a one on one workshop. It is a two day work shop where I teach Raku or assemblage and local Peruvian artists teach the tourist about their art. It is a lot of fun and oftentimes the workshop turns into an art focused tour of the city!  I am going to post information about the workshop on my website but so far the people who have participated in the workshop have contacted me by my email.

An Interview with Mirtha Aertker  | Mirtha's Profile Page

 

Texas Clay Arts Association 2014

Images in header (from left): Annie Foster, Karmien Bowman, Mimi Bardagjy

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