- Last Updated: Friday, 14 February 2020 19:13
INTERVIEW WITH CHERYL FARRENS
Mayco: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Cheryl: I am a retired biochemist and teacher. I currently reside in NE TX with my husband, four appaloosa horses, two rescue dogs and four cats. I have my own studio in my home where I create my fired art and also make educational videos with the assistance of my husband, who is a professional videographer.
What drew you towards working with ceramics?
Cheryl: My mother took a ceramics course in the 1970s and I enjoyed seeing what she brought home. In the 1980s she decided to get back into ceramics and I joined her. I am competitive by nature and started to enter pieces into juried shows. Being a chemist, I was also interested in the chemistry involved in ceramics, be it the clay or glaze compositions or how they react and form something new during firing. Later in life I became a high school chemistry teacher and ended up being the fired arts coach. My students entered competitions along side me and did very well.
How would you define the style of your work and how did it develop?
Cheryl: I have two primary passions, horses and chemistry. Much of my work involves the horse in art. I also enjoy experimenting with glazes and how they interact with each other. Between these two passions I have come up with a style that is recognizable as my own in my pieces.
Can you briefly describe your production process?
Cheryl: I love doing a bit of everything. I have a wheel which I use to make urns, bowls, etc. and I also do mold-making for slip-casting. I do some hand-building as well. I work primarily with mid-fire porcelain and stoneware but do work with raku and some earthenware clays. For firing I do raku, pit, saggar, and also have three electric kilns and a couple of microwave kilns. I do glaze blending, china painting, and in the case of my faux bronzes, cold painting.
How do Mayco glazes and products fit into your work?
Cheryl: I use a lot of the Mayco stoneware glazes in my work, and some of my art pieces have received high marks in juried shows. I also work a lot with Mayco Magic Metallics and have developed a style of my own to create faux bronzes that look as though they have been weathered in the rain for many years. This allows me to conflate my love of horses with my art by using either plastic or ceramic horses as a base for a faux bronze.
Is there a universal concept or theme that you would like to retain as the foundation to all your wearable fashion and other works?
Cheryl: I would hope my work would always express joy and happiness in the fired arts and in the world around me. I also enjoy teaching my methods and techniques to others and have been able to do this at several venues in the US. As I get older, I may not be able to create as much as I would like but I can still teach what I have learned and that makes me happy and content.
The details and designs of your pieces are one of a kind—how did you develop your own and how does it change with time?
Cheryl: I found that by experimenting (as a scientist I am trained in the scientific method) and keeping exacting records I could begin to develop my own style and be able to allow it to evolve and mature. Also, it needs to have an element of fun. That is one reason I could never be a production potter. I am happiest when I create something new and in a limited edition so I don’t get burned out.
Can you tell us a little about your studio space? How important is this environment in the conceptualization in your work?
Cheryl: I have my studio in a bay of my three-car garage. It used to be my husband’s model train room. I traded him our formal dining room for the garage bay! It has room for my kilns and wheel as well as a sales area. Most of my hand-building and glazing I do in a bedroom that I converted into a second studio. This is also where I do my faux bronzes with Mayco Magic Metallics. Both my garage and bedroom studios overlook our pasture where our horses are, which is very inspiring. In spring we have lots of wildflowers as well. Much of my work is inspired by nature so having the ability to see such loveliness from my window is wonderful.
What have been the most influential and career changing experiences you have had? What about these experiences was so important?
Cheryl: Meeting other artists and being able to teach others has been very important. I’ve been very lucky to have been mentored by superb equine artists and potters. Then becoming a teacher has allowed me to better understand the process and thereby create new methods and techniques. Competitions have also been important because they allow me to have my work critiqued by other artists and to learn from those critiques. I have also been awarded several grants. I learned a lot from the application process and then was able to use the monetary grants to do things I might not have otherwise done, such as learning how to market yourself and your art.
Can you tell us about any future projects?
Cheryl: I have recently been building water fountains using my art as the base as well as creating custom cremains urns for pets and people. These projects have brought me into a new area and have impressed upon me the need to understand how laws and regulations can vary from region to region. I’ve also been creating “Place Settings for One”. These are lovely dinnerware sets made for single people who don’t want or need an entire set for four or more people but want to have lovely functional pieces on their tables.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Cheryl: I’m Asperger’s and an introvert so am happiest when in my studio. That said, my husband and I are both photographers and love driving around documenting historic cemeteries, architecture, signage, trains, etc. I incorporate some of my photography into my pottery either as a pattern for a sketch or for a fireable design. I also enjoy working with fused glass, be it for jewelry or a larger piece for display. I like working with reclaimed/recycled glass as well as COE 96 produced glass. Using old glass for art allows us to go to garage sales and flea markets while we are also taking photographs. I also find the occasional ceramic piece for china painting or making mosaics out of. A win-win situation!
Follow more of Cheryl's work here:
Magic Metallics on Low-fire Ceramics
Magic Metallics on Porcelain
Magic Metallics on Metal, Glass and Paper Clay
Magic Metallics on Stoneware Ceramics / Magic Metallics on Plastic
Magic Metallics on Plastic
Magic Metallics on Wood / Magic Metallics on Plaster
Magic Metallics on Artist Resin