Discovering ceramics introduced Abi to a world of aesthetic and creative possibilities that allow the artist to give shape to her creatures and characters. The ambivalence between mysticism and drama, between monstrosity and beauty, are themes all very present in Abi’s personal project.
Our interview with Abi Castillo discusses her journey with ceramics, love of nature, and her latest shift to her creative practice.
For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background? How did you first hear of Thinkspace?
I graduated in Fine Arts and specialized in ceramic art. I have been working as an illustrator since 2010, and now I combine that work with ceramic sculpture in my workshop. I have exhibited my work in different galleries in Spain and Portugal, and I am very happy to have arrived in the United States.
I’ve been following Thinkspace on social media for a long time because I think they are a reference in the art scene, always showing the work of new and different contemporary artists.
What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
For this exhibition, I was inspired by my allergy to pollen and dust mites and how tedious it is to live with these symptoms. I decided to give it a touch of humor by making a party, a gathering of snot and fluids with characters that give off sympathy. In this exhibition, I have tried to make my characters more expressive to generate in the viewer a mixture of laughter and tenderness.
You’ve gilded bodily fluids representative of tears and mucous in this exhibition, making what we are sometimes embarrassed by beautiful. Do you have any allergies? Do you consider yourself one who easily cries?
As I said, I have allergies to pollen and dust mites, and I have learned to live with it. We should not be ashamed of a natural reaction to an allergen that we cannot control. It is really uncomfortable, and my nose is red during the spring, just like my characters’ noses. I consider myself a very sensitive person, and I don’t mind showing my feelings. My sculptures bear witness to this, and in them, I channel many of the good and bad moments.
What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?
The most difficult work to make has been ¨Choromicas¨ which means in my mother tongue, Galician, a person who cries a lot. If ceramics has taught me anything, it is to work on my patience. Ceramics is a slow process, where drying times must be respected in order to keep adding heights and not crumble.
Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?
My workshop is surrounded by a forest, and that’s where I find my connection with nature and where I get ideas to flow better. My ritual is based on spending many hours in the workshop, sometimes sketching and sometimes sitting at the pottery wheel trying to improve the technique, but having nature so close is what helps me to create.
What excites you about your work / creative process? What frustrates you about your work/ creative process?
What I love most about ceramics is the freedom and that I feel I can bring my characters to life. I can make a sketch and create a shape with volume that will become a new friend.
What frustrates me the most is that I can’t control all the phases of creating my pieces, and sometimes you think you are doing it right, and the pieces explode in the kiln, or the glaze formulas don’t come out right, and there is no turning back. During these years, I have also learned to take these cracks and failures as part of my learning and as something that could make the pieces unique and special in seeing the beauty of imperfection.
You gave birth in July; what has maternity leave looked like for you? What did your studio days look like before having a baby, and how are they evolving now to accommodate your latest creation?
My maternity leave has helped me to get to know myself better and to organize a lot of ideas about my work. Motherhood is a great moment in life that is worth enjoying. Being a mother has changed everything, and I have had to change some things in my work. Before becoming a mother, there were no schedules, and I could spend all night working without a break, but now I have to organize my time to enjoy my daughter and continue creating.
I also recognize that being a mother brings a new inspiration to my work.
Who are some of your creative influences?
There are many currents that have inspired and influenced me throughout my career.
And I think I’m still constantly learning. My main influences come from lowbrow and pop surrealism. Artists like Mark Ryden or Marion Peck or Peca have always fascinated me for details and that intense inner world.
In ceramics, I love Eun-Ha Paek and Joakim Ojanen because their characters intrigue me and make me unable to stop looking at them.
What are your favorite things to do outside of the studio?
I love to knit. Every week I get together with a group of women to continue learning how to make sweaters and scarves. It’s a great exercise for exercising the memory and for meditation. I also enjoy going for walks with my daughter, going to concerts, and traveling.
If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?
Many things! I would love to be a virtuoso and play a musical instrument, know how to cook like great chefs or control all kinds of artistic techniques to perfection so as not to have limits.
What is clear to me is that I would love to learn everything related to art in all its forms.
Exhibitions on view January 7 – January 28, 2023