Q & A with Ashley Lyon

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Ashley Lyon

Hornell ceramic artist Ashley Lyon

Ashley Lyon

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: I was born and raised in Southern California, Orange County. I left at 18 and moved to Seattle for Undergrad, then to Montana and Colorado for residencies and then back to Washington State for 2 years before moving to Virginia for Graduate School. Following Graduate school I moved to NYC and then 3 years ago I moved to Hornell, NY for a teaching position. I currently live in Hornell.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: I took a lot of ceramics courses in high school, they invented independent study courses for me because I had already taken everything the school offered and I still wanted to pursue it further. In college I tried to focus on something else- I thought perhaps I would become a doctor or a scientist or a writer. When it came time to declare a major the advisor pointed out to me that I had the most credits in art courses despite my desire to become something other than an artist. So this convinced me I should probably just do art. I had to decide between a painting major and a ceramics major because they would not let me do a double major- so I picked Ceramics because at the University of Washington the most exciting things and interesting discussions seemed to be coming from that department. Anyone could major in ceramics whether or not they were using clay- many people were not using clay and this just added to the richness of the program- you could still be a ceramics major by embracing a process that had more to do with the “sensibility” or an approach to clay without actually using it. This completely shaped how I think about it and use it in my own work today.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: I make and have made many other things: drawing, painting, videos, photography, textiles. My main other medium that I exhibit professionally along with my ceramic objects is photography.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: There are many, many artists I admire and look up to, I consistently admire and learn from the work of Juan Munoz and Robert Gober. Upon seeing each of their works for the first time I immediately knew and understood all of it- it was a feeling in my gut and my heart that was incredibly inspiring.

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: I can’t really describe a singular source of inspiration. My impulse to make a piece comes from many things, places, people, and images. Sometimes it is something I’ve seen on the internet, sometimes it is something someone says or something I’ve read, sometimes it is something I’ve witnessed randomly on the street, at a bar, at a restaurant, anywhere really. Sometimes it is a special person or a special object but it can also be something completely banal or someone I don’t know. The main thread is that I tend to start with objects, images, or moments that I have had an intense empathetic connection to. My pieces change and shift significantly as I make them in the studio. Chance, accidents and mishaps are a large source of inspiration and influence upon the final artworks.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: A lot of my work is never fired because it is built to become a photograph, but because I embrace accidents and mishaps I have a very neutral relationship with the kiln when I do fire a piece. I look forward to opening the door but rarely do I see what I expected. This is exciting.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: I have made my work in many places across the country and internationally so making in Upstate NY does not feel particularly distinct for me in relation to my work. I do love it here. I feel good in my soul when I am struck by the natural beauty of everything around me; the seasons, the growth, the colors, the textures. This does not have a direct influence upon my work but it does influence my happiness in life.

I own a large building (a re-purposed Methodist church) that I have remodeled over the last 3 years with my partner Ian McMahon to be our home and studio and an art center. This building was affordable for us to purchase and remodel because it is located in Upstate New York. This is perhaps the most significant influence of location upon my artwork. I have complete access to a very large affordable space, which has been a dream studio for making large-scale sculptures and photographs.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: Nothing planned or scheduled yet! I will be teaching a ceramic workshop at OxBow this summer and am looking forward to that. I am deep in the throws of applying to everything under the sun… and am excited for what the next year may hold in store for me!

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I am Co-Founder and Co-Director of an artist-run exhibition center in Hornell, NY: The Belfry.

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Websites: www.ashleylyon.com and www.belfryarts.com

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Bethany Krull.

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