Who are you and what do you make?
My name is Kersten Fuith, and my husband, daughter and I refer to ourselves as the PoFus — the Posen Fuiths. I grew up in Winnipeg, Canada, commonly referred to as Winterpeg. The plus side of growing up amidst so much ice and snow is that Winnipeg seems to breed musicians, writers, and all sorts of creative types. I’m fortunate in having spent my 20s going to poetry readings and listening to fantastic music.
As opposed to pursuing an impractical fine arts degree, I chose to study a subject that seemed to me to be very practical – German literature (seriously). It also allowed me to spend time in Vienna with family and friends, all incredibly talented people, many of whom have made careers as artists. In Vienna, it was not unusual to drop by someone’s studio at 2 a.m. and see boxes labeled “heads, arms, mushrooms” for sculptural projects. Returning to Winnipeg after a number of years, I took a job that allowed sufficient time for me to pursue formal training in pottery. Most memorably, I recall time spent studying under a wiry little woman of about 80, reminiscent of a Russian ballet instructor, who believed that humiliation was the most effective teaching method. Nevertheless, she informed me that I was a potter, and I decided to believe her.
Apart from creating, what do you do?
I am social secretary to a sensational 7-year-old, and I love to cook, eat with friends and garden. I spend most of my time in my studio though.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Mostly, from a bad sense of hearing and misguided imagination that causes me to see things in shadows which may not actually be there. This has a tendency to riff into all sorts of crazy ideas and images. Going for walks with my giant dog Marty (really he’s more like a baby horse) through the woods, the shadows create fabulous shapes. I’ve noticed that lately my work mimics things found in nature. I also read a lot of children’s books; in addition to reading with my daughter, I volunteer at her school and read with her classmates. Kids, and their favorite stories, have some crazy ideas that I like to embody in my pottery: fairytale fruits, monsters and the like.
What does handmade mean to you?
As a creator, handmade for me means a hot dusty studio with my hands giving form to the images in my head. As a consumer, I am drawn to art that evokes an emotional response, something unique that I will always keep. Connecting with a piece created by someone else is a personal exchange between the artist and me. If it’s made by a friend, it often calls forth a memory. Unlike the empty one-dimension of mass production, what I see in a handmade piece is multifaceted, richly toned and inevitably very personal.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My husband, Hart. I would have never started selling without his encouragement. He is the sort of person who believes that you can do whatever you want as long as you know what it is and do everything you can to pursue it. He has a steadfast belief in himself, and in me, that I find amazing.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I’ve always made things — it keeps me sane-ish. As a child I would make things out of whatever was available (actually, that hasn’t changed much). I still love playing with the red wax that encases cheese to preserve freshness and encourage my daughter and her friends to make little red sculptures.
How would you describe your creative process?
Dirty and slightly dangerous. I have lost facial hair to fire on more than one occasion. I also buy Krazy Glue in bulk to seal any small nicks and cuts on my hands (dried out by endless hours playing in clay) so I can keep throwing. For me the process is organic. Pieces don’t always turn out exactly as I had envisioned — the clay seems almost alive at times — and when that happens, I like to let the clay propel me in its own direction.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Jean Michel Basquiat and Niki de Saint Phalle. I would have loved to go through all of Andy Warhol’s crazy boxes and collections, and of course Tim Burton’s art studio. I love his drawings and the characters he’s created in film.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A pencil drawing of my father as a child done by my sister. It makes me think of both of them every time I look at it.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Usually I have a lot of different projects on the go, so if I’m having trouble with one I just switch to the other – this usually works. Right now I’m making a lot of garden pottery and getting ready for a sculptural show in Philadelphia. They’re really at opposite ends of the creative spectrum so I am recharged when I switch between them.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Here, but with a much larger kiln and a clay slave to do all of my wedging, packaging, and shipping.