Willi Eggerman, Age 63
What is your medium today?
I work with clay, porcelain for tableware and stoneware for the sculpting. I make work by throwing, hand building and hollow sculpting or a combination of those. I do a lot of surface decorating with texture or drawing. In finishing I high fire the work to 2350* F in either an atmospheric salt kiln or a high fire reduction kiln. I also paint with watercolor and acrylic paints for my personal enjoyment and don’t sell that work.
Why this medium?
Clay allows me to take it wherever I want it to go. It’s a healing medium as well, with body and mind working together, consciously and unconsciously.
How has your art evolved as you have become older?
As I age, I realize I won’t always be able to make with my hands the way I do now. I have severe arthritis in my joints. My pieces now are smaller and require less force to those joints. Some methods I used are now painful for me and I’ve retired from that. My body of work has evolved to a highly decorated canvas of clay, with drawing and painting in glaze materials or labor intensive carving. I can continue to do this work. I expect I will eventually have to rely on others to make some of my forms. I intend to expand to painting on paper, canvas and panel later on.
What does art mean to you especially at this stage of life?
I love bringing art directly into people’s life with something they use and see everyday. A well made mug or bowl may be the most intimate object of art in the home. What other art do you handle throughout the day? If my ceramics are a first choice from the cupboard, that is a very high compliment and well worth my while. Beginning with a lump of clay, I form a 3 dimensional form, consider its weight, balance, and shape as well as its surface decoration and feel of a handle. That is a sophisticated and joyful puzzle that I love to solve.
Also art is healing. It took me a long time to call myself an artist. I started with clay so practically. Everything I made was functional in the beginning because of the way I was raised. Art had little respect in the community I was raised, but craft and ingenuity were revered. Now I know that function does not preclude artistry. I have realized that making and perfecting my art is a healing balm to me, I will always create to feel whole and happy.
What is/has been the biggest roadblock to you as an artist?
Being an introvert with anxiety creates a roadblock for being a successful artist. The world rewards those who are more comfortable in a starring role. Not believing in myself was definitely hard to overcome. I have grown in my confidence slowly.
How did you/are you pushing past that roadblock?
First, I worked really hard at being skilled in clay. Second, I went back to study art at CU for a couple of years. This was when my daughter was in high school. I was feeling I had missed an important aspect of learning, as I really started in art at the age of 30. I didn’t have that formal training. I did learn there, about ideas and history of art, conceptual art and specifically more about sculpture. I already knew how to manipulate clay quite well, learning from workshop teachers, clay masters and intense practice. From my college experience, I realized time in the studio, making work for myself, and pursuing my ideas and my story were what I needed to do. Third, I continue to learn. I take hands-on workshops every year to learn the things I want to know, in many mediums. Now I feel confident in both my abilities and my ideas.
Share a favorite quote about art:
“Creativity takes courage” ~ Henri Matisse
“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” ~Brene Brown
Advice to anyone just beginning to experiment with their creativity and who is over the age of 50?
Taking an art class is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. I teach many people over 50 and some over 80. They thrive, find new trust in their ideas and realize they already have art skills from their life experience that they can apply, such as composition skills and color appreciation. Classes in the Boulder area are plentiful with excellent teachers. Try different mediums. When you hit the medium that makes you giddy, stick with it to reach a new level. Satisfy that quest for accomplishment as well as expression. The most important thing to remember while making art is to not judge yourself harshly. As an older person, your ideas are experienced, your skills will have to catch up.
Anything you want to add?
Creating has healed so many of us in this world. Art should be taught, celebrated and supported by our society. It makes us feel. Not all art is beautiful but it evokes our emotion, both during its creation and with its message. I doubt we’d want to live long in a world without it.
Explore Willi Eggerman’s work, workshop schedule, and studio hours here.
The 2021 Wise Women Project launches with interviews and portraits of female artists in Boulder County. The goal of the #WiseWomenProject is to recognize and spotlight women over 50 in our community. I want to recognize and give voice to the many ways these women are impacting and inspiring others. These are their stories. Want to participate? Learn more here.