Evolving Into a Ceramic Artist
I grew up in the province of Quebec in Canada. My family wasn’t particularly artistic in the sense they didn’t focus on arts and craft. They were strictly craftsman–my dad was a mason and my grandparents were farmers and carpenters. I worked with my dad a bit in high school, but I knew it wasn’t my career and what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up going to college, and I was the only one within my family that went to an English school rather than a French school.
Quebec has a similar school system to Europe. I went to CEGEP (publicly funded pre-university college), which is the equivalent of eleventh grade and first year of college. There I was prompted to go into languages because I was bilingual, but I wasn’t really interested in that. I tried several different paths, one of which included welding, but then my friends inspired me to go into the fine arts. My first classes weren’t exactly what I was expecting. I thought the courses would be similar to architecture, a draftsman type of thing, but the classes I started with were 2D design and life drawing. Though when I took my first ceramics class, and I got behind the wheel and started making things, there was an instant connection.
Dean Mullavey was my first ceramics professor. He was a master potter, and he continued to work until he was in his eighties. He was so passionate when he spoke about ceramics, and that led me into pursuing my education further in ceramics. I went to Sheridan College of Applied Arts and Technology in Ontario, and then I moved on to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) and earned my BFA. At NSCAD, I studied with Walter Ostrom. He prompted me to apply for a student exchange program, which ended up bringing me to the US. The student exchange program placed me at UMass Dartmouth, where I worked with Chris Gustin and Karon Doherty. After that, I moved to Athens, Ohio, where I completed my graduate degree and received my MFA from Ohio University. My focus in graduate school was making a body of work that would help me to secure exhibition, gallery, and residency opportunities.
When I started with ceramics, I had the aspiration to be a studio potter, but through the influence of professors, classmates and my experience with ceramics, this idea shifted. By the time I finished up grad school, I had become an installation artist. I started teaching in Charlotte, NC, right after graduating, but I still maintained a strong focus on my installation work. After a few years, I moved to Chicago where I taught full time. I was married at this point, and my wife is originally from the South; so I knew it was just a matter of time before we would eventually move back. I knew I wanted to teach at a larger school within the South, and then I heard about SCAD.
I like pieces coming together, and I can do that within my sculptural work. I find the experience more personal and comfortable, and this is something that is incredibly important to me. My work becomes a diary of domestic abstraction, and it has so much meaning to me. The pieces and objects make reference to the many parts of my life. In many ways, my work is about self-discovery. I have my work displayed in my studio, because it makes me think how can I change it–how can I alter it with new shapes, new ideas. The work for me is like a novel; the characters I love keep revealing themselves in each body of work. The series may end, but if I enjoy a form, or a character if you will, they will reappear in the next series. The stories through my work have a continuous thread, and it makes a visual evolution when you view my work chronologically.
A lot of my studio work time is somewhat spontaneous due to my full time job as a professor. I try to get some studio time in before my office hours or after I get home. I’m a big fan of music while I work, but it needs to be the right kind. It needs to be upbeat, but with lyrics that also make me think. I’m always considering my work. There is a constant dialogue in my head, so that when I actually get into the physical studio, I can use my time very wisely creating things in the way I want.
To view more work, visit Yves' artist website: http://www.paquetteart.com/ or visit his SAVCC artist page.