SAVCC: What got you interested in clay?
Gianna: The first time I really started working with clay was in a 7th grade sculpture class.
It was to be my first art class and we were just sitting an the very first day of school, it was 1967. I held a small piece of clay and just started squeezing and nervously forming a small sculpture of what seemed to be a head of a Buddha on top of a mountain body. I still have that piece. Clay, from the very first time I held it in my hands was able to transport me to another time and place. That first class of ceramic sculpture led me into a world of infinite possibilities. I could communicate better with my hands than I could any other way.
SAVCC: How have the production pottery techniques learned in Japan influenced your career?
Gianna: The training I received in Japan has always been a cornerstone for me as a potter. Through total immersion and dedication to the craft I was able to dedicate time and energy in learning all aspects of this craft. I learned that through practice and trial and error almost anything can be learned and mastered. Endless hours of learning a new shape pays off as the form is perfected and put into production.
I believe the dedication to practice and learning has given me the will and stamina to not give up when things don't work out, but to take the time to figure out how to make it work.
SAVCC: How do you fire your work?
Giana: I bisque fire at cone 06 in an electric kiln, and glaze fire between cone 5 & 6. There is enough variance in my glaze kiln to accommodate cone 5&6 glazes. I do have a unique loading technique to bisque dinner plates , but most everything else is pretty standard.
I preheat with an open lid on low for 1 to 2 hours depending on dryness, weather and uniformity of wares. I will occasionally slowly preheat on low for longer if necessary.
Glaze firing is similar but faster. I fire completely electric in an assortment of electric kilns.
SAVCC: What are the clay bodies you are using?
Gianna: I use Standard clay #308 Brooklyn mix. I love the red brick color and the small grog is easy to throw with and trims nicely. I also use Standard #182 white stoneware. I often marbelize these two clays together for some great glazing and raw clay effects.
I occasionally use a black clay called Cassius and have marbled it with my other two bodies.
SAVCC: Why is art important to you?
Gianna: I believed from a very young age, art was something that was mine alone. I was from a large artistic family, and we were all encouraged to pursue music, dance and whatever else was available that we found a sincere desire and talent to learn. I am one of five daughters, music, dance, painting, singing, acting and piano were claimed, so I explored making and selling crafts of all kinds. I carved soaps and dried flowers and painted boards, and ceramic mugs, I beaded necklaces and crocheted shawls and even sewed tote bags for a while. I was around 12 at the time... When I finally decided to go to art school and pursue being an artist it wasn't because of some thriving need for expression, it was for learning an art medium that i could produce multiples of and sell to make money. I had been making and selling things since I was a small child and it just seemed to fill a need I had to survive in my large outspoken family. Slipping away with art supplies and a purpose still fills a need I have to center myself and be productive and to support myself through my craft.
The importance of art as cultural expression still eludes me to this day but the importance of art has become clearer to me as an individual that I have something to contribute, and the skills to produce useful objects that are beautiful to hold and use.
SAVCC: What is your greatest challenge as an artist?
Gianna: I believe the challenges change as we grow into new phases of our lives. As a young potter, my challenges were confidence in my craft, financial stability as an artist, and the task of marketing myself as well as my work. Owning and operating a business at such a young age, I had to find clients interested in my pottery and negotiate fair pricing to cover the costs of goods as well as make a living to pay for expenses and supplies. Being young, energetic, and trained to be a competent craftsman helped me hone my skills and overcome many learning curves
Approaching retirement age presents new challenges that seem more difficult with age. Physical challenges, keeping my body in good health and stamina has been a lifelong necessity, but it is also taking more energy than I want to exercise at times since I supplement my income teaching fitness and Yoga classes.
Teaching fitness classes served two purposes, a regular paycheck and a stronger body. I never felt throwing pots to be boring, but after 40 years, I work hard to find something new and exciting to create only to end up soul searching as to if this idea and direction has any real merit. I can receive a nice order, complete it in a month to 6 weeks, deliver that order and not get paid for 30 days. That would be almost three months to be paid for an order.
Going bigger is out of the question for me personally, and staying small is not an economically sound financial decision in these times, so there lies a big challenge. Is it time to teach, or retire?
SAVCC: What is your dream project?
Giana: I have completed many dream projects
-Owning and operating a production pottery/gallery in NYC
-Wholesaling to a major department store
-Producing all the pottery for a restaurant
-One woman shows
-Award winning in art shows
I believe that I wanted to create a tile mural and didn't quite see that happen
But, to live the majority of your life learning a craft, and supporting yourself and family from that craft is a dream come true,
SAVCC: How do you balance life and art?
Gianna: For me life is a balancing act. I found a pattern of work that gave me time to do my work (art) and time to take care of life’s responsibilities. When I had my Soho studio, I would open the doors at 11am and close at 7pm. I would have customers coming and going throughout the day and used the time I was open to place orders, deliver orders, and take care of the business part of things. I would work on some of my pottery in between customers, but would close the doors and make pottery from 7 pm until about 2 am. I’d sleep till 9 am and use the morning hours to work out, run errands and food prep. Then open the doors and start all over.
I'm not saying this is a balanced schedule, but it worked and was a schedule that gave me the time to do what I needed to do.
As life changed and family demands changed, I would adapt my times to work around kids at school, and personal boundaries.
I found time to volunteer at the schools my kids attended and contribute to my community using my art which helped me to stay involved and not isolate in my studio.
When I was single and tended to overwork, I would take at least two weeks off in January and rest after the demands of the holiday rush.