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Giselle Hicks in Helena, Montana

Once upon a time, it was nearly impossible to have a creative career without immersing yourself in the artistic community of a large metropolitan area. But with the ease and connectivity that comes with living in the golden age of the Internet, it’s become more and more common to see people working in places most would consider more than a bit off the beaten path. Take ceramicist Giselle Hicks: In 2011, after completing an artist-in-residency program at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, Hicks relocated to Philadelphia for a six-month stint and found that she wasn’t cut out to live the big city lifestyle. “The city felt like an obstacle course. It overwhelmed me. I felt like I was just keeping my head above the water," she remembers. "I longed for the big sky, open spaces, and the beauty and ease of life in Montana. I love the culture and diversity and opportunities a big city has to offer, but in my daily life and studio practice I need quiet and lots of space to grow and evolve."
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Matthias Kaiser, artist

I had a long conversation over email this week with Matthias Kaiser, whose masterful ceramic work was a personal highlight of the show I curated for Sight Unseen OFFSITE earlier this year. The exchange reaffirmed my sometimes-waning faith in ceramics, or in anything that suddenly becomes so widely hyped that it can feel like we’re too busy being professionals to remember what struck us through about the practice in the first place. Kaiser, who now lives in the Austrian countryside having previously apprenticed with Japanese master potters and spent a combined two years traveling on the Indian subcontinent, speaks with the deep humility that comes with not taking shortcuts — with digging for your own clay, for example, or moving to Isfahan to study Sufi mysticism. He compares himself to “bad clay,” talks about how losses are a part of the game, and makes a joke about beards.
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