MEET LIZ WELCH
Say hello to Liz Welch, Instructor at The Steel Yard, working in the ceramics department.
SY: HI! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Oof. Does anyone ever nail this question? I am a maker/designer/craftsperson/artist who makes furniture and ceramic tableware in Providence, RI. I have a 4-year-old rescue dog named Daisy who is my world. I love to bake, be in the woods, and in the ocean.
SY: What pronouns do you use?
SY: Where are you from?
Western Massachusetts; specifically, a very small town, Longmeadow, MA.
SY: We get this question a lot… how would YOU define Industrial Arts??
Industrial arts is a category of fabrication processes that is driven by a specialized skill set and a complete end product. In my personal definition, I’d also include the trending decline in Industrial Arts education in the U.S., with more emphasis on technology, rather than hand skills.
SY: What have you been working on?
It’s not incredibly sexy, but I’ve been working on strengthening my product photography skills, as well as reworking my website. As a small business owner, it is imperative that my imagery and web presence is an accurate – if not idealized – representation of my craft and values. I also recently bought some Tampico fiber, and have been making some hilariously useless brushes.
SY: Who are your greatest inspirations? What work influences your work?
I love Wayne White. When I discovered he designed and built the set, props, and puppets of Peewee’s Playhouse (one of my favorite shows growing up) it just about blew my mind. I really admire how he never limits himself to any material or method of artmaking, and his sense of humor is killer.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is Louise Bourgeois. Her work is so darkly personal, which isn’t a direction my work often takes, but one I’d like to explore in the future. Charles and Ray Eames, Anni Albers, Georgie O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo…there are plenty of others, but I’ll move on.
I generally find inspiration in abstract sources, but this is 2020, and everyone’s work is everywhere so it’s hard to avoid. I gravitate strongly toward styles, not necessarily medium. So while I make furniture and ceramics, a lot of the work I relate to and am influenced by is not.
SY: Do you show your work? Where can people see it/ buy it/ experience it?
Sometimes! I have a comprehensive portfolio of my past and current works on my website: www.lizwelchdesign.com
SY: Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic practice?
My practice consists of research, information gathering, sketching, 3D iteration, prototyping, refining, resting, and finalizing on loop until I am happy with the end result. Sometimes an idea will remain in my sketchbook for years until I’m ready or able to explore it more, while other projects just pour right out of me. Granted, the latter is rare. Like, really rare. But sometimes I get lucky!
SY: How did you find The Steel Yard?
What were you doing before you were an instructor at The Steel Yard? I heard about the Steel Yard through some of my friends who are also artists. Since I only teach 1 day a week, I was able to continue working as a furniture maker.
SY: Have you ever worked in a shared studio before? What do you think?
When I lived in Somerville, MA, I had a studio in a shared space called Artisan’s Asylum. There weren’t a lot of folks making furniture at the time, so it could be lonely, especially when I craved the opinion of another woodworker. I did learn some CNC skills while I was there that I still draw on in my current practice.
SY: Have you ever taken a Steel Yard course? Can you tell us about your experience?
Sure did! I took a ceramics survey course to get my feet wet after a couple of years of being out of practice. I didn’t have much experience hand building up to that point, and I ended up experimenting a lot with weird handles and footed vessels. The Steel Yard is low pressure and inclusive place to try new things while receiving support from instructors, so it was very easy to let go and make whatever I wanted.
SY: Can you tell us about your experience instructing courses at The Steel Yard?
I debuted as an Instructor in ceramics in March and taught 5 out of the 8 scheduled classes before we had to shut down due to Covid-19. I was just getting to know all of my students better, and starting to see their progress, which is always a very proud and special moment for me. It goes without saying, The Steel Yard did the right thing by suspending classes, but it was difficult to cut the class short.
SY: Have you ever attended a Steel Yard event? Can you tell us about your experience?
I attended the 2019 Iron Pour as an exhibitor, which was a blast. I got to know so many talented artists while selling my ceramics, and also witnessed lots of stuff on fire. Win/win.
SY: When you’re not instructing- what do you do in your free time?
Up until recently, free time was a hilarious concept. Since the pandemic, I’ve had more time to simply be. I am very lucky to have a backyard, and spend a lot of time gardening, reading, listening to podcasts, and drinking coffee with my dog, Daisy.
SY: We talk a lot about ‘Yardies’ here- curious, what does YARDIE mean you to?
To me, a Yardie is someone who is invested in serving our arts community through a more grassroots-type education.
SY: What are you MOST excited for this upcoming year?
My first swim in the ocean.
SY: What do you think will be your greatest CHALLENGE?
Identifying where my personal core values overlap with a sustainable business model in a capitalist system. This is something I think about A LOT. I think we’re entering an incredibly pivotal moment in our history, and in the fight for equity and social justice. It’s crucial that both my art and business practices operate in ways that support the folks who need it and tear down the systems that hurt them.
OKAY, TIME FOR RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS!
SY: Favorite food?
Anything with gluten.
SY: Favorite movie?
Fried Green Tomatoes
SY: Favorite books?
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, Salt by Nayyirah Waheed, Homesick
by Nino Cipri, Tom Robbins, Zadie Smith
SY: Favorite artist/maker?
Patti Smith, Sheila Hicks, the natural world in general
SY: What skill would you like to master?
Interpersonally: being kinder to myself. Artistically: throwing REALLY big pots on the wheel.
SY: Favorite tool in the shop?
In ceramics, probably a sponge; in woodworking, a Starrett.
SY: Annnnnnnd finally, is there anything else you’d like the Yardie community to know about you?
I want the Yardie community (and beyond!) to know that I am another resource to draw on. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have tons of support, mentors, and community along the way, so I know how important connection is, even with someone who is even a few years ahead of where you want to be. I have an arsenal of hilarious mistakes I’ve made, stories of growing pains, successes, and years of collected advice from all of my teachers and I’m here for you to share it all.