Mitsy Sleurs form Artmind has 99 feelings made of clay…plus an imaginary one, representing all other feelings. She started with pots and vases, like every ceramic student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium, but soon she convinced her teachers to let her go on her way. Though she likes to experiment, one thing is constant in her works: she loves smooth and round objects. But never say never: maybe this will change as she starts to involve crocheting in her ceramics.
When did you start dealing with ceramics? Why ceramics?
I started doing ceramics in the Academy of Fine Arts in Hasselt, Belgium in 2001 and I remember that I was really nervous about starting it. "What if I didn’t have any clever ideas? What if I didn’t fit in with all the artsy folks around there?" But the moment I walked in there, I was impressed by the surroundings & the teacher who was just so down to earth that I knew it would be heaps of fun. After about like 45 minutes I realised I was in the wrong classroom… LOL! Apparently I was in the carving class instead of the ceramic class. With a red head I did find my way to the ceramic workspace I signed up for.
After we were forced doing the basics: pinch pots and building a vase with clay rolls, we got our first assignment. Make something inspired by nature. I had just returned from an impressive journey to Australia and knew exactly what I wanted to make. When I talked about it with the teacher she told me that it was not really something that she expected from a first year student but if I could draw it, I was allowed to clay it. Now that was a challenge as I can’t draw… but I really wanted to make what was in my head so I pulled all my drawing talent out of the closet and I convinced the teacher. Since then I have always turned the assignments my way and if I couldn’t draw it, I talked myself into it! I don’t really remember why I chose to do ceramics, I wanted to broaden my creative horizon and chose clay because it seemed such a versatile medium. And I have loved it ever since.
How do you see the change between your first piece and the works you do now? In what way did your style change, and why?
The first piece I made in clay was a pinch pot which I found really hard. I like smooth surfaces but the pinch pot had rough edges because the clay was drying too fast and I remember that I didn’t like it at all. But in the end we raku fired it and I think it turned out OK. I’m still partial to smooth and round objects. I just think that it gives ceramics a warm feel and invites to touch. I don’t think I really have ‘a style’ as I often work in projects and every project has a different angle I look at things. Sometimes my work is very organic and other times it’s abstract just depending on what inspires me.
Which area do you think you evolved a lot?
I spent five years in total at the Academy of Fine Arts and I really looked at it as a playground. I experimented a lot with recipes, materials, textures and every experiment led to another idea. Being surrounded by many people who are clay obsessed is just very enlightening. I loved it when we discussed each other’s work & found ways to improve or grow into a certain project. I think that the interaction with other people made me grow as an artist. I evolved a lot in the technical aspect of ceramics because of the experimenting. Getting to know the materials, the processes, the techniques,… However, ceramics is a lifelong learning process so there is still a lot to learn.
Your "now" piece is actually a part of your series, called 99 feelings. What is this series about, and why did you choose this particular one to show?
It derives from an assignment I did many years ago reflecting my self-portrait. I called it ‘how the outside can tell how you feel inside’. I started out with 9 feelings and then I suddenly thought of making 99 of them…I like the fact that the number is uneven and that it leaves at least one feeling to complete to 100. That one unfinished feeling to make 100, represents for me all the feelings I haven't covered and that it can be anything… It is a series of babushka’s where I add a texture or addition to it on the outside. Quite often, these textures or additions lead you to the feeling right away or sometimes it might recall a complete different feeling for you. That is perfectly possible as this is just what it evokes for me. It can be anything you feel as there is no 'right' feeling for it. Each feeling is subjective and personal.
I chose the feeling ‘torn’ for this project as it’s my very favorite. I still remember how much time I took to smoothen it and then I sat for about 10 minutes not being able to tear it apart. I felt awful doing it and even closed my eyes while I did. In some way it just represents how I felt at that very moment. This whole project has been a personal journey that gave me more insight in how feelings affect your whole being and how to ‘deal’ with them.
What kind of evolution do you see for yourself necessary in the future? What are your plans (if any)?
I have recently learned how to crochet because I want to involve that technique in my ceramic work. I also can’t wait to start experimenting with (paper) porcelain clay, pigments and stains. I like how ceramic stays natural but I do love to experiment with glazes. I hope to be able to combine my ceramic work with a part time job.