interview #5-jason burnett
Jason Burnett is a ceramicist and current resident artist at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. He has a BFA in ceramics and BA in Graphic Design and Printmaking from Western Kentucky University. He was recently a Core Fellow at Penland School of Crafts and has experience exhibiting work, curating, and teaching workshops.
Please give a short bio of the path you have taken to your current state in life through education, employment, residencies, and other artistic ventures.
I went to Western Kentucky University to earn a BFA in Graphic Design. Through electives and curiosities of other studios I changed my degree to a BA in graphic design and printmaking as well as a BFA in ceramics. During the summers in college I received scholarships to participate in workshops at Penland School of Crafts, Ox-Bow School of Art, and Anderson Ranch. I graduated in 2009. At this time I had already been accepted and was currently involved in the Penland School of Crafts Core Fellowship program. I spent two years (2009-2010) at Penland living with eight other roommates, working part-time for the school, and immersed in the workshops Penland provided for their students. After Penland I moved to Marshall, NC and set up a studio in Marshall High Studios. One month into living in Marshall I met my current fiance Michael. I wanted to continue art, but focus in on our relationship so I moved in with Michael leaving behind Marshall High Studios and turned a spare bedroom into a studio. Eight months later we decided that I should apply for graduate schools but instead I only applied for the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts Residency. I am currently completing a one-year residency at Arrowmont.
How where you financially able to make things work during your journey to where you are now? (teaching, unrelated jobs, selling of your work, financial support from a partner or family, loans…. Please be as general or specific as you are comfortable with)
While in college my grandfather help support me for the first two years until he passed away. I worked as a server to cover rent and bills, my mother helped with finances, and I received some scholarships from the art department.
At Penland, we received a small stipend, but we didn't need to worry much about food, housing and tuition. We did however need to cover our own supplies and studio costs while in classes. The core fellows could sell art in the coffee house to make some cash. During the winters I worked as a studio assistant for Jerilyn Virden and Courtney Martin to make money for food since the dining hall at Penland is closed. Student Loans were put on hold and much more thanks to my mother who helped cover other costs like car payments and such. She's proud to support me and invest in my future during these opportunities. After Penland was the eye opener. I was no longer in a structure net of programming. I now had studio rent, housing rent, phone bills, student loans and so much more financial things building up and I couldn't find a job right away. Finally a new restaurant in Asheville opened and I was hired as a server. A restaurant in its first year still has to build its client base so not all nights were rewarding. I did sell work a lot, but it was always just enough to put back expenses and not to make a profit. Some very close friends also helped in the very beginning until I could get on my feet.
In December of that year I quit my job as a server. Driving thirty minutes late a night was burning more gas than what I could put back in it with tips. Done. No more. With the support of Michael and the money we did save up it allowed me to take a month off and get back in the studio. I made some bad work. I found a job less than a mile down the road and worked part time as a desk worker at the gym facility. Success! I had great hours and dependable pay. I was able to make better work with the additional time.
Now, at Arrowmont, Michael has been financially holding the two of us up with some help form my mom. The stipend here is much greater and there are tons of paid teaching gigs, open studios, exhibiting, and professional development opportunities. I've been teaching workshops for an income on the side and have had great success thus far. To earn some other income I've written an article, coordinated events curated an exhibition.
Please estimate the break down of the percentage of your time (in a week or month) spent in your studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, marketing, working with galleries, craft fairs, time with family and friends, or other relevant categories.
In a week:
-1-2 hours a day for 4-5 days out of a week to exercise in the morning.
-Anywhere between 3-5 hours a day of uninterrupted studio time
-1-3 hours between 2-3 days of marketing on facebook, and establishing potential professional opportunities.
2-3 hours a day of unrelated jobs (Arrowmont responsibilities/odd jobs)
-No Craft Fairs, yet
-1-2 days every two weeks with my partner
-30 minutes to an hour on the phone daily
I'm working in the studio now figuring out precise steps on particular objects to understand time management and breaking down how long it takes to make each object. My next step is to figure out my day-to-day routine along with Arrowmont's schedule to establish a schedule of my own that is effective.
Looking back at the opportunities you have had which do you feel have directed or benefited your current path the most? Are there things you would have done differently, opportunities you would not have taken, bigger risks you would have made, etc?
I strongly believe that the core fellowship at Penland was the most beneficial path I have taken. All my classmates went right into graduate school. Then I realized how many people do that. The best advice from many artists was to live life a little bit and gain some experience before going back into school. Penland still provided an artistic environment but it had has such flux for different individuals with totally opposite interests. I think of it as one of those "choose your own story" books. Friends and fellow artists even say that Penland was my graduate school and the Arrowmont is my "third year". I didn't know if I wanted to teach in academia or wanted to be a studio artist. Either way I went I knew it wasn't going to happen over night. So I decided to have fun with my work, but remain professional, and just follow the direction I would naturally go.
I can't think of anything I wouldn't have done. The ups and downs of any opportunity have lead to great strides not only in art and as a person. Our choices don't just affect one thing but blossom into all facets of our lives. I tried making opportunities that would allow me to step outside of my comfort level. I even say because I do that within my art and studio practice I started to practice it in life and because of that I allowed myself to take a large risk in a relationship with someone.
If I was to do anything differently with any opportunity it would only to do things again but more effectively. I'm planning on curating another show and coordinating another forum. Because of the headaches and challenges from the previous activity I'm much more knowledgeable of my own reactions, thinking process, and more organized to handle it much more effectively.
I sometimes don't like how much time these things take away from my time in the studio, but am naturally a planner and facilitator and have fun coordinating these things. I also realize its an investment in my field and I look at all of this in the grand scheme of things.
So, to sum up my response, I wouldn't have done things differently in the past only because it makes me more knowledgeable about things in the future. I make it a practice to step out of my comfort level and grow and make strengths out of my weaknesses. However I do pick and choose my battles, because these decisions don't only affect me but also my loved ones and friends. So I try not to bite off more than I can chew.
Where do you hope your career will be in five years? (Especially in relationship to the breakdown of your time spent in the studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, teaching, with family. Are there galleries you hope to be in? Have a solo exhibition? Have studio employees, bookkeeper, etc?)
Michael, my fiancé, is a high school math teacher and has just been hired for an "early college" level math position in Spruce Pine, NC. We'll be living in Mitchell County, home to hundreds of studio artists and to Penland School of Crafts. We have found a home on the second level of an old building in downtown Bakersville. I'll be moving into the first floor space next summer. These next five years I hope to establish a solid line of work, solo show opportunities, continue coordinating the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts Ceramic Surface Forum, teach workshops, show in a few fine art craft venues and fairs, as well as employ an assistant. Above all establish a home with Michael and be an active part of our own community as well as the arts and crafts community.
Be sure to view more of Jason's work on his website at http://jasonbigeburnett.com/home.html. Follow the links to learn more about Penland School of Crafts Core Fellowship http://penland.org/programs/core_fellowship.html, http://penland.org/programs/core_profiles.html, Arrowmont Residency http://www.arrowmont.org/artists-in-residence, Ox-bow http://www.ox-bow.org/, and Anderson Ranch http://www.andersonranch.org/.