"You have to be as present as possible. Ceramics forces you to be in that state of mind. It's like yoga for creatives."
On our most recent trip to Vancouver, we met up with local creative May Ann Villanueva, founder of Studio Fundamentals. As a self-taught new-age ceramicist, she is helping reshape the face of ceramics in her community through the creation of her studio, making the craft more accessible and inviting to BIPOC wanting to delve into the world of ceramics.
Creating these opportunities can be challenging, but it’s a challenge she embraces with open arms. With May Ann, it’s all about conquering fears and pushing yourself beyond the limits you knew possible. Through empathy, patience, and creativity, she uses her voice to create positive changes and uplift those who may need an extra little push. Studio Fundamentals is her way of giving back and the window through which she shines the brightest.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO CERAMICS?
I got into ceramics, probably 8 years ago. So it was introduced to me by a former partner. It started out as something that I just needed to do away from what I was doing then, which was a lot of computer work. And I needed something for relaxation, but at the same time, I wanted to make something while being able to sort of zen out.
WOULD YOU SAY CERAMICS IS A FORM OF THERAPY FOR YOU?
Yeah, I would say it's therapy because it really is. I mean, sorry to sound so cliché about it, but it's very much like yoga. Your breathing has to compensate for it, your mind has to be as calm as possible, because as soon as you are bombarded with far too many thoughts, then you're not able to relax your body and relax your fingers. You won't be able to have that right sensitivity with your fingers and the clay and the speed of the wheel. So you have to be as present as possible. Ceramics forces you to be in that state of mind. It's like yoga for creatives.
DID YOU RUN INTO ANY CHALLENGES? WHAT WERE THEY?
Plenty. There are constant challenges. The more that your goals become bigger, you realize that you have to go through so many more loops, and that's when you come across sort of like the politics behind everything. You would think that ceramics is like a great community but, even in the ceramics community, there's a lot of politics in it as well. There's a disconnect between the older generations of ceramicists and the new-age, younger ceramicists. And then you're realizing that the more that you want to achieve, the more hurdles there are, the more politics are that are really involved in it.
WHAT ARE YOUR ASPIRATIONS FOR STUDIO FUNDAMENTALS?
My vision for the next years to come is definitely having more BIPOC be more of an influence on the younger generation, so introducing it to giving more access to ceramics. Ceramics is very much more of a white privilege sort of thing within Canada, at least. So being able to provide access to BIPOC hopefully in the near future. I think it'll be more like BIPOC really influencing the next generation. As a young, creative, I never really had a person of color to look up to. I felt like a lot of people who I was inspired by were mostly white (...) so having more of a BIPOC community within the ceramics will make it really relatable.
The people in this generation now, we can really connect with other people. We're far more empathetic. We're far more caring, and we are more cautious about, you know, how we represent ourselves in the world.
"We're trying to create a community with more accessibility to other people and not just the ones who could afford it."
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE STUDIO FUNDAMENTALS COMMUNITY YOU'VE BUILT?
I like the engagement between people, so in the studio itself, I’ll only allow six students within the workshop. Because I find anything more than that, people start to disengage with one another. (...) For a studio membership, I only let people who've been with me for a while because they know their way around the studio, and they know how you're supposed to conduct yourself in the studio. We're all on the same level. No one is above or below one another. We also do community outreach. We're trying to give more access to low-income BIPOC. And so far, that's been working great. We're trying to create a community with more accessibility to other people and not just the ones who could afford it.
WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU DRAWN FROM CERAMICS?
Ceramics has taught me patience, definitely. I mean, with myself and with students it has definitely taught me a bit more empathy because you want to be able to understand what a student is thinking or to be able to be more patient. You really have to have a lot of empathy for someone. Even though things might come easy to me, or I might be able to understand it a lot easier, someone in their position might not be able to. For some people, it takes a bit more time for them to process a step or any skill. But yeah, I say patience. Definitely patience.
LAST WORDS OF WISDOM?
Everything seems to be corny, but still seems to hold some truth. Just keep true to yourself. And you know, there's not more harsh of a judgment than how you judge yourself. Keep going and just have that fuck it mentality.
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