Multitasking & Slipcasting with Minerva Ayon

February 7, 2017 by

Downstairs and upstairs at WSW, Chili Bowl Workspace resident Minerva Ayon had three projects in action. She spent every day in the ceramics studio, slip casting, painting, and decorating bowls for the upcoming Chili Bowl Fiesta. At the end of the day, Minerva would head to the silkscreen studio, where she learned to screen print decals to transfer onto her pots. Taking advantage of the studio access, she spent her nights reprinting the screens of recent residents, studio renters, and interns for a series of collages.

An interdisciplinary artist based in Morelos, Mexico, Minerva began her artistic career with textiles, sewing cloth bags to support herself as she moved from Mexico City to Cuernavaca. Her practice has since expanded to installation and costume design that are often playful and collaborative investigations into the sculptural potential of found materials such as darts, yarn, or trash bags. Yet with her third project, she payed homage to fiber arts by decorating chili bowls with the traditional floral patterns of Oaxacan textiles.

Deeply concerned with the continuing legacies of craft, ceramics, and women artists both in Mexico and internationally, Minerva is careful to embrace tradition as well as innovation in her work. She came to WSW after hearing that we are a women-run art organization and just as she had questions for us, we had a few questions for her.

You brought special bakery supplies to decorate your bowls. Can you tell us a little about how you are using slip in your work?

In Mexico, I was trying to repeat the 3D ceramic printing process. First, I filled bags with slip and tried to build up walls on a slab, but the process took a very long time. I went to a bakery supply store to buy piping bags used for frosting and brought them here without any experience. A lot of my first tests broke, but I finally have a few pieces that I really like.

As clay is not your primary medium, how does this residency fit into your practice?

I’ve been working in clay for two years now. The first time I learned ceramics was in my MFA program and my instructor, who was a sculptor, told us: “Make any functional work and I will break it!”

Working in ceramics has been difficult because Cuernavaca was very well known for its pottery, but many local workshops have since closed. When I moved to Cuernavaca, I wanted to help refresh this market by reaching out to other artists. I thought, “We are artists living in this community we need to do something about it.”

I invited some people to the family workshop of a friend at the university and we started a small collaboration to make work that the community can afford. Ceramics is not my full time job, but I really like working this way.

You mentioned that you applied to WSW after learning we are a women’s organization. What has been your experience working as a woman in the art field?

In Mexico, if you are a woman and making art, it is assumed that you will have kids and stop working. At first, I never felt that conflict because I have the same skills as a man. People started to tell me that my work is “girly,” but that has never been my intention.

I had to realize that I am a woman working in this world. The art field is all about men and men’s artwork—it’s not easy to be a woman in this field. There are so many Mexican women artists—Magali Lara, Rosario Guillermo, Silvia Gruner—who had to work so hard for their work to be acknowledged. Things are changing a bit, but it’s taken forty years for some of these artists, like Monica Mayer, to gain the same recognition as a man.

In this spirit, Minerva spent her nights in the silkscreen studio, reprinting the work of her fellow women artists onto sheets of plastic and adding her own designs between layers of this ghostly archive. With the same colorful vision, she cast and hand-painted chili bowls to join the hundreds made by ceramics residents, volunteers, and interns. Minerva will join us again this summer as a Public Arts Grant resident and will again add her voice to WSW’s community.

Minerva Ayon is an interdisciplinary artist and sculptor based in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. She will return to WSW in July, 2017 to work in the papermaking studio. Until then, find more of her work on her website, photographs from her residency on our Flickr, and her bowls at our upcoming Chili Bowl Fiesta