Learning from many small failures: Artist says prof's mentorship led him to success
The work of 16 artists, including three University of Houston-Clear Lake alumni, will be featured in a community arts exhibition to open May 22 in UH-Clear Lake’s Art Gallery. This juried exhibition features work from across all media, including wooden sculpture, ceramics, painting and prints.
Justin Hashaw, who will be receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design with Studio Concentration on May 13, has a set of two ceramic pots on display in the exhibition. He said he chose to transfer to UHCL after graduating from San Jacinto College mainly because he had become familiar with the work of (Assistant Professor of Ceramics) Clay Leonard and hoped to be taught and mentored by him.
“I have worked in ceramics and graphic design, but ceramics is my medium and it’s where my passion lies,” Hashaw said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Prof. Leonard.”
He said his courses at UHCL taught him how to exhibit his work, which is something he keeps in mind while he’s creating all his works. “I think about how these works will look when they leave the studio,” he said.
“I think about what my pots will do in the world, how they’ll be exhibited, how they’ll function, and how someone will eventually use them,” he continued. “I worked a lot with Prof. Leonard on documenting and exhibiting work. It’s really important to know how to do that well, because especially in ceramics, the majority of people who see your work will be online, so they’ll see an image of the work, not the real thing.”
Lighting, Hashaw said, was also something he learned was critical to taking good images of his work. “I spent a lot of time in the lighting studio, working with other professors on this,” he said. “We talked and thought a lot about how I wanted my final work to be seen. As the artist, I’m in control of that and I wanted to be sure my work is being seen in the right light. I learned so much about that from my professors.”
As a ceramic artist, Hashaw said his work was centered around creating vessels, with a particular interest in creating a specific glaze. “I like sets of things, and I like how they can be not identical but still cohesive,” he said. “I learned a lot about the Shino glaze with Prof. Leonard’s help. He’s really a glaze master.”
Shino is a kind of Japanese pottery glaze that was brought to the U.S. in the 1970s and features variations of reds, whites and grays. “That’s a glaze I predominantly use,” he said. “The pots I am showing in the exhibition are fiery red or orange. It’s a really versatile glaze. There’s a lot of trial and error to learning it.”
Accepting that trial and error is central to mastering ceramics is among the greatest lessons Hashaw said he’d learned during his coursework. “As art students, we are told, ‘Get to failure faster!’” he said. “In all those little failures, there are lessons to be learned and shared. Everything is hard, and everything we do is hard, but you’ll see the payout on the back end and get to the place where you can do what you want.”
He said there are so many steps in ceramics, so failure can be in anything. “You’re working with the elements, like fire, water, earth. It’s not in your control. Anything can go wrong, and it does, a lot.”
Hashaw said that with his graphic design and art background, he was able to enter the job market with two resumes. “I got a degree so I could do what I wanted, so I would like to move forward with ceramics,” he said. “I walk the line between the graphic and the studio side, but I owe so much personally and artistically to Prof. Leonard. If I had gone to school elsewhere, I might not have found this level of success.”
The works of Tara Laughery and Courtney Maulding, both UHCL alumni from the same program, are also on display in the exhibition.
To learn more about events at UHCL's Art Gallery, visit www.uhcl.edu/art-gallery/. UHCL offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts with concentrations in graphic design, studio arts, and early childhood through 12th grade education. For more information about the Art and Design program, visit www.uhcl.edu/human-sciences-humanities/departments/communication-studio-arts/art-design/.