Artist Spotlight Q and A: Amanda Fangue
Amanda Fangue is the Artist behind the whimsical, fun, and brightly colored pieces from Bee's Knees Art by Amanda. In this Q and A, Amanda shares how she got started in pottery, how her work has developed and about her life as a full-time potter, mother and artist.
What do you like to do for fun?
I make pottery all the time non-stop. I like to do my art in other mediums like printmaking, bookbinding, tufting and glass blowing. My other big passion is plants, like house plants and succulents. I have a big plant collection, I have A LOT of plants! I have a very green thumb, I could just throw something in the pot and walk away from it and it will grow. My neighbors have me come over and bless their plants, and now their rose bushes are thriving. I also love to bake cookies but most days I love to make art all day.
She also loves spending time with her new adorable French Bulldog named Louie and 3 daughters. She says she is a giant dork, and never dreamed she would be this plant lady/potter who's obsessed with her dogs.
Amanda gave me a tour of her plant collection and she has shelves upon shelves of plants! She is not kidding about having a green thumb. A few of her favorites are hoyas and monsteras. She joked that if she wants to buy a new plant she will make a new piece to sell so she can use the money to buy more plants!
How did you get into ceramics?
By chance. When I was in the military I was stationed in Germany and they had a hobby shop where they had framing and ceramics in the same building so I actually went over there to frame my own work because I thought that would be a handy skill to have. I ended up playing around in the ceramic studio to kill some time when I wasn’t traveling. Then, I came back to the United States and ended up getting a wheel and a cheap kiln. I started grad school and didn’t touch any of the pottery stuff for like 2 years. I ended up selling pet portraits and I used the money from the pet portraits to buy more pottery supplies, then it just began to snowball from there.
Why did you start using our Forms?
I got selected at the 2019 NCECA to do the throwing contest and my Form was a platter, so I bought a few of them before I moved to Kansas and I really liked them. I tried throwing them by hand and it was just such a pain to make really big pieces. For me it was the perfect canvas to play. The Forms were the launch-point of how I started my layering and exploration of layering texture and patterns on top of my imagery and they were really easy to use. That’s where I really started my exploration of my current body of work because it’s a lot easier to paint on a flat surface than it is on a rounded or inverted surface. I’m pretty sure I own every single GR Pottery Form!
How did you develop your style?
The first NCECA I went to in 2019 I had watched Kate Schroeder make a mug and she had inverted her inny (her bubble). Then it kind of hit me, I was sculpting these goldfish and birds, and thought well I want to take her inny and make it an outty. Kate actually has the very first goldfish mug that I ever made. Then I made a ramen bowl with an astronaut and another one with goldfish for the juried show at the Shimpo booth.
We then moved from Kansas to North Carolina, and that’s when I was just doing Goldfish, then I thought why don’t I start bubbling out other things. Then I started doing robots, flamingos and then it just started to snowball into giraffes and more and more characters. I keep a list of them and I think it’s upwards to 100 characters that I do, it was also another by chance thing that just kind of happened.
When coming up with the characters Amanda likes to keep it old school and start her ideas in a sketchbook. She has also started using her ipad to create an electronic library of her characters which she’s been turning those into stickers and other merchandise. She also wants to create bigger mats and rugs of her characters, she’s even had friends wear test them to make sure they would be durable enough to be used as a door mat. Her friends have had them for over 8 months and they are still holding up, she now she feels confident enough to send her rugs out into the world.
What is your biggest inspiration for your work?
For me, I play and get happy and get ideas and then my ideas get ideas. Just kind of pushing the boundaries, my whole thing is that I want to see how much I can add to a piece before it’s completely dysfunctional or completely gaudy. My kids inspire me, plants, nature, color. I’m not necessarily influenced by other people’s artwork because me being inspired by another person’s artwork is a very thin line between inspiration and copying.
Ideas have sparked from artists like Ugli Mug, she had a piece that had sushi on it and I reached out and said 'hey I really like your sushi, I’ve done different sushi and I’m putting it on a cup, I don’t want to step on your toes so I sent her the design and she said I love that, thank you.' Same thing with Kip O'Krongly, I was making birthday cake plates and I put a party hat on him and her page came up on my feed and I realized that she did party hats too so before I did anything I reached out to her and I was like 'hey, this is what I’m doing and I know you do it too, it was unintentional, do you mind and she was like no, go in peace.' Other people will spark my ideas but I try not to draw inspiration off other people’s work.
Being influenced can happen consciously or even subconsciously because we are influenced by everything we see whether we recognize it or not. With art, and especially in the pottery community, there are people that have very distinct styles and it tends to trend. So you have to be careful when on social media, it’s a risk to put yourself out there at such a massive scale and people can take your work or your idea. You have to have a comfort level on whether it’s going to destroy me or build me, am I confident in my ability to allow people to encroach on my ideas and how do I keep pushing it to become newer, fresher and better. It’s a balance there and a lot of people can’t process that, it’s hard for them and they can let it shut them down.
What are your biggest challenges of being a full time artist?
My kids and my family wanting all of my time and attention. The fact that I do work from home and I’ve had to establish boundaries with people. The time my kids are in school is strictly my work time and I try not to deviate from that path. That’s the biggest challenge for me is the ability to work when I want to work and the hours I want to work. I also have 3 kids that are dependent on me for emotional, physical and spiritual support. Everything going on in their lives and trying to grow them into decent human beings while maintaining my autonomy as a woman, a maker, a mother and balancing that while having a husband that’s gone more often than not, so it’s a challenge.
Some of Amanda's kids have even taken a liking to pottery, I asked Amanda about this and she said:
Remi loves anything and everything pottery related, all of my kids are artistic but I really try to not to push my kids into it and cross the line of being an extreme soccer mom. I was very excited when my 11th grader told me she was going to be taking pottery next semester. I get really excited when they want to do things that are artistic but I don’t want to push them into anything. All the girls have their own Artista Pottery Wheels. Maybe one day one of them will be like I want to be a potter!
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a full time potter/artist?
You have to work it like it’s a real job. When I was younger in my early 20’s it felt easier to create on emotion, or when I felt inspired. This is where my marine training came in, whether I felt like it or not I would be in my studio or creating something every day. I work it like it’s a legitimate office job, I go in with the mentality like 'this is my dream, I’ve always wanted to be a professional artist so if I fail at my dream, then what else do I have?' I give it 110% every day. I make something for my business every day whether it’s a sketch, research or different medium.
It’s muscle memory, the more you do it the more natural it comes and the more you want to create.
People keep saying I’m going to burn out but I’ve been doing it full time since 2015 and I’m not burnt out yet. I did what I had to do for 15 years to get to where I am now. I worked in the Marine Corps and then 5 years as a contractor so that was 15 years of my life where I did what I had to do to now facilitate what I want to do. When you do something that you're good at but it’s not your passion and it’s not where your soul and heart wants to be and then you go into doing exactly what you want to do, a shitty day in the studio is better than the best day I had in the corporate world. Whether I make a crappy piece of artwork or not, I’m still creating something every day. I have no regrets.
Amanda was even offered a great paying job with benefits but had to do a lot of soul searching and realized she would’ve just been going back for the money and she wouldn’t be able to fully raise her children. She also questioned where her art would be if she took that job.
"If you’re going to be a full-time artist, go all in. Someone told me if you do what you love and you do it with honesty, integrity and passion the money is going to follow. It’s about not giving up. You just have to go into it with the attitude that failure isn’t an option." stated Amanda.
How have things been going with some of your new ideas for your work that you talked about in the Potter's Cast Podcast?
My first three experiments were epic fails, the wire I had used completely pushed out. I made an astronaut, goldfish and a yeti that all have eyes and I tried drying them so slowly and had to use all kinds of witchcraft and magic to get them right. I'm praying to the kiln gods that they will magically be good. I've completed the majority of my mugs and I'm now working on bowls, and my style is transforming again. I've started to play and manipulate the density of the lines and the illustrations to see if I can make them grow and become more dynamic.
For my new batch I made the cavities much larger for more expansion of the wire and contraction of the clay to be able to match those two together. I started to bend the wire with the clay so it’s more concave to the piece and it isn’t just a straight wire.
I've been making Rounded Rectangular plates using the Forms, they’re all a vertical orientation. I'm doing any animal that has a really long neck like a giraffe and this walking stick is so grumpy I’m really excited (see image below).
To learn more about Amanda Fangue's work visit her website: Bee's Knees Art by Amanda
Amanda's Instagram: @beeskneesartbyamanda