Judi Tavill and her New Abstraction
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
By Margaret Goddard
Judi Tavill is a member of Monmouth Arts and she's the first studio interview we conducted for the new series "Studio Spotlights." These profiles were born out of curiosity about what goes on behind the scenes at our artist members' studios. We look at the tools they're using, the objects they keep around for inspiration, and their current projects.
You know Judi for her coral-textured ceramics. But her work is taking a turn for the experimental. After working in the natural tones of fired clay for most of her career, she just recently started using color. But where in the color wheel to begin? Faced with infinite possibilities, she’s sticking to black, blue, and gray in matte or glossy finishes for now. We discussed big ideas on the horizon: playing with destruction as art, making wall pieces, and moving away from utilitarian objects like vases, mugs, and bowls.
Why do you make art?
I make art because I have to. I stopped for a period of time when my children were young (briefly) and let’s just say, it was not a good situation.
How does your medium influence the art you make?
Cracking and destruction can happen at many different stages in the creation process and therefore, a lot of thought and attention to timing is extremely important. I try not to let it limit me. More recently, I am allowing the way the clay reacts and the stresses that it responds to lead me to new ways of working.
What three words would you use to describe this studio?
Safe exploratory cocoon
What do you wear to the studio?
I tend to wear active wear clothes that I have on from taking Pilates in the morning, or shorts or a little dress and always an apron. I have quite a few. Right now I am addicted to the Japanese criss-cross back style with no ties.
Do you work in silence or with music on?
Certain periods require silence, but I am a huge listener of podcasts and audio books (mystery/true crime/fiction/non fiction… okay, it’s a lot of different genres) and I stream news channels to stay on top of the latest, um, events.
Do you have an object or reference that you keep around to inspire you?
It’s a tad strange, but my father was a collector of a lot of things and he passed away five years ago after five years of illness and I keep some odd objects around that give me a feeling of letting me know he is in the ether as I work (particularly late at night).
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started?
I wish I had realized that as an artist I will always be searching. I will not find one body of work and make the same thing over and over and be happy. I wish I had known to ride the wave and allow my work to evolve, embracing the fluidity and excitement of that vs. feeling like I am repeatedly drowning. The acceptance of this reality is something I strive for everyday!
Where do you find or look for inspiration?
I absolutely am inspired by nature as well as architecture, design, and culture. I work to abstract what I am inspired by and incorporate form or color or construction in my work without necessarily creating a direct reference. The coral texture-looking work that I have made in the past was actually inspired by looking at other forms of nature and creating texture with various tools and experimenting with the texture ended up creating such a look. It was at that point that I rode the wave (no pun intended) to see where that texture took the work.
Who’s on your radar right now?
To say who is on my radar right now is so complicated! Zemer Peled, Eva Hild, Louise Nevelson, Helen Frankenthaler… I have been thinking a lot about my artist friends that I met through a year-long online Thrive Mastermind group that met once a month virtually for 2 hours. I may work with them in some capacity in the future. Oh… and my musician son Jake Tavill turned me on to the Band “Lawrence”! My son Sam who is studying industrial design and I may end up with a future collab and my husband has been creating some wood bases for my work in his free time. Locally, I am always inspired by my friend Jon Peters, an artist and craftsman with an amazing YouTube following, and my pal Ericka Bruno, a contemporary painter who gets the process of pursuing this life of art.
Judi's Podcast Tips
You can see more of Judi’s work on her website, Instagram, and Facebook. Her work is for sale at M.T.Burton Gallery in Surf City, Plough Gallery in Georgia, Taupe Gallery in North Carolina, and Artful Home online. She's in Out of the Blue, a Monmouth Arts member exhibit, opening November 7.