Making in the Metro: Ceramics is a language of creativity for local artist

Making in the Metro: Ceramics is a language of creativity for local artist

Art lived exclusively in books for Amanda Barr, as she studied Spanish literature. She explored Spanish theatre, fashion, pottery and more en route to a master’s degree but felt trapped in the classroom setting. Then, Barr realized she needed to work with her hands. She needed to Make things.

Today, Barr’s study of Spanish art and culture lives not in pages of books but in folds of clay, each custom ceramic piece part of her lifelong language of creativity and innovation. For Barr, Making is about more than the finished product. It’s about the lifelong process of scientific inquiry.

“I think it’s an essential part of art, being able to communicate beyond, ‘Look at what I did,’ but how I got there and the mental process behind it,” Barr said. “This is what I was thinking about. This is not just, ‘I made something pretty.’”

Barr launched her business, Amanda M Barr Ceramics, after taking a pottery class to occupy her days while she taught night classes at DMACC. Her hobby led to exhibitor space at the Des Moines Arts Festival, among other shows.

Aesthetics and analytics unite every day in Barr’s ceramics studio, where she creates, paints and glazes custom plates, bowls, mugs and more. Each finished piece is a feat of chemistry, math and physics.

When she mixes the glaze, she’s a chemist. When she molds the clay, she’s a mathematician. When she forms a strong, sturdy base, she’s a physicist. It all adds up to creativity.

“If you don’t have that creative function of the brain, how are you going to build, say, a better refrigerator or solve a problem on the space shuttle?” Barr said. “Creativity is problem-solving.”

For the language teacher turned artist, the final step in the Making process is, of course, writing about it. Barr maintains a blog and cites the importance of communicating the Maker mindset in words and work, whether she’s speaking Spanish or English.

“Writing is taking what you’ve made and telling people in words what you’ve just told them in object,” she said.

Category: Make@SCI