Sharyn: You recently returned from a residency for young artists at Kohler. Those are very competitive, so congratulations on being selected! Can you tell me about the program?
Victoria: Thank you! I was an Intern of the Arts/Industry Residency Program. This residency is organized and run by The John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, WI) and takes place at the Kohler Co. Factory (Kohler, WI). Residencies are offered in either the Kohler Co. pottery or the foundry. I was in the pottery, working with slip-cast vitreous china.
Sharyn: What did you do while you were there?
Victoria: I was essentially an artist’s assistant for four different artists – Kate MacDowell (OR), Farley Tobin (TX), Carol Prusa (FL), and David Franklin (WA). This included making molds for them or assisting them in doing so, casting their molds, cleaning up castings, obtaining or mixing glazes, adding colorant to casting slip, assisting them in firing their work, as well as assisting them at their photo-shoot and in packing their work. I also worked a lot with Shari McWilliams, the pottery technician, to take care of the studio.
Sharyn: Was there something that you particularly enjoyed doing?
Victoria: It was really fun to do research and find things around the factory for the artists, because it always involved discovering a new part of the factory. I got to meet the people who do material analysis, testing, product development and mold making for Kohler, and I learned a lot about how casting in industry is achieved. This is all on top of the three hour walking tour of both the pottery and foundry you take first thing! This tour is free and open to the public. I highly recommend it!!
Sharyn: Did you have time to make your own work at Kohler?
Victoria: Yes, I worked on two projects. One was a series of figurines. We are all familiar with European figurines of beautiful, fair skinned women in big, frilly gowns. These decorative objects are undeniably beautiful, but they exist in a cultural vacuum that glorifies a specific woman. I wanted to adapt the figurine to celebrate a different culture of women.
My second project was a portrait series of women wearing different types of veils. Mourning veils, wedding veils, religious veils, kerchiefs, etc. I was fascinated by how one garment could be modified for so many occasions and by so many cultures to carry out a variety of symbolic meanings.
Sharyn: What inspired this body of work?
Victoria: While making this work I had been researching my heritage and what life would be like in Iran, where women must cover their hair when in public. I am inspired by color, pattern, cultural aesthetic and global fashion. I am interested in the intersection between western and middle eastern culture: the way that middle eastern pop culture specifically is influenced by the west, and western media portrayal of middle eastern culture. I was exploring the fashion traditions of these cultures and how clothing along with other material objects portray not only one’s individuality but also their country’s overall historical identity.
Sharyn: That sounds like an amazing experience! What have you been doing since your returned to your new home in Columbus?
Victoria: Yes! The artists that I worked with were also very inspiring. Since returning to Ohio, I am a visiting scholar at the Ohio State University glass program. As visiting scholar, I am an artist assistant to Dorothy Gill Barnes (http://dorothygillbarnes.com/index.html), a fiber artist. For the past seven years, Dorothy has been an artist in residence at OSU glass, and has been experimenting with ways to seamlessly combine wood and glass. She shows me several pieces she is working on, and then we go into the hot shop and experiment to make things that could work with her pieces.
Besides that, I have been continuing to make new work, learning how to drive, and settling into life in the midwest!
For more information: www.vahmadizadeh.com
— Sharyn O’Mara