Jim Bridgeman of Bridgeman Studios is a ceramic artist from Georgia. While his ceramic work is minimal in color and finish, his creations are functional works of art that beg to be displayed.
Please Introduce Yourself:
Hi, I’m Jim Bridgeman. A retired air traffic controller, husband and father and now ceramic artist? (I struggle calling myself an artist/potter)
How did clay hook you?
In 2006 I was forced to take an early retirement from my job as an air traffic controller due to some health issues. Unsure what I was going to do with the rest of my life, my wife found a pottery wheel throwing class offered at the local rec department. I was hooked day one.
I’ve “known” you since about 2007/2008 when we were both members of the Etsy Mud Team. Your work has taken a fairly dramatic stylistic shift since then. Can you pinpoint when this happened or was it gradual?
Yep, dramatic is correct, but not unexpected to me. In May 2012, I discovered Neil Gaiman’s graduation speech to The University of the Arts. A month later I spent 10 days in Uganda helping out in a remote village and spending time with two kids we sponsor there. I listened to Neil Gaiman’s speech over 50 times during the two weeks in Uganda and travel time to and from. Upon returning from Uganda, due to budget cuts, I was let go from a job I held as a contract air traffic control instructor for the FAA. This allowed me to begin handbuilding where much of the work is both very time consuming and time critical.
The “dream” bottle is one of the first pieces I made after being let go and was greatly inspired by the portion of Neil Gaiman’s speech where he says:
“A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back.”
Your current ceramic work is very architectural, where do you find your inspiration?
Well, I actually went through 3 1/2 years of VA Tech’s 5 year architecture program before changing my major. Clay allows me to pursue and explore forms without getting caught up in the minutiae.
Do you still sell online, or mostly at in person events? Why?
Almost all of my work is sold in person at art shows for a couple reasons. The first is the time consuming aspect of the type of work I make. I haven’t reached a point where I feel I can safely set aside work to list online and still feel comfortable with the amount of work I am bringing to shows. The second reason is that every piece is unique as well as every side of each piece. The time needed to photograph, edit, upload and list images of all sides of a piece wasn’t making business sense in terms of time spent vs sales from those listings.
I love your new t-shirts – they’re very pottery “punny”. How did you come up with the idea and why did you decide to get into the t-shirt business?
The Pot[tery] Makes Me Happy!!! shirt was a design I submitted for a yearly pottery show I participate in here in GA called Perspectives. The intent of the design was to grab people’s attention from a distance with Pot Makes Me Happy!!!, then when they got closer they would see it actually said “Pottery” as well as the name of the show which had been on the bottom of the design.
The show went with a more traditional design than the one that I submitted. I can’t say I was surprised.
(Author’s note – check out Jim’s t-shirts in his Etsy shop – only $24.95 with FREE shipping! I plan on wearing mine to my next in person event.)
What do you do for fun outside of pottery?
I volunteer at the elementary school where (my now) high school aged kids attended to help kids with reading and math – I love it! I also like to take the dogs to a nearby nature area to hike a few miles a day. Feed the chipmunks that live around my studio.
Winter Park, FL 3/17-19 Dogwood, Atlanta 4/7-9 Fired Works, Macon, GA 4/21-30 Artisphere, Greenville, SC 5/12-14
Reston, VA 5/20-21
Decatur, GA 5/27-28
I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays” which can be found when searching the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.