We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Marks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
My ideas about work life balance have changed drastically over the last several years as I have come to some important realizations. I used to work full-time for non-profit nature organizations and I was lucky to have good supervisors that really taught me to self advocate for strict definition between work and life. And I had to be- for positions that were by nature set up to be extremely exploitative, I gave each work day at least 8 solid hours of my best and most productive self, only to return home as a husk of a human, unable to fulfill other duties or enjoyabilities. Even with strict boundaries, balance was not possible there for me, so I left.
What even is a successful work day? After ebbing and flowing between guilt-ridden low productivity days and pounding out a high volume of low-quality pieces, I realized this is a more complicated question than I ever thought, especially if you have left a toxic workplace that hasn’t left you much guidance. What makes a business “successful” and what makes art “good”?
I set aside a personally appropriate amount of time each day for work because I know I need that structure. However, what I do during this time varies drastically but answers the questions I asked myself. Owning you own business gives you many hats to choose from. Need to kindle some inspiration? Go take a walk at the riparian preserve. Need to benchmark local art venues? Go mull about some galleries. Build connections and gain awareness? Fine, go scroll through Instagram. Commercialism has trained people to think that these activities are not work, but as someone continuously learning and growing, it is vital to a well rounded business. If you have your own business, chances are that you are not mindlessly and heartlessly stocking shelves (although maybe you do sometimes) day after day, so your work productivity should not be compared as such.
So, returning to the original question: How do you think about work-life balance? The answer is a personal one. My ceramic pieces are an extension of myself, so in order to work well, I need to also live well.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
A lot of life experience influences art years and years before a piece is even made. Before I even learned ceramics, my background was focused on environmental science and conservation of earth’s resources. I like to think much of what I learned about nature has had a say in my creative path with clay.
I make hand built ceramic art- much of which is functional, like mugs and plant pots, and some of which, like absurdly shaped spoons, is not. Unlike most other ceramicists, I include very little tool use in my creative process- no wheel, and only the occasional press or scrape of hand tools. I use my hands to mould and refine shapes into recognizable objects while still preserving some ruggedness. This does mean the process takes a little longer, but I believe it creates a more organic and personal end product. One of my favorite things about hand built ceramics is running my fingers over the forms and finding little matching imprints where the artist’s hands had previously been. I like to remind others that this clay is earth reformed by humans.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My hypothetical best friend and I both love nature and art, so here’s an itinerary with these items in mind!
Casual plant-nerd stroll at Desert Botanical Gardens
Overnight stay at Arcosanti
Day hike in the Superstition Mountains
Taxidermy class at Curious Nature
Explore other local artists at Practical Art
Leisurely sip mesquite and agave nectar coffees at Azucar
Seafood feast at Sushi Nakano
Bird watching at Gilbert Riparian Preserve
Feed the koi at Japanese Friendship Garden $20 in food packets
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My friends and family have been incredibly supportive in so many ways through this journey. I would especially love to thank jewelry artist Aubree Overfield of City Under the Sea and graphic designer Janelle Wilke for their guidance, sales and encouragement from the start. I would also like to thank the instructors at Edna Vihel Arts Center for getting me started right with affordable classes and expertise.
You guys are the best!