Memory can be a tricky thing, and sometimes what one thinks they remember can be completely different from the actual events. Senior art major Sam Loeffler explores memory and PTSD in their last semester as a pottery student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Loeffler explains to the Daily Nebraskan how they get inspiration, where their art journey has taken them thus far and where they hope to go.
Daily Nebraskan: How long have you been doing pottery?
Sam Loeffler: I’ve been doing pottery probably about nine years now. I started in high school and then continued in college. The first time I used clay I was in eighth grade, and we were told to make our favorite candy bar, and I made a Caramello. I was so proud of it. I haven’t seen it with my current eyes — and I’m sure it doesn’t look how I remember it — but back then, I thought it looked exactly like a Caramello. I was so proud of myself and I loved doing that assignment.
DN: Why pottery? What is it about pottery that attracts you?
SL: I think that I’ve always felt connected to it, but now that I’m starting to learn more about why I’m making art — my art is a lot about memory and post traumatic stress disorder — I think that clay remembers touch in a similar way the body does. So, I think clay is a really important aspect of my work in that way.
DN: What type of pottery do you specialize in, if any?
SL: I do ceramic sculpture and a lot of it is non-representational. It represents ideas of memory and questions of memory. I’ve been studying memory because I have a psych minor as well, and I learned that a lot of our memories aren’t really accurate, but a lot of our identity comes from what we remember about ourselves and what we remember about what we went through. So I am exploring those questions in my work.
DN: Where do you find your inspiration?
SL: Most of my inspiration comes from my past experiences and the things I learned in my psychology classes. But also, I think that a lot of people have this idea that inspiration just comes to us, and it’s natural. I think it’s a practice, and I try to practice creativity everyday. I do different exercises and stuff because sometimes it just comes to you, but most of the time when you’re creating, you have to practice creativity. I have this book called the “Steal Like an Artist Handbook” that gives me little creative exercises to do everyday and reminds me to challenge myself in that way.
DN: How has your craft changed throughout college?
SL: It’s changed a lot. I used to just want to make nice pots, nice little tea cups and nice teapots, and now, I’m making these crazy sculptures I never would have thought I would be making. It’s funny because a lot of my stuff is partially broken or crumbling, and if I looked at it my freshman year I would’ve hated it. I would’ve been like, “I worked so hard to learn how to do this, and it looks wacky.” It’s definitely changed a lot.
DN: What do you like about your work?
SL: Probably the physicality of it. In a few recent sculptures I’ve made, I was really practicing being more present in the making process and really thinking about what I’m doing while I’m touching my clay. And I think I know these pieces more intimately than I’ve known previous pieces. Instead of trying to build as fast as I can to get it done, I really slowed down and focused on the active making of the piece.
DN: Do you plan on doing something with pottery in the future?
SL: Initially I wanted to do art therapy. But I’m really enjoying just doing studio work and sharing my work in that way. So, I probably want to continue with studio work. Because it’s my last semester, my plan is to apply for post-bacc, artist in residencies and eventually grad school, but I think it’s better to work on my own for a little bit before that.