Amanda Soule was at a loss after graduating from Bennington College, where she majored in ceramics. Her parents had divorced while she was at school and sold their family house in Wayland, Massachusetts. She lived with friends in Brookline and worked at the Harvard Bookstore for four years, but her artwork fell by the wayside.
Eventually, a room opened up with some of Amanda’s friends who lived in Providence, offering a monthly rental rate less than $300 – how could she say no? She started working at the Cable Car Cinema, and then was accepted into the Steel Yard’s Residency Program in Ceramics, a six-month experience she describes as awesome, easy and accessible. Art became a central focus in her life once more.
During the residency, Amanda met her current boyfriend, David Allyn, founder of the Steel Yard ceramics department. She shares a studio space with two other artists in the Nicholson File Building, which houses about 22 artists total, and she has also just started working as a studio assistant for renowned local artists Ben and Aja Blanc.
Amanda’s own work currently consists mostly of small, rectangular porcelain necklaces with beautiful monoprinted coral-esque designs based on paperwork she had done in college, as well as enigmatic triangular Magic Eight Ball response necklaces. She also creates striking ceramic cups, which combine symmetrical textured sides and bases with softly undulating, colorful irregular middles. Some have beveled bases with crosshatched designs that she makes with a mold taken from antique glass bowls. Etched along many of the bottom sides of the cups are short phrases like “Separation is natural” (with a little ghost painted above), “The universe!,” “Oh no, love – you’re not alone,” or “Don’t be afraid of the shadows of the heart.”
The addition of words has its roots in a type of creative identity crisis Amanda experienced towards the end of college. She found out that baking cookies and handing them out to strangers she selected on campus gave her a good feeling, but that having someone purchase a cup from her did not create the same effect emotionally – however, in order to make it as an artist, she could not give her art away for free. Printing mysterious or philosophical phrases on her cups was a way of evoking the same type of connection and response for people purchasing (or gifting/receiving) her pieces as they might feel when receiving an unexpected gift from a stranger.
“I wanted to start making functional work, but in order to maintain a sense of wonder and purpose, I decided to be more direct and to write things out,” she says. “The cups are playful, but they’re also trying to get people to think about what actually makes them happy – and it’s not necessarily eating your favorite food. Maybe it’s holding a door open for a woman with a baby. I try to always maintain a sense of lightheartedness and sincerity, but it’s hard to go about my day without trying to be a better person myself and expressing my desire for everybody to be a better person.”
She and Dave will be hosting a holiday art sale event, the 12th annual Thirsty Millcraft Holiday Sale December 16-18. The event will feature many other artists as well, and artistic collaboration and community have been a huge part of why Amanda is happy to have made the transition to Providence.
“I think it’s the most wonderful reason to be here,” she says. “When somebody actually starts to succeed with their art in Providence, that person brings everyone else up with them. It’s so rad.”
Thirsty Millcraft Holiday Sale
December 16, 6-10pm • December 17-18, 12-5pm
532 Kinsley Avenue, Unit 104