Pottery and clay work has always been a fascination of mine. Maybe I watched the famous scene in “ghost” too many times as an impressionable teenager, but it has this kinetic, romantic, tactile quality to it that I can’t help but be drawn to. I’m so awed at the ability of The Potter to take a lump of nondescript earth, soil and mineral mixture, and purposely transform it into something beautiful, useful, and amazing. It’s one of the many talents that I am envious of because I have no ability to succeed in it, but still enjoy to watch as they create.
Randy is lucky enough to have had a long time working with clay. His Flying Cup Clay studio pieces have been all over the world. Meet Randy, and next time you see him at Patchwork, stop on by and say hello!
please introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Randy Au and I am a creative working in the clay medium. I currently live and work in Santa Ana, California via Punahou High School in Hawaii ( yeah, Obama went there…), Biola and Cal. State Fullerton in California. I worked as a waiter (everyone should have an alternate source of income) in various restaurants during my time in college while also doing consignment sales and various art shows. And while I had the normal childhood scattered with swimming and diving, piano, summer camps, volunteering, and various arts, my love of clay started in high school (late bloomer) and continued on into college. I guess we naturally gravitate to the things that others think we do well (it’s that ego thing). What might surprise those who think they know me is that I see myself as mostly introverted and introspective with extroverted tendencies. I’m someone who is intuitive, verging on the random, and probably more empathetic than sympathetic…but enough about me.
what do you make or do?
In my past life I have dabbled with showing my art in Laguna, where I worked at the infamous Pottery Shack for a couple of summers, Los Angeles and San Diego. In 1987 I formed my business, Flying Cup Clay studio ( just made up the name), and started working out of a space in Santa Ana. Before that I had been making work out of various Jr. College programs (hello OCC) using their facilities when I wasn’t trying to do my assignments. I think there are a lot of you who know this life. In 1989 I started working out of my studio part time doing custom ceramic accessories for model homes; the economy was still good then. In 1991 I quit my waiter job and started working full time as a studio artist based on my involvement in the Philadelphia Buyers’ Market and then the American Crafts Council-Baltimore wholesale shows on the East Coast. At one point I was in about 28 gallery/gift/ museum shops all over the US as well as sending work to Tokyo Japan, Dubai and Australia. These shows put me in contact with some of the best crafts creatives from all over. I did this for the next 11 years until I was offered a job (a whole story in itself) teaching clay at the Orange County School of the Arts here in Santa Ana were I am presently the assistant director of the Visual Arts Conservatory as well as the ceramics teacher.
where can we find your creations?
Presently I only show at about 18 craft shows in Southern California. I do not have an Etsy (probably should but just too lazy) or similar web based business as of yet. I use the internet (www.flyingcupclay.com), Facebook and social media to drive people to the shows that I am doing. I like the personal interaction that comes with selling my work and feel that we are losing this connection that art is intended for us to make. I also teach other art classes (Muddy’s Studio and Irvine Fine Arts), do workshops and exhibitions that I am invited to.
when you’re not making things, what do you do? What would be your perfect day off? If money and time were no object, what would you do?
My life pretty much revolves around my artistic creative involvement. Any spare time I have finds me in the studio or gathering sources for present or future projects. But all work is not good and so I do like to learn and experience new things that might not (but usually does) find their way into my work. I love to read and dream and would love to travel and experience other cultures and art in the future (my “if money and time where no object” wish). The only way to become a viable artist is to know more of everything. You need to be flexible and multi-skilled. You might be really good at one or two things, but that just means you are really good at one or two things. Otherwise, if I am not doing these things, I am sleeping! I am very fortunate not to be dependent on the studio work anymore. I have the luxury of working on what I want when I want. This can be very dangerous as I am a lazy and distracted person at heart. I get bored very easily. Consequently, keeping a strong studio practice and work discipline is where most creative people fall of the train and I struggle with this every day. You are the greatest obstacle to your own success.
where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere and in everything. Lately the work I have been doing for the shows like Patchwork have come from suggestions of people I see at these shows. I love function and clay lends itself to functional objects very well. Recently I have been inspired by people who are into fermentation and have been asking for clay containers. In researching this I have found that there are “Harsch Fermenting Crocks” that are still made out of clay. I have been developing my own design while still maintaining the form so it can function correctly. My next exploration is of the “Tagine Moroccan Pot”.
what’s on the horizon for you and what you do?
Another aspect of my life has been my community activities. In 1991 I was asked to be a part of an “Artists’ Village” taskforce that the city of Santa Ana was holding. I knew nothing about city governance and have always been a bit cautious about government, but it sounded interesting. Along with getting familiar with my city workings and officials, it also helped me establish my live/ work studio on Santa Ana Blvd. Before that time the city was very reluctant to have this kind of arrangement, but just look at all the live/work now! Any way you can make connections and opportunities for yourself you should do it!
is creativity a luxury or a necessity for you?
Creating is a necessary activity for me. It is my “religion” and the way I reconcile and commune my inner life and self with my outer world and self. I don’t feel balanced if I have not been creative. I love the mess and struggle and realize that not all things come to a satisfying result, but they do result in something. For me art is best when it transcends your expectations and desires and brings you to a place that you never thought possible, or even thought of to begin with. Art and creating is an essential part that makes me who I am and makes me human and connects me to others. As I make that connection through my work and as others are connected to me by my work I attempt to make things just a bit more interesting. And isn’t that what life should be all about!
what inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
Suggestion #1; think and work outside your discipline. Suggestion #2; develop and maintain a strong studio practice. Guard and prioritize your creative time and space. Suggestion #3; take your art out into the community; your neighborhood, city, church, organization. By sharing your gifts with others it will enlarge the appreciation of it. It is also a great way to make connections outside the art paths that may bring you unusual opportunities.