Bill Griffith runs the residency and studio programs at Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts. He makes smaller sculpture, and has sustained his own studio practice by having a job that he loves for fifteen years. Bill is very active in the local community and is constantly contributing to the greater good. His love for making, and the support system that is essential for the act of making, is evident in his character.
What advice would you give a young artist?
Being that my first career was a high school ceramics teacher before coming to Arrowmont, I often encourage young artists who are interested in teaching to pursue teaching in the elementary or secondary schools. The need for good artists/teachers at that level is so important. For me, it was a rewarding career, one I felt I could make a difference doing something I liked and also continue making my own artwork-especially in the summers when I could re-charge myself artistically.
Also, it is important to continue to make good contacts with other artists of all levels. Networking is important. One connection can make the difference. Avoid burning bridges.
And, wherever you land out of graduate school or residency, give yourself at least 3 – 5 years in that location. Then evaluate. It often takes years before things begin to work out and make sense. Become an active member of the community in which you live. Let people get to know you and learn about your artwork. Educate people about what you do. It is easy to become isolated.
What do you see young artists struggle with?
Finances are always a concern for young artists. Moving and setting up a studio takes money, time. Finding a place one “fits” after graduate school is also very important. What are your needs not only financially but socially, emotionally and spiritually? When you are in school, it is easier to find most of these, but finding all this in one location outside academia may be more difficult. Taking time out from the studio for just yourself or fun is also very important. Struggling with finding balance in work and play is often easier said than done.
Which do you find exerts a stronger influence on your work, success or failure?
I like success best. In my current position, I am not able to be in my studio as much as I would like, thus when something works out successfully, it feeds my soul more and has a stronger influence. And besides, being older than you, I’ve already had my share of failures.
What was most difficult for you when you finished school?
For me it was finding a balance between career and art making and how to mesh them into my life somewhat equally. Balancing the “I have to do’s with the “I want to do’s.” If you enjoy your job, a person can bring creativity to it day-to-day. It is so important to remain fresh and take risks.
What have you done to help you get where you are?
I have a good work ethic. I like humor and can still laugh at myself. A positive attitude and enthusiasm are helpful and can benefit you in your job. Integrity and follow though in what you say and believe are important. People generally like to be around others who strive for quality. We are all more alike than we think and in general we all gravitate toward the same needs in life.