Nicci Winrock and Neal Barman received their BFA’s from Cleveland Institute of Art in 2002 and 2003. Recently they have started a tile-making business in Rochester, New York. They have received a New York State grant to install a tiled floor at the Museum of Kids Art.
What was the most difficult for you when you finished school?
When we were in school everyone was so supportive towards our work and us. The most difficult for us was the transition to working full time for someone else, and putting a lot of energy into creating someone else’s dream. Another difficult part was having more time than we were used to. In school there was absolutely no time to let an idea simmer before actually making it. Extra time and no due dates often let criticism kill an idea before it’s even had a chance to take shape. All through out school we pushed each other. Not that we still don’t, but we had to learn how to be critical of our work and each other in an entirely different way.
What advice would you give to a young artist?
No matter what, don’t stop! If you don’t know where to start, just start anywhere! As long as you are making, that is all that matters. Set up fake deadlines for yourself, and surround yourself with people who motivate you.
What advice would you give to a young artist pertaining to the dream of just being able to make, but the reality of having a job that pays the bills?
Neal: There is nothing wrong with making and making, but eventually you’ve got to sell it, unless you’re not hungry. I worked for a painter for a short while. I guess I always thought that painters were always looking to make one-of- a- kind pieces and hoped to god somebody liked it enough to buy it. To my surprise, it wasn’t like that at all. His painting studio was like a small production factory. This guy was making work that was making him money. He would paint all day while he was talking on his phone doing business. Although I have ultimate respect and admiration for artists who have a strong vision, I realized through this job, that I could never be a one-of-a-kind-artist. So I guess that you have to be realistic about where you want to go, and where you are able to go with your work. Now I spend my time making one perfect original, then we move into production. For me, seeing one minor accomplishment turn into a whole bunch of accomplishments gives me purpose.
Which do you find exerts a larger influence on your work, success or failure?
Both. Live and Learn. We had a professor who always warned us that if you need 1 make 5. So I guess, we plan on failure and hope for success.
Would you mind talking about how you both got your business started?
Neal: I worked a nine to five retail job when I finished school. That summer I decided to apply to a small high-end ceramic design company in Brooklyn. They looked at my work, and told me the work they had available was in production and that I was a designer who would be happier if he started his own business. So that is what we set off to do, start our own tile making business. Rochester (NY) is a great location, cost of living is inexpensive and Nicci has roots here. The transition from Cleveland to New York just made sense. We both love production, and early on we learned that we are both good at different aspects of the business, so we designed our studio to accommodate our own space. Since we’ve moved to Rochester Nicci has had the opportunity to become more involved with interior design, taking what she’s learned and applying it to our business. We are trying to approach the tradition of handmade tile in our own innovative way, infusing our background in ceramics with our love for graphic design, printmaking, and mixed media.
Nicci: Chop chop.