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Art & Art History
University of Mississippi

Q&A with BFA Ceramics student Bailey Pillow

Introduce yourself. What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Bailey Pillow and I am from the small town of Newton, Kansas.

What attracted you to the University of Mississippi Department of Art & Art History?
I transferred here to the University of Mississippi from Wichita State University. I came here specifically to pursue my BFA in ceramics. I had heard of my current professor, Matt Long, and had seen his work used as examples during my time in Wichita.

What type of artist do you consider yourself?
Neurotic ceramic artist.

What type of artwork do you create?
I create sculptural ceramic art.

What made you pick the area of concertation you’re currently studying?
I had asked my intermediate professor at Wichita State University, Brenda Lichman, how her and her husband were able to dedicate their lives to ceramics, despite the uncertainty of pursuing an art career. Brenda gave me advice that her professor once gave her – pick something you love, and hit the ground running. You don’t have time to look back and question if it’ll work or not. In that moment, I picked clay. The following semester, I moved thirteen hours away from my hometown to enter the BFA program at The University of Mississippi.

What artists or type of art inspires you?
Pre-Columbian stirrup vessels inspire my current work. I have been taking a close look at Peruvian “sex pots” – stirrup spout vessels that depicted various sexual acts. These pots were often ritualistic in nature, and served as didactic models. These pots passed down knowledge about reciprocity, procreation, sexual pleasure, cultural and social norms, and the relationship between the two cyclical views of nature and life.

Could you talk about your BFA Thesis?
My work references my experience growing up in a tattoo parlor, and what it was like experiencing adult material at such a young age. My sense of play and discovery centered on themes I found titillating due to their forbidden nature. I believe that a child’s view of the adult world is often surreal in nature, and I hope to reflect that in my work. I intend for the work to invite my audience to experience these complex and sometimes salacious themes in a fable-like context.

How has the Department of Art & Art History fostered your growth as an artist?
The community within the ceramics department has given me reasons to travel, a place to receive honest critiques, and a team of people to work hard toward a common goal. I am so grateful to be in an environment with people that know more than me. This allows me to constantly ask questions to my peers and professors.

Which professors mentored/inspired you the most?
Matt Long has been incredibly supportive of my journey here at the University of Mississippi.

What was your favorite class during your years here? (can be non-art related)
I have taken advanced ceramics five times since attending the University of Mississippi, and although challenging, it has always been my favorite. It feels fantastic to be a part of a community working towards something greater than ourselves.

Have you attended any conferences with your student organization?
In 2018 and 2019 I attended NCECA – the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. These conferences were held in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Could you describe any good experiences here in the department?
I recently donated to an event called Empty Bowls. I sat at a pottery wheel for over 14 hours straight, making 200 bowls. The proceeds from my work resulted in $4,000 worth of donations to the Lafayette Food Pantry.

What does the Department of Art & Art History mean to you?
I have learned so much since joining the ceramics program. Long studio hours have taught me perseverance and patience. This patience has proved crucial to developing my management skills. The nature of ceramics is finicky, and sometimes pieces are broken throughout the process. This has shown me how to accept disappointment, move on, and try again. Working in ceramics has also shown me the importance of community. One to two times a semester we would fire a wood kiln – a kiln that requires approximately 50 hours of constant attention and manual labor. For each firing we spent hours chopping firewood and took shifts throughout the night to tend to the fire. The success of this project would have been impossible without a team of people willing to work together.

What are your plans after graduation?
This summer I will pursue job opportunities teaching ceramics. In the fall I intend on going to graduate school to get my Masters of Education in Counseling. After becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor, I hope to become an LPAT – Licensed Professional Art Therapist.

Is there any advice you would like to give to incoming art students?
You will be given lots of unwarranted opinions. Learn how to take what you want from a critique, and throw away the rest. Find out what it is you believe in and advocate for it. Also, sleepless nights may seem effective in accomplishing work, but your art will get sloppy and you will burn out. Take care of yourself.

Can we find you/your work on social media?
I have a somewhat neglected Instagram – @bailey_pillow

What are you listening to right now?
I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work – the longer, the better. I’ve noticed that listening to a conversation helps keep me focused on tedious tasks for longer periods of time.

What is your favorite Oxford spot to hang out?
My small studio, tucked in the depths of the ceramic department.

What’s your go-to restaurant in Oxford?
The Starship robots bring me everything I could ever need – and I don’t have to leave the studio.

What is your favorite time of year in Oxford?
I’m not entirely convinced that seasons happen in Oxford.

Has anything crazy happened during your years as an undergraduate student?
I fear the statute of limitations is not up.

Check out Bailey’s BFA Thesis Exhibition on our Flickr page!

Interviewer: Frank Estrada | Photographer: Olivia Whittington