January 27 2016
Before Wilder was a thing, and we just had a vision and some line sheets, Ivy and I dropped in on Cody Hoyt and Isaac Nichols in their shared studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It was one of our first studio visits as team Wilder, and lives at the top of the list of our most memorable experiences.
It was clear that there was magic afoot, madcap experimentation, lots of playful antagonizing and at the core, a deep respect for each others' work and process.
We decided it totally made sense for them to interview each other, drawing on a shared history as well as a sincere desire to not become the cultural equivalent of a pair of Jncos in the dustbin of eternity.
Below is a peek into the glazed minds of two of New York's most formidable ceramic artists.
All images by Skye Parrott of Double or Nothing for Wilder.
Cody, left and Isaac (aka grouppartner aka Universal Isaac), right
Interview with Cody Hoyt
1. Isaac Nichols: You were an artist before breaking through into ceramics, but I never saw your practice outside of the 892 space. What you do, how does it relate-- has combining your two practices into one space affected the work?
Cody Hoyt: "Breaking through" into ceramics happened once I got all "fired up" about it. The ceramics aspect of my studio life is now seamlessly integrated, whereas before I had to find a special place to make the work. Having all the elements of the process at hand makes everything easier. I've been in a relationship with ceramics long enough now where I feel more focused on where we can go and who we are as a couple. I'm less aware of how new and different it is.
2. Isaac: I've talked about how that first year felt like mistakes all the way through. What's the trick to not getting discouraged? What's the ultimate goal you're working towards?
Cody: So much would go wrong figuring out new stuff. Once you nail something it's such a powerful motivator. My one amazing trick for not getting discouraged has always been the understanding that there's no other possible choice of career path. All my eggs have always been in this basket. My ultimate goal is to achieve an optimal balance of creative fulfillment and financial stability.
3. Isaac: Asides from me, you shared space with a half dozen other ceramicists with noteworthy followings. Of us all, your work has been taken the most seriously in both the academic and cultural frameworks. Was this always your focus? Or how did sharing space with true production ceramicists help shape your direction?
Cody: I don't consider any of those people true production ceramicists because everyone at Lorimer resented the point where making new stuff segued into filling orders or being forced to remake some single object ad infinitum. Inventing things was the sweet part. Also don't forget-- at the time the most successful 4 or 5 of us had only been touching clay for a relatively short time. 2-3 years max. You're the only true "production" ceramicist there, and even with over 7,000 units in the bag I still feel like you're coming at this as some post ironic social commentary.
4. Isaac: We've talked about this before but I forget, did you you have ceramics training prior to your current work? What was the original work about, where were the ideas coming from?
Cody: No ceramics training. The ideas come from the same places, like text and architecture and pattern. The drawings are mostly layered masses of intertwined objects with axonometric projections. Lots of color.
5. Isaac: In both of our processes we've come to technical stumbling blocks: while I struggled with an efficient stenciling process, you've gone through a fair share of headaches developing your technique of creating the larger forms. Can you tell me a bit about some things that have worked and some that haven't?
Cody: Getting color into the ceramic work on my own terms is really difficult. On one level it's physically taxing, time consuming and expensive to turn plain clay into a bright color. Once my clay is tinted, I can only anticipate how it will turn out based on tests. That's the biggest disconnect for me and it's fundamental to ceramics-- the "black box" aspect of how work is changed during firing. In other words, when you make a thing, the color, size, surface, materiality, etc. will all become different right at the end. It's elusive.
6. Isaac: I've often confided in you that at times my process feels too far removed from the direct creative moments it came from. Do you feel connected still to what your making? What would you be doing if you started to hate the ceramics thing?
Cody: Mmmm, yeah. All those nights alone in the basement. Just you and me. Confiding. JK. The directness of the medium is still very present for me. I'll stop with ceramics when I feel done with it. If a horse kicked me and I woke up in the hospital with a severe aversion to clay, I'd continue making the same work but from different stuff.
7. Isaac: I've never heard you get down on New York, do you think you'll be a lifer here? What does it take to make you want to stick around?
Cody: I've only lived here for a few years and I've been able to avoid both a full time job and living in Bushwick, so I'm still really excited about New York. The surplus of arts and culture here is very inspiring. I'll leave when the need for family, space and calm become a priority. Or when I get scabies a second time. Whichever's first.
7.5 Isaac: You lived with Paul Wackers briefly, what's the dirt?
Cody: Paul Wackers is the T1000 of roommates. In a post apocalyptic future where shitty roommates have decimated everyone's lives, Paul will be sent back in time with one ring to destroy them all. Or something. If you're reading this Paul, I miss you please come home.
7++. Isaac: You've told me a number of stories concerning your late arrival into manhood and "missed opportunities" you still are ashamed of. Can you gives us some insight into your nearly 3 decades of "stopping at 3rd?"
Cody: All of that ceased to matter when I started playing Cricket with your sister.
Interview with Isaac Nichols
1. Cody Hoyt: I noticed your work improved considerably once we began to work in the same studio. Are there any other factors outside of the studio that led to the evolution of your output during 2014/2015?
Isaac Nichols: Yeah, that's true without a doubt. I think being around so many talented and dedicated people helped me focus. When I started working alongside you I still had anxiety about people seeing me work/ seeing things I didn't know how to feel about yet. I'd work at night and try to keep my work out of site. I definitely think now that a good environment will induce good work, or at least work practices, and you definitely were a part of that.
2. Cody: Can you describe the changes that took place in your working process since we moved into 892 Lorimer, leading up through this winter?
Isaac: I think we probably started making things around the same time. A lot of mistakes for both of us, I feel like that first year was just disaster after disaster, you trying to address cracked and broken pieces as to save them from the dumpster and me trying to do the same with terrible glaze decisions and weird iterations of the product line I'm using now.
To answer your question, when I started there I made my pieces by hand with a rolling pin as "slab constructed" pots formed around coffee cups, paint cans and small mixing buckets.
I've put as much time into thinking about how my end product fits into the object culture as I have into how to make it read as it does. From that early iteration I moved on to lathe-formed forms, then adjusted the size and proportions and eventually figured out the molding process I use now. I feel like I've now been (read: faked my way) through the first half of the industrialized ceramics process.
3. Cody: Is it possible to calculate an approximate count of all the pots in their various iterations that you've produced in the last 18 months, not including rejects?
Isaac: I wish I kept better track. Since my partner Steph started we've shipped out around 7,000 pots. It feels like yesterday when I was telling people I'd made about 300 to date. I have no way of knowing how many rejects, but I'd be lying if I said there weren't a LOT!
4. Cody: How will your work improve in 2016, or is it all downhill from here?
Isaac: Lol, that's a really good question. I have waking anxiety about being some sort of variation on the "key-board-scarf" or "beanie-baby" craze [ed. note: I think it was a key board necktie Isaac-- if Zoolander is based on fact]. Like one day I'll wake up and find that my work is dated and induces the same reaction as other out-of-trend things like Oakley glasses, JNCO-jeans, or more recently, Edison bulbs and waxed mustachios. I told myself if I made it through the holidays without any disasters (knock on wood) that I'd put in another year and see what happens. I'm working on transitioning to in-house slip making, working on perfecting the clay and glaze, introducing a boy pot, maybe retiring the two original faces. I want to keep it fresh and challenging, but the future isn't clear.
5. Cody: Last time I came over to your apartment the only furniture you had was a regulation size pool table and you were sleeping in a hut on your roof. Does the hut have a door yet?
Isaac: Lol. Yikes. No door yet \_(ツ)_/¯ but I did hang a blanket up to keep the wind out and hoisted my trusty old futon up over the wall to sleep on after the floor started making my hips hurt. I can name 5 young creatives that are starting to get recognition who simultaneously are either homeless or sleep on a couch or floor regularly. Pool table had to leave, I'm far to addicted, plus Maracuja has a beautiful one in the back that ends up with a lot of my quarters. I still only own 1 fork.
6. Cody: Did growing up in Maine cause you to be the way you are?
Isaac: Maine did to me what in-line skating did to you.
7. Cody: Will you share a few synopses of your ideas for pornographic films?
Isaac: No. I have to stop talking about ideas or I'll never get them off the ground.