In the second of this three-part Winter Holiday Art Market series, I met with local ceramic artist Betsy Evans, one of the few original WHAM artists to still be exhibiting with the iconic show 10 years later. Side note: she is very pleasant to drink tea with on a Monday morning!
OK, so to start why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself and your work?
Ok, well I’m a ceramic artist, primarily clay. I was trained as a woodwork artist and furniture maker, and had a metal and woodworking background, but went into ceramics when my daughter was born. So, I went to school at Glassell School of Art and did a little clay there, but ultimately I moved to Winter Street Studios and got my own studio there. I’m mostly self-taught, and then about 8.5 years ago, I formed a craft gallery called 18 Hands Gallery in the Heights with a few other people.
Ah OK. So how did you first get involved in WHAM?
The way the show originated was Glassell used to have a holiday show, and so Shane Tidmore who at the time had a studio a Winter Street felt that there was a real loss there, so he initially started it to fill that gap. I have been at Winter Street since the very beginning. I’m one of – I guess - seventeen original artists. So being one of the originals, it made doing WHAM logical for me. I can simply just move my tables outside of my studio!
Convenient! What was WHAM like when it first started?
SLOW! I mean, the intentions were good, but I think initially people didn’t know what Winter Street was, and they were really nervous about going there. The neighborhood has changed significantly in the last ten years, but people used to be scared to go there! It’s something I’ve never understood, I guess because I’m a fiercely independent person and I don’t get scared easily – I’d be out there in the middle of the night working! Over the course of time Winter Street and the arts district has developed a phenomenal reputation and become such a major force in Houston. With the force of Fresh Arts behind it, more exposure, and better quality artists, WHAM has just continued to grow too.
What brings you back year after year?
Accessibility! But seriously, I also enjoy the camaraderie that develops and you get to see what Houston has to offer for this specific market. These are not people that are being represented by galleries; so it’s a different way to produce in that sense. Looking at it as a crafts person, these types of markets can be tricky, especially for people who are in Fine Crafts. There are a lot of places that don’t take it seriously; a lot of the mediums are not considered fine arts, they see it as a hobby. But arts and crafts are hard - creativity is hard! It’s my hope that with more exposure at shows like this there will be more education and more understanding. Texas has no history of craft, and there’s a lot of bad craft out there that confuses the public. So if you can get it out there maybe people will understand that it’s not just silly little ducks with bows on!
Do you think WHAM helps to address that issue?
Absolutely, I mean for a city this size there just aren’t a lot of venues for the local artists. It really amazes me that my gallery (which is 90% clay) is the only real craft gallery in the city of Houston, and that’s the fourth largest city in the United States! I think there should be more and more of these events that allow emerging artists to sell their work and be a part of the engine that keeps the city moving.
So you’ll be selling ceramic sculpture at WHAM this year?
Well I have some non-functional work and some functional work at various price points. Just a nice mix of things, I’ve got wall pieces, I’ve got tabletop pieces. I’ve got a tendency to straddle the fence when it comes to functionality!
Is it important for you to sell work at WHAM? Or do you do it for other reasons?
The revenue is not necessary, but it’s nice! Really I just like feeling connected, going out and seeing people and being part of an event is so much more fun! Feeling like my participation is leading to something that makes Houston more interesting is one of the advantages of being an artist in a big city. I think the more we have these art markets and festivals, the bigger the sense of community.
I think you’re absolutely right. So you know a lot of the other artists that exhibit at WHAM regularly?
Yeah, I know quite a few. There are some that have been there consistently year after year. I’m familiar with most of them. I actually didn’t think I would be accepted again this year, because it’s getting really competitive with all the new artists. But, that competition just makes for a better show; I think that’s one of the great things about WHAM.
Well we’re pleased to have you back! Thanks so much for your time, I’ll see you at WHAM!
British-born arts blogger living in Houston, Tx. A mixture of Street Art, Fine Art, Installation, and anything weird and wonderful. Follow me if that sounds like your cup of tea.