Let Your Life Speak Interview: Life is Art & Practice

An interview with Gina Inzinna, Ceramic Artist

Sharing the words and stories of other people who are working daily to live lives of conviction so we can witness together all the different ways to show up with integrity is one of the greatest joys of this Let Your Life Speak project for me.

Integrity is a habit, just like any other behavior that you engage in repeatedly. It is not an attitude or a belief; it is a practice. I depend on surrounding myself with people who are pursuing lives of integrity in order to continue learning how to best cultivate my own integrity. I am also always on the hunt for media that also bolsters my learning. I hope this does that for you.


Talking With Gina Inzinna, Ceramic Artist

Clay and Gina are old friends, from way back in high school. They spent some time apart while Gina got to know Paint, Travel, Gardening, and Motherhood. Reunited with Clay in 2016, it was as if no time had passed, as is common with a true friend. Gina found a home in the welcoming community that surrounds Clay. Glaze in particular, glistening and mysterious, is one of Gina's closest allies and inspirations. 

Gina Inzinna is a Ceramic Artist residing in Brooktondale, NY who finds joy in making anthropomorphic pottery, and otherwise eye-catching designs on her work.

You can shop her Etsy page, or find a selection of her wares in Ithaca, NY's own brick and mortar store, Ithacamade. Gina will be participating in the Finger Lakes Pottery Tour this June. You can find details on their website. You can follow along with Gina and Clay on Instagram, @Gina_Inzinna.

Can you tell me who you are underneath all of your professional accomplishments, or perhaps as the foundation for all of them?

Who am I? Well, I am a non-conformist who never felt I fit into the 9-5 world. The path I have taken in my life has been one of self-preservation. I went to art school but left in 2000 to find balance. While there, I studied ceramics, metalsmithing, and illustration, but I was deeply lonely, and suffered bouts of severe depression. I would skip class and just cry by the ocean. So after two years, at age 19, I left the beautiful, if a bit harsh city of Portland, Maine, to work on a farm. This was hard for my family to understand, but I absolutely needed it. That summer on Martha’s Vineyard was so refreshing, I felt free and self-sufficient. Next, I went on to attend a work-study program at a massage school.

I found my ground. The rhythm in nature, farm and gardening work, became a source of meaning and good feelings in my life. I was turned on to the world of self-care through the healing arts in the gorgeous Northern California landscape. The depression was lifted! But much of my artwork from those earthy traveling days was stolen while I WWOOF'ed (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) in Hawaii, and I was left feeling hollow as an artist. 

Art came rushing back into my life in the tangles of my young family's life. My first child, now 16, was born in 2004, my second, now 12, in 2008. In the early days, we did so much art-making (and reading and eating and hiking and playing and cleaning). I remember one time when I laid out all of the coloring pages I had made for them. “Mama, will you draw me a...?”. The entire first floor of the house was covered. It was an awakening for me. 

Then I started to draw and paint more seriously. 

I took on a few commissions in watercolor, acrylics, murals, and wall art. I painted huge backdrops for the kids' plays and taught homeschool art classes.  I sketched friends and family members from life or photographs. I created workshops to help people access their creativity, and participated in a few local art shows. I led and attended many women's circles, and created a community garden; I even started a dance group! I sang so many songs, wore so many hats. I was in love with all of it, but I was spread too thin. I became very tight in my painting. It was not about the process anymore.

Enter Clay. It is ALL about the process! 

What is a core belief that you carry— about people, about relationships, or about the world— that you feel really shapes your life? How did you come to believe it?

Art is everywhere, and not everything has to be a masterpiece.  I believe anyone can be an artist, and benefit from making something beautiful, useful, meaningful, or some combination of the three. It is not that some of us are born talented, while others not. More often it is the long hours trying again and again until you grow better at it. It is exposure to the arts, it is skill-building. It is being fully present in the process of making. It is the constant search for inspiration. 

I look everywhere for beauty— in less obvious places like puddles and cracked pavement, in the beautiful faces of my loved ones, in the chaos of light and energy in nature. It makes me feel connected to my own life more fully, both the making and the seeing. 

This belief and way of thinking around art stems from my childhood. When I was in elementary school, people in my classes would compliment me on my drawings. They were so simple, nothing great I thought, but I liked to draw a lot, so I kept it up.  The compliments helped! At a certain point, though, I realized that there were many people who were better at drawing, that there would always be someone better. But the pleasure I felt making drawings kept me at it, and it got me somewhere.

It took me years of practice to be able to draw a recognizable portrait, and I am not the best, but it doesn't matter. It is the process itself, the beauty of really trying to see something as it truly is. The primal joy of saying, “I made that!”

It was a choice, to keep practicing. So the belief comes from seeing my own progress from a kid who felt mediocre at drawing to someone doing portraits, from thinking that the pottery wheel was not my strength to throwing with grace and intention. Make it for the joy of it, it does not have to be perfect. Perfect isn't real.

What helps you to live this belief?

Seeing is believing. As a teacher, I see it all the time. The ones who practice get better. Even surpassing some who have a “natural talent” in many cases. You find your own way, your own unique voice, just showing up to practice and explore and allow! Experiencing the growth of my children, who have each become so excellent in their chosen arts through so much practice is living proof that life is art, is practice.

I watched my husband learn a language in six months flat. Because he is passionate about language, he sees it as an art, and he practiced every day!  My own transformation over the years is evidence as well. No one else in my family growing up was an artist. Mom was super crafty, Dad an engineer, so there are the creative and technical sides, but I had a lot of learning to do as someone who wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I was not super talented, as one of my middle school art teachers let me know during our showcase senior year (thanks for that tidbit!) but I loved art, it felt good and I persevered!

I used to do weird stuff to see things in a more beautiful or interesting way. I would spin around in the sunshine, squinting up at the sun to see the way the light filtered through my eyelashes. I would stand on my head and pretend I was walking on the ceiling. I created entire imaginary worlds. I would leave the party, climb a tree and watch it all unfold below me. So you have to try things, experiment with perspective. 

I was never one to see the path before me clearly. Looking back it is interesting to see how my doubts have turned to confidence, and more importantly perhaps, humility. My clients and customers give me the positive feedback I need to know I am on to something good here. Not just with the product of my artwork, but also my methods and thinking around it. Searching for beauty is an inspiration. Finding beauty in the process of making becomes something joyful! It is a full circle.

It must be said, that my family is my biggest asset. They have got my back! My mother names her pottery. The first art plate she got, she calls Uni, for Universe. My sister has what some may consider a mug problem. My brothers are both in sales, so they literally pitch my work to people they know! Artemis and Eli, my children, inspire me every day; they flipping rock!  Greg, my husband, has held my hand through all of it. It is so amazing, to be so loved and supported. I am so thankful.

What gets in your way of living this belief?

An attachment to a final outcome with regards to process versus product can really get in my way of seeing life as art. Or seeing my art as worthy. I much prefer to look at something for what it is and find beauty there. Even if it is not what I had hoped for. My own negative thinking and doubts still creep in, but somehow, I still believe in myself as an Artist, and others’ potential to be creative and benefit from practicing and making art.  I definitely include the dark stuff in the inspiration category too. It is fertile ground!

What is the joy, or satisfaction, or benefit, for you in doing the work to live into this belief?

Personally, I think my move into creating ceramic art saved me from what could have been another serious bout of depression. I was home with my children for 11 years, and then poof! They were both enrolled in public school! I suddenly had all this free time, and the loneliness would creep back in. Luckily I met just the right person at just the right moment. She encouraged me to get back to ceramics, and there was this great community studio where she taught classes... The clay has really worked me over, you know, loosened me up a lot. The ceramic process takes some of the control away, you just have to surrender to the magic, some would say the physics and chemistry of it all!

Ah, yes, making things is actually good for you! Maybe it is in our DNA? Our ancestors certainly made lots of functional art objects and left us clues to their life through their musings on cave walls and ancient temples.  When we allow ourselves to find an art that grabs us and practice it, we express our humanity, we cultivate our joy, our very presence of being. I see it a lot in the pottery studio, people absorbed into a flow state, just so intent on what they are doing with their hands that everything else drops away. It is mindfulness, a form of meditation, and it is healing. You sort of bathe in the creative juices, and you get this hit of dopamine. It is pretty awesome and plain to see how this practice, or way of seeing, can be a benefit to your consciousness. I am happier, more motivated, and engaged in my whole life when I am making art. 

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Thank you, Gina! And thank you to all of you, my dear and wonderful readers. None of this would be possible without you. If you enjoyed this, please feel free to like (click the heart!), share, and comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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