10 Questions for our alumni
Jason Lee Starin, BFA, Studio Art (Ceramics), 1999
1. Why did you choose to attend Grand Valley?
I choose Grand Valley because they choose me. Also, in the mid 90's before the huge campus expansion, including the current Art Center, I was interested in being part of a smaller and more centralized community. Being from the small rural town of Highland, Michigan, Allendale's campus felt like home but also instilled a notion of independence.
2. How or why did you choose your major or main emphasis area?
Since an early age, I have been working in clay. In junior high, I was taught the geometry of how to make figurative sculptures. I became enamored with modeling people and animals. Ceramics was the first thing that instilled confidence in my interests and abilities. I knew from a very young age what I wanted to do with my life.
3. What advice do you have for future students thinking about colleges?
Do your research. Find out who the art professors are and what they make. Do you like their work? Ask yourself why. What the professors make and the ideas they work with will influence what you learn in the classroom, in the studio, and your burgeoning art practice. Apply to many schools, in and out of state. Go visit them, and feel out the campus and town they are in. Do you think you could live there for four to five years? Ask yourself what your needs are, socially, academically, as a young independent adult. See first hand if that college can provide the answers you are looking to question. College is just the start to a long life journey of self-awareness in the greater world.
4. What advise do you have for current students thinking about careers?
A career in the arts is about persistence, it never ends. Learn to gracefully accept rejection over and over again. Learn from it. How can you improve? If you want something really bad, apply often to the same call, year after year until you get it. Show them you are serious about what you make. Tell them it's important through repetition. Understand that you don't deserve anything you haven't truly worked for, regardless of how much talent people have told you you have. Furthermore, no one wants to hear your pity story, we all have problems. Buck up, stay strong. Be nice to everyone you meet, you never know who you might be talking to or who your peers will become in the future. Lastly, and most importantly, the artist's life is emotionally intense. There is no shame in seeking out therapy when you need it. You'll make better art work for it!
5. What did you do after graduating?
I did not follow my own advice. I lost confidence in myself. I spent ten years searching and experimenting, flopping from random job to random job, wallowing in my own existential art life crisis before going back to graduate school. I regret most of that time, but I only have myself to blame. While attending The Applied Craft and Design MFA at Pacific Northwest College of Art and Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland Oregon, I started to regain focus on my life and my artistic needs. Coincidently, I did not work with ceramics during that lost decade of soul searching...
6. What are you doing now?
Things are really great now. I live in Philadelphia where I am a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio, an internationally recognized organization which supports the larger ceramic community. I am also a Faculty Member and Ceramic Shop Supervisor for the Craft and Material Studies Department at The University Of the Arts. This past summer I was a resident artist in Skagaströnd, Iceland at the NES Foundation researching the Geomythology of the Nordic country and culture.
7. How have you used the skills you developed in your field of study in your life and/or career after GVSU?
I have taught ceramics classes in hand building with a few different organizations. I have made a job out of my technical expertise with the ceramics process and its relationship to kiln firing. Ironically enough, I was never that interested in kiln firing during my time at GVSU, couldn't really wrap my head around it. Last semester, however, I taught an undergraduate class on kiln technologies including oxidation and reduction firing.
8. What is the best advice you got from an instructor at Grand Valley? What is your favorite memory of being a student at Grand Valley?
It was an unspoken gesture, but the advice from Dellas Henke in my Printmaking class was don't let a lack of material inhibit your creative process. I was in a funk for the majority of that semester, just sitting at my table for the majority of the class time staring out into nothingness. Dellas never gave me any guff about it, just asked me what was up every week, until he gave me two huge boards of which to make a massive woodcut print from. The size of the boards was inspiring, my creative spirit was immediately reawakened. I will never forget that gift. To this day I always make sure to have lots of raw clay on hand in my studio just waiting for potential expression.
9. What is your favorite memory of being a student at Grand Valley?
Oh, geez. I probably shouldn't answer. Maybe driving a car across the Little Mac bridge. Possibly setting The Rock on fire. The list goes on. WCKS Cable Channel 7 with the volume turned all the way up on the TV, was a motley crew of freaks and weirdos. They adopted me my first day of freshman year. At one point I was the vice president. I was also a late-night Techno DJ. I was exposed to a lot of great new music and welcomed graciously by a group of captivating young intellectuals.
10. Anything else you would like to share with our Visual and Media Arts Community?
Image credit by Jason Lee Starin. You can see more of Jason's work online at https://jasonleestarin.com/.
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