Rachel Ballard is a ceramic sculptor and performance artist based in Atlanta, GA. She earned a BFA from Appalachian State University and an MFA from Georgia State University in 2017. She has been an invited artist-in-residence at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts. Her work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, NCECA, and The Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts. She was most recently an emerging writer in BURNAWAY's Art Writers Mentorship Program, where she developed her writing around craft theory and criticism. She currently teaches as a Visiting Lecturer at Georgia State University's Welch School of Art & Design.
I use clay, in its various stages, as a means of exploration and understanding of femininity, trauma, and craft.
Recently, my sculptural works have evolved into obnoxiously cute creatures. The “schmoopies” are my way of rebelling against unmonumental trends in both contemporary art and craft. They are an exaggerated amalgamation of predictable, cute, kitsch objects. Sianne Ngai writes, "There can be no experience of any person or object as cute that does not somehow call up the subject’s sense of power over those who are less powerful." The "schmoopies" are no exception. These small doe-eyed creatures may appear innocent at first glance, but a quiet defiance and strength stirs beneath their sparkling glazed surfaces.
Video animates concepts and narratives that cannot be contained in a static object. The creation of the character, Amber Fine Sparkle gives me the opportunity to insert a direct sense of humor into the work. Named after an aventurine glaze by acclaimed ceramist, Lisa Orr, Amber Fine Sparkle highlights the tendency to fetishize technique within the craft community. With her porcelain cream dress, lumpy clay glasses, childlike enthusiasm, and obsessive expertise in ceramics, Amber allows me to embody and simultaneously tease that fetish through satire. Her character represents a duality and struggle within myself to embrace my southern craft-centric roots while also working to push beyond them into a broader art context.