Visiting Artist: Corinna Cowles


Corinna Cowles is an artist who delves into the intricate connections between various elements: the interplay of color and pattern, the intersection of domestic architecture and the human body, and the fusion of text with textile. Her creative journey unfolds within a dynamic realm where materials and techniques are ever-shifting, giving rise to a diverse range of installations encompassing painting, drawing, ceramics, and fibers. Recently, she has immersed herself in the realm of ceramics.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your artistic background. How did you start making ceramic goods? 

Hi, I’m Corinna Cowles. I'm a painter and ceramicist living in West Philly. I also do some clay classes at Black Hound where people come and learn all my secrets. I have a BFA in studio arts from Columbia College Chicago and an MFA in painting from Tyler at Temple. 

I fell in love with clay in grad school while constructing hooks to install my fabric paintings. I started focusing on it professionally because I really enjoy learning all of the processes: dying clay, painting, glazing, firing, shaping, inlays, and all kinds of other techniques. 

Clay lets me create objects and experiences where color and pattern, domestic architecture and the body, text and textile lose their individual definition and take shared shape in a playful space of mutable materials and methods — installation, painting, drawing, ceramics, and fibers. I see it as a natural move from the type of work I was doing with large-scale fabric paintings.

Talk about your style and how you foster creativity.

My style is material focused, process oriented, and very very maximalist. I get inspiration from the nuggets of color, shape, and texture that surround me as I take my daily walks through my neighborhood. I also look to art, textiles, and raw materials as inspiration for my work. 

Making collages — the painting, cutting, layering, and reworking of scraps, drawings, and ideas — allows me to play with these images and process them into works on paper. That play — those discoveries — directly inspire my ceramic vessels and tableware. That's how I keep it fresh!

What is it like being an artist in Philadelphia? 

Honestly, it took me a while to get used to Philly - it’s very different from Chicago where I did my undergrad. 

I’ve been here for almost 10 years now and I finally feel like I’ve found my groove. Philly has a certain materiality and freeness to me. There are also so many talented makers here. It's been fun to be inspired by — and to share, through my work — the colors, the textures, and even the trash piles that call this weird place home. 

What do you listen to while you work? What are some of your inspirations, or who?

Oh yeah I’m always listening to something when I’m working. My headphones let everyone know I’m in ‘do not disturb’ mode.

I go for music that helps me focus on my work and get into my materials — but I guess it depends on the type of work I'm doing. Pot bottom grinding music is not the same vibe as painting music. I’ll go for an episode of Dateline or Generation Why if I’m trying to manage my time and knock out a to-do list. 

Tell us what you have going on this year! Any upcoming markets? 

It’s the busiest time of the year for me! I’ll be working on shop updates, custom orders, and preparing work for exhibitions. I’m also teaching my Tableware and Color in Clay classes at Black Hound.

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