On Being In Your Body: Carissa Potter
Originally from Minneapolis, Carissa Potter lives and works in Oakland, California. Her prints and small-scale objects reflect her hopeless romanticism through their investigations into public and private intimacy. Speaking both humorously and poignantly to the human condition, Carissa's work touches chords we all can relate to - exploring situations we've all experienced at some point in our lives and conveying messages we simply long to hear. Carissa Potter is a founding member of Colpa Press and founder of People I’ve Loved. Since 2010, she has been an artist in residence at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, where she teaches letterpress. She also serves as a mentor in Southern Exposure’s One-on-One Mentor-ship Program. She finished her first book with Chronicle books in 2015 titled "I like you, I love you." In 2016, Carissa was an artist in residence at Facebook. Carissa received her MFA in Printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2010. Currently she is working on being a better listener and her second book, titled "You Will Feel Better."
How did you two start People I've Loved? How do you feel about its success?
"People I’ve loved really started from a longing for connection, meaning, and love of physical objects. I think that right now as a society are going through a crisis of meaning. What I mean by that is I think lots of people are searching for purpose. Relationships and making are a real way to feel like it is all worth it."
What are your favorite types of projects to work on?
"I love working on things that are conceptually intertwined with whatever mental craziness I am going through at the moment. I honestly believe you can find something interesting in every project and every person, you just need to listen."
You have a book out from the Chronicle called I Like You, I Love You, about the beginning stages of a relationship and how it transitions. What inspired you to write this book and what important lessons have you learned from your relationships?
Oh my, so I love relationships. Of all kinds. Today I have been focusing on my love of plants. Eeeek. That sounds crazy. Anyway, I wanted to look at the subtle transitions in feelings and emotions that happen with people.
I have a friend who about a year ago received the breakup line “I don’t know what it is that makes you feel like you want to grow old with someone, but I don’t feel it for you.” That really got me thinking. How do you know when it is right? For most of my life I have struggled with that.
Right now, for me, I feel really lucky, I found someone I want to spend a good chunk of time with. I knew pretty fast when we were together because things were just so easy. But that does not mean that we don’t both work really hard at our relationship. I guess we both were just ready. I never thought I would end up with someone who had drastically different beliefs than I do, it is just magical.
Some lessons inspired from Helen Fisher’s work...
1. Schedule some sex. Make it a routine even if you are not in the mood. 2. Do new and interesting stuff together. 3. Focus on the good stuff about the other person."
Could you tell us the vision behind your new feminist workwear, “Women’s Work” and what you hope to do with it?
"We started it with Emma Molin. And it was out of this need for workwear for ladies. Clothes to make things in, get messy and be comfortable. Starting a clothing line was so hard. There was just no way we could make things out of linen, in the USA and have them not be like a million bucks. We would have had to compromise and I have a hard time with that."
In our current digital age, why does People I’ve Loved value and emphasize “tactile” communication between people? Between their bodies. Why do you believe it’s an important somatic exchange that human beings should maintain?
"I don’t want to be preachy but I really believe that there is something really special about communicating with your senses. Reading hearing the rhythm of breath, smelling sweat, or deeply looking into someone’s eyes is therapeutic for me. I am definitely a product of a narcist individualist (this I think is why I feel so isolated and lost) culture, but I am not sure I am all that special or different than anyone else. Feeling close to people makes me complete in a way. I am totally not anti-digital, I am pro tech, but I am also pro-oldschool human to human. I think the trick is to balance."
Why do you think it is important for women to come together and collaborate?
"I think it is imperative for diverse people of all backgrounds to share their personal narrative. We have so much in common and there is so much good we can do. Two brains are better than one."
What struggles have you faced being women in an artistic career and how have you challenged those limitations?
"I get called “Little Girl” a lot. Not sure why. But I brush it off. Which I should probably say something however I just feel like people don’t mean to be mean. I think I have had a lot of privileges as a person beyond being a woman. I had enough food growing up, I had parents who loved me, I am white, I never had any body issues, and was able to go to good schools (despite having over 100k in debt because of it). I think that being a woman is a complex thing. There are so many intersecting axis points of personality that can and do affect us. I feel really lucky to be born in this time, and in the USA. For all it’s fuckedupness, I strongly believe that it is the best life throughout history that anyone could hope for. That does not mean that we should not work to make it better."
What is your manifesto for young creative women?
"Work hard. I really think that that is the secret. And be nice. People like nice people. Heck, I like nice people."