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Name: Christiane Lakowsky
Profession: Ceramic Artist
Instagram: @sisi.tonia

Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do 

My name is Christiane of the label Sisitonia and I must admit, that I am sometimes not sure, if what I make is art though I have lived in a creative environment all my life. I studied scenic design for stage and film and later, when working on theatre productions proofed incompatible with raising kids, I studied art education and became an art teacher.

My parents both had studied art. My father was a very successful artist while my mother cared for me and my sister (typical for many artist mothers) and took up painting again very late, at the age of 70. At home, we were always encouraged to be artistic and creative. Because of that, I have painted, written, and drawn throughout my life. Nonetheless, for me "making art" is more of a “state of being” that has to be defended, again and again, against all opposition. It’s a kind of inner attitude that often escapes me, but when I manage to catch it, it gives me enormous freedom.

My latest project is quite simple: I make imperfect cups out of clay and all one of a kind, which I paint inspired by fashion and patterns, emojis and signs that are understandable everywhere in the world. This pottery project was born during the recent pandemic. Everyone started baking bread and making pottery (of course in the more privileged parts of the world, who weren’t hit existentially by the lockdowns). Like everyone, I had lots of time and no chance to travel, and instead I sent my cups on the road. So, that way I was somewhat connected to the world.

Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?

My career in theatre was over after I had children. I still tried for a while, but I couldn't keep up the double workload of sometimes evening shows and out of town engagements for long. After that, I tried to integrate artistic projects into everyday life. For 10 minutes here, a quarter of an hour there. Hand painting the tiles for the house we were renovating (and also for customers), always took 15 minutes per piece. Or I painted together with the children, or we made music.

I painted in the evening. After teaching an art class and when the students were gone, I snug in quickly a drawing or a collage or a linocut with whatever materials were still lying around in the classroom. I knew many art techniques and could quickly implement in those “stolen” moments. But a real art practice lay fallow for very long time, and I was very torn. I also believe that through having a family and children we mothers get a completely different focus and view of the world.

At least, I started thinking differently. While my father simply made his art and earned money with it, my mother was responsible for raising us children - me and my sister. That changed when we started school. Then my mother and father shared the responsibility. I repeated in my own life a similar way, though consciously. I wanted to be an even better mother than my own mother, because, of course, although she had had her own ambitions at that time, somehow, she always worked a job on the side and therefore didn’t have the time to organize the wonderful children's birthdays all the other kids around us had. As I'm writing right now, it makes me realize, how much of art production has to do with a free space, even in the literal sense. I have to be able to claim my space without a guilty conscience, or better, against my guilty conscience. I wasn’t able to do that at the time. On the other hand, my children have always inspired me a lot and still do.

My accomplice at the beginning of Sisitonia was a little girl, the daughter of friends from Berlin. I looked after her one afternoon, so that her parents could have a few hours to them-selves, and I suggested that we do pottery together. Soon later, the first cups were created, and I knew this could be something more. The next morning at breakfast I had a plan ready.

Can you name another woman (artist) who inspires you and explain why?

I could name countless artists, who I find great and who have inspired me time and again, simply because they dared to be themselves, against all resistance. And some of them have also used the life of the "housewife", often with humor and joy. Like Lilli Fischer, for example.

Also, Cindy Sherman with her transformations were an important, early experience for me of "You can be anything. Dress the part and take on the role". 

Then there is Louise Bourgeois with her huge objects, making herself visible and big.

Camille Claudel (whose biography my mother gave me as a gift) Alice Nel, and very important: Maria Lassnig, who was a professor in Vienna when I studied there, but not yet rediscovered. That happened only later. Most of these women were recognized late in life, sometimes only after their death.

And close to home, I think of my neighbour and friend Eva-Maria Jensch, whose studio I pass every day by bike and peek through the windows. She has influenced me greatly with her tenacious will, hard work and diligence.

And of course, Anna Oppermann, who lived in Hamburg just a few streets away from my parents’ apartment, and who at her kitchen table, when her small son was asleep, wrote note after note, drew, and built all of it into large-scale installations. That taught me “It's not possible” doesn't exist, I just had to find a way. But I was always so busy earning money, raising children, renovating, and expanding an old farmhouse, that only a small watercolor in the evening, a drawing during the vacations, sometimes a silkscreen or a linocut or something formed from clay came out of me.

Pottery was ultimately the most fun for me, and I've finally been doing that for nine months every day now. As far as working with clay, there are three men who inspired me. 1. Grayson Perry, 2. Fischli and 3. Weiss with their sprawling clay work "Suddenly this overview”. I don't necessarily make a distinction if the inspiration comes from a man or a woman. What inspires me, inspires me. It's not like I always feel as a woman. That's just one of my roles in society. As an artist, alone in my studio (I finally have one!), it doesn't matter if its "he/she" or "nonbinary" as they say today.

What was the biggest challenge of being a female artist? 

Gaining visibility. That was so difficult at the theatre, I went to all the premiere parties and spoke with everyone and still faded into the background and wasn’t seen/recognized. In the theatre workshops, I sometimes had to listen to the craftsmen say, "But, an-gel, that won’t work that way!” when I wanted something built in a certain way. The male colleagues were taken seriously. I always found the vanity of male directors and my fellow male set designers a bit embarrassing. 

I never wanted to be like that. I've since learned that there's a difference between vanity or unhealthy narcissism and self-confidence, and that it's okay to think you're great and that art is also an assertion! Check this out. That's what I made, and if it makes you happy, that makes me happy as well. That was different perspective, and it was my biggest challenge to realize that, and then to try it out. To dare. Women often wait to be noticed. To advertise myself and know what I can do, that was my biggest challenge. And nowadays everything is much easier, because I do absolutely everything myself, because ceramics is a traditionally female field, and because thanks to internet networks, many things have become easier.

What do you want people to notice about your artwork?

That's a difficult question. Maybe the joy that I have in creating it. Maybe that "she made that, just like that” and that I dared to embrace intuition and imperfection. And I would like my work to inspire others to create something themselves. Just like that.

Each Monday we bring you a fresh interview with a female artist.