Ursula Federli-Frick completed her pottery apprenticeship at Keramik Schaedler in Nendeln from 1982 to 1985. After years of travelling and a one-year art scholarship from the Liechtenstein Cultural Foundation doing Performance in New York, she settled down. Today she works as a ceramicist, teaches at the Art School, supervises the ceramic studio at Resch, gives courses at Bodmer Ton and is also active in adult education. Ursula Federli-Frick regularly presents her works at exhibitions and ceramic markets. She is 55 years old and lives with her husband and 17-year-old son in an old farmhouse in Altstätten.
Where and how did you grow up?
Uncomfortably in Balzers.
Could you describe your professional background?
I came to pottery by chance. My mother had heard that Keramik Schaedler was looking for an apprentice. Yes, and then it already turned out to be a good fit at my trial day. My instructor Ferdi Kranz taught me pottery as a traditional craft. I sat at the potter’s wheel for hours and made utensils. I loved this profession straight away. After the apprenticeship, I felt the need to go abroad. I went on long trips alone and explored the world. Looking back it was probably a search for a purpose or a calling.
Were there certain events or activities that were formative for your career?
It was more like a burbling brook… the events kept flowing into each other.
Were there certain people who were formative for your career?
Not specific people, but rather an abundance of encounters that have inspired me on my creative path.
Has your environment supported you in your career?
There was certainly no one standing in my way – that was already good.
What are your current activities?
I’m spending a lot of time in the forest and at my mother’s, I cook with my son, drink beer with my husband, teach ceramics, cast porcelain mugs, research old glazes and observe what is going on inside me and outside.
Does what you are currently doing fulfil you?
Yes very much. One leads to the other. I am free, independent and can combine work, leisure and family. That allows my creativity to flow.
Do you think that you yourself have an influence on whether your activities are fulfilling?
Yes, no one takes the work off your hands. For me it’s basically a matter of finding the balance between challenge and excessive demand.
What or who inspires you in everyday life?
Nature as well as people and their creations are a never-ending source of inspiration for me.
What or who gives you strength and energy in everyday life?
Life itself and my curiosity.
There are ‘magic moments’ when everything seems to fit. Moments that fulfil, inspire and give strength. Moments that confirm that the effort is worthwhile and that what you do is meaningful and valuable. Have you already experienced such moments in relation to your own activities?
When suddenly an inner image appears that makes the idea of a new work apparent, when I then was able to overcome all the technical difficulties and when finally it is well presented. But also when a stimulating dynamic arises during teaching – that exchange with the students gives me great pleasure.
Do you actively do something for it, so that such ‘magic’ moments can happen?
In teaching situations it helps if I have a good ‘mise en place’. And then: stay focused, keep at it.
Are there moments when you doubt what you are doing?
The doubts come more when I don’t do it. And then it’s a case of ‘keep calm and carry on’.
In retrospect, can you find something positive in difficult moments?
The difficult moments have brought me to where I am now. Leaving the comfort zone is crucial for growth.
Is there anything you would do differently in retrospect?
There are probably a few wrong decisions, but it doesn’t really matter.
Do you want to contribute to society with your activities?
In my pottery classes I always feel the positive effect this activity has – it is meaningful and satisfying.
Is the recognition of other people or the public important to you?
I would prefer it if it wasn’t like that. But it does act as an encouragement, I can’t deny that.
How well can you live from what you do professionally?
We lead a modest life and can finance it with our joint income.
Is there something that is particularly occupying you at the moment?
What’s going on around the world at the moment is unfathomable. That’s why presently I like to get lost in details , take a closer look and also appreciate small steps.
Is there something you would like to (increasingly) spend time on in the future?
I continue with what I am working on. One theme is the alchemy in the glazes.
What are you most grateful for in life?
That despite my unconventional lifestyle, I am allowed to have a beautiful home and a superb, small family.
This interview is part of the project ‘Magic Moments’ by Kunstverein Schichtwechsel, in which people are interviewed about their careers, activities and their magical as well as difficult moments.
Curated by Stefani Andersen and Laura Hilti, Kunstverein Schichtwechsel.
Supported by Kulturstiftung Liechtenstein and Stiftung Fürstl. Kommerzienrat Guido Feger.
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