Tilly Troelstrup is a bad-ass chick. Yeah, she’s covered in tattoos and is so fit she could probably dominate in a fight against a jaguar, but that’s not the point. She’s also badass in that she creates beautiful pieces with intention. When she speaks about her work, you hear so much more than a description of a mug or logical reasoning behind why she added a design to the bottom of a plate–Tilly’s passion for creating pieces that will be loved and treasured is almost palpable.
I love this studio. It has a really special place in my heart and I know it’s going to for a long time. I share with another student. Sharing the space has been the best experience. There’s an open space nearby and we’ve both been offered to move, and we’re each kind of like, Eh, I’m ok.
I covered the doors with postcards from NCECA [National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts] and old students. I like being reminded of students that were here and people who I met from NCECA—having that inspires me and reminds me who came before me. And for other students, when they walk by, sometimes they’ll ask me, Who is this? And I tell them to take it off the wall and look at it.
On her work:
Right now I’m focusing on plates and jars. I focused a lot on cups and bowls when I started out because I really liked the romance of cups. I work on the inside and the outside of cups. I don’t want to say that’s unique, because it’s not unheard of in the ceramics world, but people usually focus on the outside of cups–that’s something that set me apart a bit. I started working with jars last semester. Though they’re less romantic because you’re not putting your mouth to them, you do live with them in a different way, and it gives me a really good opportunity to work on the inside and the outside of the form.
On the romance of her work:
The way we live with these items is romantic. It comes to our face, our lips touch it, our hands caress it. It’s romantic because you’re developing a relationship with the form in its use, whether you’re aware of it or not. That’s also why I like putting things on the inside. If I’m serving you, you might not see whats inside if there’s liquid in it, so as you’re drinking, it is slowly revealing the design. I like toying with that relationship you develop, because if there’s a line going down inside of the cup and you’re drinking from it, you’re like, Oh, that’s fun it’s a straight line, but as you’re drinking it might twist or stop or become a dotted line. And I like toying with that relationship.
On how people react to her work:
I was really struggling with getting my concept across to my users in critiques. What I have come to is that I don’t have something specific that I want you to experience. I draw my inspiration from what I’m calling ‘touch and go encounters.’ When I started my art I was trying to control it, and as I’ve worked with it, I learned that I kind of just need to learn who I am and let the work be. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last couple years, and that’s affected my work. I realized I’m this outgoing, bubbly, introvert. It’s total opposites.
When I go to the grocery store and I’m in line, that’s my favorite experience. I love making jokes with whoever’s in front of me, or waving at the little baby and talking to the cashier. I draw inspiration from those encounters and the possible awkwardness or struggles that I experience. Sometimes people don’t want to laugh or don’t want to talk to an outgoing stranger or they don’t want to talk to a chick covered in tattoos. Sometimes I run into those brick walls.
For me, I’m drawing inspiration, and it means something specific to me, but once I put it out into the world, I don’t necessarily want my viewers to know exactly why I made this plate or what it means. I want it to be interesting enough that it draws them in and it means something for them. It might make them think of something, the color, the lines, or the curiosity. Letting that mean to them whatever that means. To some people they might just think it’s pretty. And that’s ok with me, as long as they use it. Because over time they will develop a relationship with it. Even if it’s just because the piece pretty and they’re excited to use it. It feels good and it makes them feel good when they use it.
In her senior year at Illinois State University, Tilly’s senior show is April 1st. I won’t be able to attend, but I totally recommend it to anyone in the area!