Anne Adams has always been a sucker for anything art. At an early age, she explored different aspects of art; painting, makeup artistry, writing, and creating functional art – that is, art made from aesthetic objects (like bowls, plates, spoons) that we interact with every day and serve utilitarian purposes. “Art,” Anne says, “is a way of unveiling my emotions.”
Known as the clay bender, Anne’s first encounter with clay was when she attended an exhibition in Abuja.
A lady came for an exhibition in Abuja and I was blown away by her amazing clay work. I walked up to her and asked if she could teach me and she said of course, but I had to move to Lagos.
Anne didn’t think twice. She packed her luggage and made a trip down to Lagos. That is how her journey to being a ceramist started.
For someone who studied economics in school, Anne has always been fascinated with colours and brushes. Her life is a story full of twists and turns, a rollercoaster of thoughts and imaginations that she has so far been able to express only through art.
But this newfound love of bending clay was different; it was personal and engulfing. She doesn’t just tell stories through her artwork, she expresses her feelings and emotions. For her, it’s also a way of talking about life and occurrences, documenting events, and fighting for the causes she believes in.
I wanted to speak without saying anything. That’s why every artwork has a story behind them. I’m very particular about lines and symmetry because every single line signifies connectivity, and in life, everything is connected. It’s a circle.
Anne’s career as a ceramist has been good so far. From clinching international clients to sending her artwork for an exhibition in Chicago, and being featured on BBC Pidgin, being a creative in Africa is definitely paying off for her. For someone who kicked off her career in 2020 and lives in a country where many creatives struggle to be seen, heard, known, and felt, one cannot help but wonder how Anne has been able to get her work out there.
Her response is simple:
We have a tool: social media.
When Anne started, she didn’t know she’d one day get the recognition she’s getting now. She just wanted to make art, sell art, love what she does while making money. But after months of posting regularly on social media, Anne discovered that people appreciated her work more than she thought they would. This earned her artwork a place in exhibitions, a home in galleries, and for her, several invitations to shows.
“This work has opened doors for me and I have met people – biiiig people.”
Anne’s journey has not been all roses and scented candles. First, she had to convince people her artwork was worth their attention and money, and even when people got familiar with her style and started praising her work, only a few (in fact, very few) Nigerians were willing to pay for artworks that run into several thousands of Naira.
Getting people to see you and appreciate you is the toughest part of being a creative in Nigeria. I always have to educate people about my work, some people even ask if they can use my arwork as cooking pots or flower vases and most times, I have to say “no, it’s art, it’s beautiful on its own.”
Truth be told, Nigerians also appreciate art a lot when they get to understand it but they don’t buy your artwork because they just don’t have the purchasing power. So most of my artworks are bought by international clients.
And then her family…
My mum has more understanding for art so she was more open to it, but my father wanted me to get a ‘real job’. I had to sell the idea of what I do to him, do a lot of research, and show him pictures of my work.
The whole process is also a tedious one. sometimes, it takes several weeks to finish an artwork.
I buy processed clay most times because it saves my time and energy, but if I get unprocessed clay, I have to pound it for many hours to make it soft and usable and then sieve it. Then I start building with my hands. Many people use machines but this art, for me, is more intricate and personal; building with my hands makes me feel like I’m creating a being.
Then I mould it into a shape. I don’t sketch before moulding, I let my creativity flow and follow my intuition. Then I carve and leave it to dry for about a week. After that, I fire it in a kiln and heat it for about 12 hours. I then wait for 2 days to open it, bring it out and add the oxides (colours), and then fire again for another 12 hours.
There’s also the bigger problem of being a creative in Nigeria.
The creative industry is not a really friendly one. They don’t bring in young artists in exhibitions and shows, so young artists struggle to find their feet in the industry. That’s why many have to leverage social media to ensure their works are seen.
If we want to go far as creatives, we must go with people. Creatives need to come together to create platforms where we all can thrive and grow. I am in an art group where we all help each other, give feedback on our works and introduce one another to gigs. We can do that on a larger scale.
As an artist, you also have to develop yourself because good work speaks for itself. Block the outside noise, and focus on producing things that when people see, they have no choice but to appreciate. When you grow, your brand also grows.
Anne’s dream is to ensure that art is appreciated better in Nigeria and artists get a platform where they can make strides.
Ceramic art is an ancient practice, and will always be here. I want to teach more people wlling to start it, encourage them and create opportunities for everyone to showcase their work, learn more and bloom. I also want to have a gallery where artists, especially young and unpopular ones, can come exhibit their work.
BN Creatives’ Corner is a series that gives creatives living and working in Africa the platform to showcase their work, talk about their journey, struggles and highlights of being creatives in Africa.
Many thanks to Anne Adams for sharing her journey with us. You can see more of her work on Instagram: @adamsanne