Gerit Grimm is a sculptor and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Born in Halle, Germany, she has been mesmerized by the pottery wheel and the smell of clay since she was 12.
Her work is fairytale-like, distinctive and often large-scale. "I love the enchanted view," she told me. "I try to eliminate everything that distracts from that."
Earlier this year I photographed Gerit in my studio, and last month I got to visit her in hers. Surrounded by a crowd of otherworldly creatures rendered in dark brown ceramic (some nearly life-sized), she answered the Proust questionnaire in her characteristically soft voice.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Getting up every morning and feeling happy in a warm room, sun looking into the window, smelling the coffee. I love to drink my coffee in bed and meditate about the day, so in my head I get ready for the day, what I have to do. I like to eat regularly, meet friends in the evening, go tango dancing, go sailing and see the sunset, always having in my head that I can leave the states and travel somewhere exotic.
What is your greatest fear? Losing the roof over my head, not having enough finances to purchase essentials to my lifestyle like bread, coffee, heat. I fear that my body doesn't do what I want it to do which would include my daily sports and travel. I'm afraid there's not enough clean water.
What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself? I wish I would need less compliments.
What are the traits that you most deplore in others? Moodiness, crankiness and complaining.
What is your greatest extravagance? I am in love with really exquisite dresses and I like my tango shoes. Airplane tickets.
What is your current state of mind? I'm excited to leave for China in two weeks.
What is the most overrated virtue? Politeness.
On what occasion do you lie? Maybe not lying, but I keep quiet if it would hurt people's feelings or if it is not necessary to say things.
What do you most dislike about your appearance? I'm slowly settling in to the idea of accepting that I age. Accepting that life goes on and we all move forward, seeing the beauty in that instead of freaking out that I'm losing what I had in my youth.
Which living person do you most despise? I don't hate anyone.
What is the quality you most like in a man? Kindness, honesty, optimism, adventurous, fun, active in planning things, active in their life.
What is the quality you most like in a woman? Same!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Awesome. I wanna totally eliminate this word. There are a lot of American slang words.
What or who is the greatest love of your life? Travel.
When and where were you happiest? Berlin.
Which talent would you most like to have? I would love to be capable to use my witchcraft to lure any man I like into my charms.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would love to trust myself every second of the day.
What do you consider your greatest achievements? Learning English as a second language. Getting a nice job. Being an art professor. Making work which I respect. Having the courage to lead a sailboat racing team. That I'm getting better in tango.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what would it be? I would love to be a person again!
Where would you most like to live? Berlin!
What is your most treasured possession? A photograph of my dad carrying me on his shoulders. It's starting to bleach out and warp and I need to frame it. I look at it daily.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? The feeling of being disrespected. It takes a lot of effort to build yourself back up.
What is your favorite occupation? Fashion designer.
What is your most marked characteristic? The way I think as an artist and the sculptures that I do.
What do you most value in your friends? If they actually hear when I start falling apart, when they're there when I really need them. That's usually difficult for them to figure out because I start hiding when I feel down but if they're fine-tuned and they see and hear that and they reach out, I love that.
Who are your heroes in real life? My dad, my mom, my brothers, my long-term friends.
What are your favorite names? I like foreign names, anything French or Spanish.
What is it that you most dislike? If I can't figure out what it is I want and if I can't make things happen. I hate beating myself up for being lazy.
What is your greatest regret? Missed opportunities.
How would you like to die? I want to die before I'm not capable of walking or taking care of myself, but ideally I also want to be proud of what I've achieved and I don't want to have any regrets that I didn't live life to the fullest.
What is your motto? It's changed since my dad died; I decided to say yes to everything.
What's the best piece of advice that you ever got? Go out and do it. Do it now.