Tab Link (They/She) is a Midwestern artist who investigates queerness and perception through functional ceramic objects and atmospheric firing effects. In 2011, they began an apprenticeship with Gary Carstens where they participated in their first wood-firing. Since then, they have gone on to participate in various atmospheric firings and lead salt-fire workshops at Adamah Arts Studio in Dodgeville, WI. They received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2018. Shortly after, they moved to Dubuque, Iowa, where they worked to improve local arts visibility, taught community arts programs, and established a working studio practice.
Today, Tab’s passion for the ceramics arts has led them to pursue firing opportunities around the country. Most recently as the Spring 2023 Artist-in-Residence at Township 10 in Marshall, North Carolina, focusing on a newly built gas-salt kiln. Through firing various styles of kilns, Tab explores their personal microsphere of material, presentation, and intention as well as the macrosphere of community around firing teams, knowledge sharing, and influence. They strive to record and share these experiences to further their own understanding of ceramic material and to encourage and provide access to their community.
Ceramic vessels have an innate human connection. We are the only ones who create things to hold. These familiar objects are a baseline connection to my audience; a place to explore queerness, interpersonal relations, and the labor required for both.
I use stoneware and b-mix to create familiar forms with subtle queer qualities. Quiet quirks reflect my own relationship with my queerness. Where I grew up in the midwest, I didn’t have many queer role models. I felt different, out of place, and without the words to describe it for most of my life. I am still unsure, trying one thing or another until I find a place to fit. This is also how I build my pots, altering traditional thrown forms, attempting to queer their posture, presence, and usage. Using a mix of impulsive and calculated moves, I bend, carve, and combine thrown forms until they feel like a whole.
High-temperature wood firing is also a combination of impulsive and calculated moves. The kiln becomes an expedited version of the earth, adding outside pressure to our work. Surface design is decided by the positioning of the pieces in the kiln and how the flames will move between them; glaze and slip are used, only to be changed by the ash accumulated from our labors. By finishing these pieces in atmospheric firings, the kiln puts its take on the form such as society puts its take on queer bodies. Unlike people, its impulses and calculations are recorded for all to see.