Tab Link (they/them) is an artist and arts organizer with a background in ceramics. They grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, and currently divide their time between Dubuque and the Madison, Wisconsin area.
As an artist, Tab investigates queerness and perception through functional ceramic objects and atmospheric firing. They have been firing atmospheric kilns—salt, soda, and wood—since 2011. Tab apprenticed with Gary Carstens at Mississippi Mud Studios and received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2018.
Tab’s passion for the ceramics arts has led them to pursue firing opportunities nationwide. 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 not only develops their own practice but also explores the dynamics around firing teams, knowledge sharing, and influence. They strive to document and share findings on materials and processes and to encourage and expand access in the ceramics community.
In addition to their work as an artist, Tab is actively involved with various art organizations in the tri-state area. They currently serve as the gallery manager for Planted. in Dubuque, where they are most excited to facilitate group shows that offer both emerging and established artists ample opportunities to showcase their work and connect with each other.
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.