Jeffrey Stephen Miller is a sculptor from Rhode Island in the US. This globetrotting artist has exhibited his work in the US, France, Latvia, Estonia, and China. For almost a year, Miller has taught art at schools around Beijing. He also gives classes at Miller/Reis Art Studios, the center he co-opened with fellow artist Filipa Reis. Besides teaching at his studio, he is currently working on an exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA). Miller spoke to students at the International School of Beijing about two of his recent projects: a series of giant needle sculptures made up of many tiny parts, and hutong roof tiles made of reclaimed ceramic plates.
Roanna Zou, 9, US
What inspired you to sculpt?
When I was in high school, I got an opportunity to do an internship. The internship was in a pottery studio, so they really mentored me and taught me how to do pottery and ceramics. From them teaching me these things, I got really inspired and they gave me confidence to continue making art.
Joanne Wang, 10, Taiwan
Did you always want to be an artist?
Not always. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. One of the weirdest jobs I had was working for a helicopter company.
Jonah Beeman, 10, US
How long does it usually take to make one of your sculptures?
I make a lot of teeny parts, so one sculpture could take three months to make.
Casper Suen, 11, US/China
What type of sculptures do you like to make most?
I like to make sculptures that are abstract and have tiny parts. When you put them together, they make really big sculptures.
Kelly Westberg, 10, US
Are any of your sculptures inspired by family and friends?
Yes. When I was a kid, my father and I really liked science fiction movies and TV. We watched a lot of Star Trek, so I was inspired to make foreign and alien objects from that.
Stephanie Cheng, 10, Singapore
Do you have any siblings?
No, I’m actually an only child. But my aunt is a potter.
Aaron Hsieh, 10, US
Who’s your favorite sculptor?
There’s an artist called Anish Kapoor that I really like. And also two of my professors, Chris Miller and Anton Reijnders. My favorite sculptors are usually the ones that I’ve met and talked to.
Willy Lee, 10, South Korea
What do you do with your artwork after it’s finished?
After it’s finished, it can go into a gallery or someone can buy it. Sometimes, I donate it or give it to a friend.
Julia Bushman, 10, US
Did you ever make a sculpture that broke?
Yes, everything you’ve seen in the presentation has probably broken three times. Lots of stuff that I make breaks.
Youngwoo Kim, 10, South Korea
How do you think of your ideas?
In the back of my mind, I’m always thinking about what could turn into a sculpture or a painting. I think of what kind of material I can use or how something can influence me.
Noah Sun, 11, US
Do you use other resources to make your sculptures besides clay?
I use string, metal, paper, pretty much anything that I can find. I’m making a lot of work now that is just things that I can buy in the community that my studio is around.
Stone Tao, 11, US
What materials would you use if you only had nature?
If I couldn’t use clay, I would maybe use rocks, tree branches, and ice.
Max Zhang, 10, Canada
How many roof tiles have you made so far?
Right now, we’ve only made a couple because we’re still working out a lot of the technical parts of doing it. We have a show in April where we’re going to have to make a lot more.
Stanley Park, 11, South Korea
When you crush ceramic plates, is it dangerous?
It can be, but we wear big goggles and we keep the place ventilated so that there’s no dust. There’s a gigantic vent or fan that turns on, that sucks all the dust out of the air.
Miles Gold, 10, US
How much does each tile weigh?
Each tile maybe has three plates in it. So if you can imagine a dinner plate times three, it’s probably that much.
Drason Zhang, 11, US
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I try to hang out with my other artist friends as much as possible. I also like to watch movies and play with my dog.
Claire Lee, 11, South Korea
Do you feel most happy when you finish a sculpture?
I feel the most happiness when I’m working and I’m making lots of progress.
Eden Lin, 11, US
What is your favorite color?