Amy Briggs has done everything from bodybuilding to business school, but today, she has discovered that her passion lies in creating art.
She said everyone has something that prevents them from going crazy, and art is the outlet that keeps her sane.
Briggs grew up in Auburn, Alabama, in a loving home environment. After graduating high school in 2012, she set out to Mobile to attend business school at the University of South Alabama.
“When I graduated I was put in that track,” she said as to why she went to business school. “I have always been very assertive and capable of leading.”
She thought she had found her calling in business school because she was in it to be “applicable.” Then, Briggs worked through classes that dove deeper into the business world, like the mathematical and law side.
“I started to see through corporations,” Briggs said. “They kept pushing and pushing for people to go into big, large corporate internships with people who don’t care what your name is and just people who just want you as a worker and nothing else.”
During this eye-opening time in her life, she began to question what she wanted and where to go in her education and career. At the same time, Briggs became certified to instruct whitewater rafting and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
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“I was having this existential crisis about having this lifelong disease, and I was seeing all these new people that living on the river making no money, but as happy as can be,” she said.
This made her question much about her life. She told her mother she wanted to drop out of college and be a flight attendant or attend some kind of trade school, such as culinary. Her mother told her that instead of doing that she would allow her one semester to take any classes she wanted to help her figure out the path she wanted to take.
Briggs chose to take all art classes.
“I loaded up my classes with perceptual drawing and ceramics, and I had intro to ancient literature and Greek culture class and I also had a sociology class,” she said. “I was learning about the social setting and the historical settings of the social paradigm that we are in.”
Briggs said once she started these classes, specifically the art-based sections, she began to see the world from a new perspective.
“I couldn’t go back,” Briggs said.
Briggs moved back to Auburn with the motivation to begin art school. In the fall of 2015, she was enrolled in art school at Auburn University. She took all art classes and received all As.
“I came from South Alabama with a GPA of 2.75, and I’m about to graduate this semester with a 3.8,” Briggs said. “That is proof that what I was in I was not wanting to do.”
Her testament to this self discovery is that the key to finding purpose is by being truthful with oneself. Briggs suffers from depression and has found art to be an outlet that aids her in her journey of life. Art has allowed her to see the world and relate to it.
“If I would have listened to other people, I would never be a ceramic artist or an aspiring sculptor,” she said. “I would be a business woman behind a desk suffering from Crohn’s disease, miserable.”
Art has helped guide Briggs through emotional distress and her physical ailments. She was put in the hospital three times last year and was very ill.
“Something my doctors told me was stress will kill you, and with my disease it will kill you even faster,” Briggs said. “If I was in business school and remained doing what I was doing, I would have died behind a desk somewhere with no one knowing who I was or what I stand for, and that’s not the way I want to be.”
Right now, Briggs is working on a three-part ceramic series that is inspired by kudzu, caves and plant life in the desert, and metaphorically represents something deeper than what meets the eye.
Briggs made the kudzu section to flow along the ideal that the cycle of the plant went along with her mental state at the time: untouched, consumed, fully consumed and deteriorated.
“I think the behavior of nature as a whole, as a series, has been me confronting the metaphoric qualities of nature and what we can learn from it,” Briggs said.
The desert and uncommon environments have been inspiring to Briggs in the fact she sees personification in their pieces and has used the phrase “growth in inhospitable environments” to describe and represent what she sees, feels and believes after creating art from the inspiration.
“‘Caves’ was the subconscious of the earth. You can find all these gems in caves, and it’s underneath the surface where you can’t see it. This is what we deal with in our heads,” she said.
Briggs thinks it is very important that the artist has an emotional connection to the art they are producing and what has inspired them.
She has excelled as an artist and was the first student asked to do a solo show at Auburn. However, she did not get to where she is on her own. Briggs has had two notable professors throughout her art school career that have pushed her and inspired her.
The first is Tony Wright from South Alabama. Briggs said he was always so happy to be teaching, and claims he influenced her in “every way possible.”
“He was the one that introduced me to a lot of the firing techniques that I like to use, and all those introductions came from him in such a nonchalant manner. It just made me want to pursue it even more,” Briggs said.
The other is Annie Campbell, who is a professor at Auburn University. Briggs said Campbell has supported her through sickness and existential crises. More than just that, she said she also gives her motherly, as well as sisterly, support.
“She knows my personality, and what I need,” Briggs said.
Briggs intends on going to graduate school to pursue sculpting because it has a lot more access to tools and machinery she does not currently have. Afterwards, her big dreams lie with wanting to have her own community studio that is run by Briggs.
“I do not believe I went to business school for nothing,” Brigg said. “The end goal is a community studio where I run it and have employees. There would be studio space available for rental in the back, and in the front would be having a gallery.”
Briggs also wants to sell her work for the community in her dream studio. Being involved in the community has been very important to her throughout her entire artistic journey.
Briggs has donated many pieces and proceeds from her work sales to help those less fortunate.
She has participated in showcases and sells her work around Auburn. One of her retailers is Mama Mocha’s, a local coffee shop on Gay Street.
She has been selling there for two and a half years and said the owner, Sarah Gill, has become not only a good friend to her, but one of her biggest supporters who has encouraged Briggs to get her pottery in the shop even when she knows Briggs is feeling low.
Her work has been well received, but Briggs knows there is still a road ahead of her until her dreams are accomplished.
In the end, she just hopes to be fulfilled in what she has done and created.
“I don’t aspire to be happy,” Briggs said. “I aspire to be fulfilled.”
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