Spotlight: Corn Cook

I’m Corn like the vegetable, not like the band. I always like to make that clear. I use they/them pronouns. I’m a Psychology major and I might also end up being an Africana studies major. I have enough for a minor in Africana studies right now but I might end up making it a major. I do both ceramics and memoirs. I ran away/was kicked out at the age of seventeen, then I got housing because I was going to boarding school on a full scholarship. So, I have a very interesting life story before my college years. It’s a lot of stuff to write and make art about.

Conversation with Corn Cook

Interview conducted by Jen Doyle

Q: What is something about you (personal, about your art/writing, et.c) that would surprise people to learn?

A: I like to call the ceramics pieces I make gifts but I don’t actually give them to people. I have a very strange relationship with my family where I am at times talking to them but also no-contact so a lot of the pieces I make are usually from when I’m feeling negative or sad feelings about a certain family member–I like to make them a gift. Which is something that I think represents them and our current relationship. It’s how I see us.

I feel like that’s really good for deconstructing what I’m feeling, processing what I’m feeling. So it’s always kind of strange that the pieces I make are for people that I probably dislike the most in my life actively.

Q: What does your creative process look like when approaching a piece? What part of the process comes first?

A: I am usually in the studio after I journal. So I have a person in mind beforehand. There are some pieces that I have made for fun, or randomly, that turn into pieces I make for someone else, but usually I have someone in mind. I make more functional pieces rather than sculptural so sometimes I even take into account: Do I think this person will prefer a mug, or a bowl, or a platter? So I am definitely keeping that person’s preferences in mind. Since I don’t talk to most of my family it’s my way of keeping them in my life and honoring them without having to have that  actual connection. Even with colors I am still: What are their favorite colors? What is something I think they would like?

I like throwing on the wheel. I usually throw a main piece and then add on to it with handbuilding.

Q: Is there a place—whether physical, cultural or otherwise—where you think of your writing/art as coming from?

A: I think my memoir pieces are definitely affected by now because I am able to look back at stuff and actually process, deconstruct whatever I need to do. I’m in a place now where I feel very loved by the people in my life. I have a lot of comfort and safety. My life has changed so much since then, and because I’m in such a good spot now I can look at bad times and not into such a pitiful state. Or say to myself:  ugh. I should’ve been doing so much better and instead say: Yeah, That was just a time where I was.

I have several homes because I moved out at seventeen a lot of friends took me in so I have a lot of second families. So their homes I would consider my home, and even the boarding school that was actually where I got good at ceramics working at a studio and I was taught lessons. So I feel like that was also home and there I was taught how to do this healing process.

Q: What community has been nourishing your growth and your work? In what ways?

A: I don’t know if my friends belong to a specific community or if it’s Wellesley that threads them all together. I think after coming here, I made lots of friends, and the difference in the friends I have now is they encourage really healthy habits in me, that I might not do if they were not there for me. They help me in upkeep and maintenance for college life. For a lot of them it goes past being friends and I will usually refer to them as family. It feels more like siblings or cousins. I have made them something more.

Q: What are your long term (or short term) goals as an artist/writer? How do you plan to expand your work, future installations and writing?

A: I definitely want to continue writing more. I do journal frequently but I would like to make actual papers or essays. I TA for this writing intensive with Heather Bryant and I have shared my writing with her and she is always like “you have to share with more people,” but I get so shy sometimes. So, my next goal is to share more writing with people and perhaps enter contests, because I think I am always going to be writing.  

For ceramics, even though I’ll probably end up going into clinical research, in the back of my head I want to be a sheep farmer and a part-time ceramics teacher. Once I get a wealthy big-girl job I do want to have an office that’s really a ceramics studio, because I would only  need a wheel and a kiln and I could even find a public kiln. Ceramics will likely remain a hobby. But, I think it would be cool if I wound up a writer. While a sheep farmer. While a ceramics part-time teacher.

Rapid-fire Questions

Q: Favorite comfort food, or favorite food/restaurant?

A: My friends and I all go to the same dumpling place. I don’t know if it’s in Boston or Cambridge nor do I  really know the difference between the two. I think there’s a bridge in between. There’s this place called the dumpling house and they have really good soup dumplings, really good pickled cucumbers, sesame chicken, all the good stuff, a very expansive menu.

Q: What are you reading, watching, or listening to right now?

A: I also really like reading memoirs. I finished rereading, not too long ago, Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey. It’s such a sad story. It’s about this biracial woman, her mother is Black her father is white. So, she talks about having a biracial identity but mainly her mother got murdered by her ex-stepdad when she turned nineteen. The memoir is about different parts of her life and her, now, as a 50/60 year old going back to the house where it happened. It’s not too graphic and it’s very intense. The author writes so beautifully and it’s so heartbreaking. It’s devastating but it’s so beautifully written and the whole thing was so engaging

Portfolio gallery

See a selection of Corn’s work below.

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