How To Survive A Graduate Program | Cam Waller | Episode 926

How To Survive A Graduate Program | Cam Waller | Episode 926

Cam Waller | Episode 926

Cam Waller is a Japan-based, Black American ceramicist interested in using craft and natural materials to subvert expectations and explore various themes, including communication, identity, and value systems. Cam received their MFA in Ceramics at Tokyo University of the Arts in 2022 and is currently pursuing their Ph.D.


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How difficult was it for you to prepare for that time commitment of your graduate program?

So I knew I would be coming over here for at least three years and I think a big factor that helped me prepare for that was just having support and knowing that when I got here that was what I really wanted to focus on. Beyond that I just happened to be the type of person who gets super, super into whatever it is that I am invested in. So being able to spend that much time focused on things felt like a privilege.

What’s one thing that family and friends can do to support you when they are not there?

I really think just knowing that they would be here if they could. Knowing that they are proud of me and when I disappear for weeks on end knowing that they will still be there to receive me when I do get in touch again. I tend to be the type that goes into what I call survival mode where I am super, super laser focused and I can shut out of everything and everyone and they people who I know are still going to be there for me when I come out of that have helped me get through.

You mentioned that you are the type of person who gets really into what you are doing. Do you ever get burned out? 

I absolutely do get burned out. I tend towards pushing myself too far and I tend to set myself up in routines that kind of allow me to go on autopilot for most things so I can invest all of mental and physical energy into whatever it is I am focused on. Which of course has been ceramics for the past few years. But I did go too far and made myself sick during my graduate program and I do not recommend that. I think that we all need to recognize, particularly doing work that is so physical, that we do need  to make sure we are looking out for ourselves that we can continue to do what we do.

You can’t do everything so how do you stay focused when there are so many shiny objects? 

So when I struggle to figure out exactly what it is that I want to focus on, to be honest, sometimes I just go with that.  You know, particularly and for sure in my PhD, I started doing photography and performance and exploring all these other things and they still all kind of ended up bring me back to deepening my ceramic practice in some way. And so what I have tried to do is to not sure out those impulses when I am really, really interested in a lot of things because that tends to happen. I kind of let it come in and filter through because if I try to ignore it it’s just going to distract me that much more. Letting it in allows me to invest in whatever amount of time or effort it’s going to need and that really has helped me hone in my focus a lot more as apposed to trying to force myself to be entirely focused on one thing.

Is it critical. especially someone in your circumstances, but just to have someone that you can go to and say, Help!? 

Yeah, I think that that is really important. I tend to be, like I am an introvert and I am generally pretty comfortable with solitude. So I often fold into myself when things get hard, but the more I have done that, especially being over here, the more I’ve recognized how important my people are and how much I need them and how human it is to accept that and to lean on each other when we need to. Yeah, having someone that I can say, I am not okay right now, please help me, is important.


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