• Games People Play: Intro and First Game

    On: February 1, 2018
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 720
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    Ceramic Crystals and Corns Game

    “Crystals and Corns Game”, Ceramic and Found Object, 2017

     

    Let me formally introduce you to the first installment of a series that I’ve been creating for my upcoming (March 2018) solo show at Roscoe Ceramic Gallery in Oakland, CA. With a working title of “Games People Play,”  the show’s all about seven artfully intriguing and fully playable games which incorporate my hand built ceramics in major ways. I fashioned the playing pieces for all of them, and sometimes I created the playing field as well. Found Objects abound. Let’s look at the Big Idea for this Exhibit and then at the first game I made. We’ll explore the other six over the month of February, providing I finish the last two!

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  • The Nasty Woman Studio Intervention and Rehab Plan

    On: December 13, 2017
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 755
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    Studio Intervention Altar

     

    Each year I do a short unstructured ceremony in my studio to review the year and reset my sails for the next year. Most years I assemble the work table altar items with care over the week preceding my session: flowers, candles, music, and aromatics join meaningful pieces, well-considered written summations and questions, paper for note-making. This year was different: I needed to not just record, but to JOLT things, so I began calling the event an Intervention. To support that idea, I roughed out a space in the over-crowded studio for just a scant few basics and went to find the recipe for the Nasty Woman Cocktail, a leftover from a former time of optimism.

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  • I’m Iterating As Fast As I Can

    On: November 30, 2017
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 551
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    Spiral of small ceramic tiles in tones of red

     

    Clay work as I experience it is unforgivingly slow-going. Asking clay to do the wrong things at the wrong state of wetness doesn’t yield desired results. Rushing claywares to dry invites problems the whole rest of the way. Bumping a bone dry piece can see it revert to dusty chunks. Not wiping bisqueware off before glazing it is just asking for glaze burbles. We won’t even speak of all the ways an inattentive firing can ruin entire loads of works, regardless of whether they were circumspectly made and decorated or not. I say clay taught me patience. Now I wonder if I learned that lesson a little too well. I’m certain that I make clay work even slower in at least ten ways. Let’s count them out.

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  • A Smashing Success

    On: October 31, 2017
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 579
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    Re-Smashed Leeds Vase wallpiece

    “Re-Smashed Leeds Vase (After ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing’ by Robert Rauschenberg)” Liz Crain 2017

     

    For me the past couple of years have been an exploration of new artistic avenues. I wasn’t particularly stuck (once I figured out I still wanted to work with clay, that is,) I just had no compelling path forward. So while waiting for that path to appear,  I goofed around, tweaking old works and testing all new inklings, until I found myself curious again. Sometimes that re-working involved happy breakage. Here I explore a few rationales for both the rambling and the rupturing.

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  • You Go Back In The Studio and Apologize to That Clay!

    On: October 18, 2017
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 571
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    Handle ceramic drum

    Ceramic Drum with One Piece Handle

     

    First off, a hearty welcome to new readers of the Studio Journal who joined us last weekend at my Open Studio. That annual crush of enthusiasts always gives me a chance to tell old stories related to how I came to make the stuff I do. Here’s one I’d forgotten and I thought to repeat it here because it contains one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received.

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  • Fun With “American Gothic”

    On: September 21, 2017
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 553
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    Mixed media AMerican Gothic Confetti Wine Glass

     

    This is a “What I Did Over Summer Vacation” Report, with a focus on one work of art installed at one particular exhibit which needed weekly management every Friday for two months. The Exhibit was the second one organized by the open-ended local artist’s group called Masters of Santa Cruz.  The idea is for each artist to take the same famous work of art, make a personal interpretation of it and then show all of them together at a local winery. Last year we riffed on the Mona Lisa; this year it was Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” What follows is a photo essay of my response to the prompt.

    Turns out, it’s great fun to learn the history of a painting, study its form, content and meaning and then create a personal version.  For me, “American Gothic” wasn’t so much about those two dour salt-of-the-earth people, but rather about that Gothic arched window in the house behind them (which was Wood’s original inspiration as well), and also about what that farmer’s hand could be holding besides a pitchfork. At first I thought I would make it entirely out of clay, but then the project took its own direction toward mixed-media assemblage, emphasis on the mixed.

    I discovered a Gothic arch-shaped shabby chic mirror and the race was on. Next I decided to sew and collage the clothing, but to leave the heads off in favor of a possible reflection of the viewer. With the right angles and distance, a person could line themselves up and take a selfie, so I titled it “Gothic Reflections.” As a point of ceramic pride, I did make the woman’s cameo brooch out of ceramic materials, adding the delicious macabre touch of a skull profile in a white decal.

    The other fascination for me was to make that clenched hand come alive, so I attached a wooden artist’s articulated hand and covered it with the felt coat’s sleeve extending off the surface of the mirror. Each week I switched out what the hand was holding, somewhat in keeping with the season. It was fun considering the unlimited possibilities and the logistics. Since the exhibit was at Stockwell Cellars, a local winery, I thought to begin and end with a wine glass. The first one – seen up top – is full of shiny plastic confetti.  Apparently I forgot to take a photo of it at the opening reception, so the first shot is of the completed piece mounted on a chair in my driveway. There still are confetti pieces out there glinting in the bushes, as they blew everywhere in the breeze.

     

    American Gothic with Sunflower

    It was still early in June, but schools were beginning to let out and summer was a comin’ on. I drove across town to the winery that first Friday, a week after the opening, wondering if the wine glass had hung on as I had used only a removable museum putty to tack it in place. It had, so I was greatly encouraged that the rest of my planned weekly installations would succeed. Next one: the joy and abandonment of a pinwheel, looking a little frivolous in the hands of very sober people. Yet, as a prop, it suggested a playful wryness and I hope it encouraged some mugging from the selfie-takers.

     

    American Gothic with Backscratcher

    Third week came the backscratcher. I was imagining hammocks on Saturday afternoons and not much else. Laughin’ and scratchin’.

     

    American Gothic with Flag and Fireworks

    The week before the Fourth of July demanded not only a flag, but some illegal fireworks. Doing the American Freedom part up right.

     

    American Gothic with Marshmallows

    Now it’s Summer’s camping and cookout season. This installation needed some advance testing. We toasted up some real marshmallows a week beforehand and let them sit. In a day’s time they got decidedly sticky-soggy. A couple of coats of clear acrylic sealant fixed that. Yum. Yum. This was also the heaviest and most precariously leveraged piece I put in “the hand” all summer and it was a headache to install. But it also held up. Whew.

     

    American Gothic with Flyswatter

    More hammock fantasies. This time swattin’ bugs. I LOVE this extendable flyswatter and use it at home all the time now. The telescoping action helped me position the piece for best balance and visibility against the dark jacket.

     

    American Gothic with Cat o Nine Tails

    Now for some kinkiness. Hmmm. Grant Wood said he was intrigued by that Iowan farm house because of its “borrowed pretentiousness” and the “structural absurdity” of that Gothic window. He imagined what kind of people would live there and chose his sister and his dentist to pose. Once you take the types away, though,  anything is possible, especially with a cat o’ nine tails.

     

    American Gothic with Empty Wine Glass

    And back to the wine glass, this time empty with real dried red wine residue. The show’s over, but it certainly called up some delicious Gothic Reflections for me.

    –Liz Crain, who enjoyed her Friday afternoon crosstown jaunts in beach traffic listening to KKUP’s Jewels and Binoculars Classical Show. After chatting with Jessica in the Tasting Room as she was changing out the prop, she explored the lively Westside businesses: including a gem of a yarn shop, a super bakery, a world-class coffee place, and a local natural foods store for road snacks. It’s probably a good thing it’s slightly effortful to get back over to that side of town, but it WAS a summer project to remember.

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  • Years Later, A Juicy Nomination Oils the Works

    On: August 24, 2017
    In: Art Biz, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 587
     1
    Ceramic Industrial Pitcher with Faux Repairs

    Banged-Up 305S Pitcher, 2012, Ceramic

     

    Here’s the first post in a new “”sometime series” I think I’ll call Loose Ends, with the idea being to look around my creative life and see what needs tidying up. Today’s missive is a belated virtual thank you card written due to a new understanding about a gift I received which I frankly did not understand very well at the time.

     

    Earlier this summer my friend Patrick S. mentioned that he thought 2010 was his peak year as an artist. He had scads of examples of why that was true for him, but one especially pricked up my ears: he was nominated for a local Rydell Fellowship administered by the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County.

    Not too shabby, Patrick! The nomination process alone is pretty exclusive. The field of nominee/applicants is bursting with superb talent. The three awards given every two years are both prestigious and lucrative. When does any artist receive wide acclaim, a museum exhibition and $20,000 with practically no strings attached?  It’s basically the Art Oscars for Santa Cruz County. Even if one doesn’t win, – and only roughly one in twenty do – one can forever append “Rydell-Nominated Artist” to one’s pertinent professional descriptors.

    Thing is, up until Patrick mentioned his, I had not truly valued my own 2013 Rydell Fellowship nomination for what it IS and not for what it was not. I am certain I did my best with the only requirement: 12 images of my finest works (the piece up top is one.) I delivered my Image CD and Application in person, trailing clouds of glory, and then went off to Mono Hot Springs on a late September vacation you really need to read about.

    In December came the lovely rejection letter. Once I saw that it mentioned there were 62 nominees and named the 55 who actually applied as well as the three winners, I was at peace. That list was a Who’s Who of local creative glitterati, many I knew. To be included at all, was, as the letter read, to be a “part of a remarkably talented pool of artists whose work reflects this region’s artistic quality and diversity. The [national] panel expressed their regard for the breadth and vitality of the artists’ work they viewed.”

    Breadth and Vitality! Remarkably Talented! Quality and Diversity! Why did I miss theses accolades and only notice the Not Winning part? Why did I put away all my files and never mention the experience to anyone? Hrmmm…

    Answer: It’s only human! When the eyes are trained on the prize, a lot goes missing in the service of that focus. Unless…

    Unless and until one wakes up to the whole of it, maybe years later. Until now. Thank you Patrick, for opening my eyes to the monumental significance of being nominated at all. It was a high point in my own artistic career, too, and one I would love to repeat, now that I get it.

    Belated Deepest Thanks to the arts organization that nominated me: I treasure your support and confidence whoever you are and wish I could have done you proud.

    So I am slow on the uptake, but seeing this juicy nomination in a prouder light is oiling my newest studio endeavors. I’m feeling a tad more artsy, a smidge more deserving, a soupçon more saucy and will soon have a whole new range of work I adore to show for it.

    — Liz Crain, who has graciously taken her seat among the rare cadre of Rydell Fellowship Nominees and will be adding it to her resume in its next update.

     

     

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