Thursday, December 16, 2010

On the Camino Real...

Field trips. Typically dragging a car load of kids somewhere for a short period of time..and feeling wiped out afterwards. I tease my mother that she only went on ONE field trip of mine..and that was in pre-school. I have tried to do better, but now after fulfilling more than my duty- I pick my field trips carefully. So, when it was time to sign up to drive the nearly 2 hours south to the  Mission San Juan Batista--I jumped in.

I love the California Missions. They are plum with history and so beautiful in their Spanish, Mexican and Native American triumvirate of aesthetics and spirituality. This one is particularly special--as it is mostly intact including the vast land and plaza around it. You almost feel as if you were back in 1800's California -although minus the intensely obvious conflict and true grit of those times.

Alfred Hitchcock too, must have inhaled this authenticity when he chose to film part of his landmark film Vertigo here. In deciding to film a feature film actually in the out of doors--he picked classic San Francisco and San Juan Bautista to film this ethereal and favorite film.

I am always inspired by the patterns and the images laid out in these missions. The crudely painted borders.  The religious icons piled up to bring hope. The magical gardens.
These images are haunting and beautiful and ultimately worth sharing in photos and on clay. Look for some of these images on future plates.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Giving Thanks. Giving Back.

I am not a religious person in terms of adhering to a strict institutional approach to spirituality, but do feel "religious" and particularly can get behind the concept of tithing as an important way of contributing to one's community and beyond. I made a commitment to myself that I would donate a portion of the proceeds from my work to targeted non-profit organization at year's end. While I wish I could do more..I feel like even my small gifts have an impact and "keep me in shape" for future giving.
I think people feel like they cannot donate until they have a lot more money or because they do not have "enough" to give.  If everyone gave what they could--even if just a little--it would all add up for the organization in need.
This year, my kids have also decided to give to groups that do things they care about. They have saved money from gifts as well as from selling lemonade and handmade jewelry (my daughter is a budding designer!) My son: Grass Roots Soccer--an organization in South Africa that he visited this summer that is teaching township kids soccer and life skills.  My daughter: San Francisco SPCA.
As for me--I am donating to some dynamic local organizations:  Meritus Fund--provides financial assistance and mentoring to at-risk high school kids interested in attending college; Bernal Height Neighborhood Association--a stable force of low income housing development in San Francisco; San Francisco Food Bank; SF ARTS ED--places artists in the public schools in San Francisco to create art programming.
So give what you can this year and if you cannot give any financial help--give some of your time to help a local organization.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stylemaker Spotlight?

For those of you that still read the newspaper and I do...there are a few writers in the design world locally here in San Francisco that are still "walking the beat" and producing lively pieces on design, places to visit, ideas and just keeping a finger on the creative pulse in the city and beyond. One of those people is Anh-Minh Le who is a freelance writer for various publications. Her exciting new project which I am personally very psyched about is a new magazine-not an online expansion of a blog mind you ..but  a real paper glossy magazine called Anthology. She created this with Meg Mateo Ilasco another accomplished local writer who has written much on craft and business among other things. Anthology is available by subscription as well as available at Anthropology shops across the country.

Anh-Minh also produces a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle where she "spotlights a stylemaker" here in the Bay Area--and I was fortunate enough to be the pick of the week!
Very fun..and an embarrassingly large photo of me to boot--(I kind of look like the clay vigilante!)
It was fun getting to talk about a few favorite things and put in some friendly nods to local businesses that I admire as well-
So check it out..and also check out Anthology. We must encourage the magazine renaissance (not the bad ones..just the quality ones please--as it should be in this Darwinian print eco minded world we inhabit now!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Now Showing at the DeYoung....

So here are some of the pieces delivered today---hot out of the kiln to the DeYoung Museum.
I was so delighted that the first group of pieces I brought were scooped up so fast--and apparently some were even fought over! Imagine that...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Clay Pot Heirlooms

Inspired by the looming "big" birthday of a dear friend-the talented chef Dana Tommasino of Woodward's Garden here in San Francisco--and her love and appreciation of anything culinary and quirky...I set out to make her a cooking pot to celebrate. Mainly in hopes that she would whip up something wonderful in it to share of course.
And as I was creating these cook pots, I really was taken with taking my art as function motivation even farther. After all, I had spent some years honing my ceramic skills in New Mexico with Native American potters from Santa Clara and Santo Domingo pueblos making micaceous bean pots. The history, the technique and the special way in which one must prepare the pot for cooking and then you have a bean pot for life--it all resonates deep.
Families pass these pots down generations and the older they get, the finer the beans and other aromatic feasts that emerge from their warmed clay bodies become.
The queen of clay pot cooking here in Northern California is Paula Wolfert--who collects clay pots mainly from Morocco. Her book Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking--is a gem, and was a treasured gift from Dana. She says in the introduction "When I taste heirloom beans cooked in a clay pot on top of the stove, I find a special sweetness in them.  Just as food cooked in a wood-fired oven acquires the taste and aroma of wood, so food cooked in an unglazed clay pot acquires a taste and aroma I define as 'earthy'".
She goes on to quote a french man who offers this answer to the magic: "pottery has a kind of memory of the food it held, and only a clay pot can keep the memory of the love the cook put into it when preparing the dish".

And I would like to add to that memory the love put into creating the pot itself-----
So how lovely is that?

I just love the idea that hands can form the pot, hands can make the food and serve it and hands can make the plates to complete this intimate organic experience.
Hopefully, I will soon be able to post some images of what dana will create in her special gift. So stay tuned.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Station 1 open for business

Station 1 is now open in Woodside to great buzz...
organic, local handmade cuisine....handmade plates...festive, lovely and special!
Go visit!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sneak Preview: The DeYoung Museum

After reading a fabulous article about how the new DeYoung has exceeded all expectations for attendance and accolades, I am so thrilled to become a small part of their operations there- as my work will soon be sold in their beautiful museum store. I love the combination of periods they embrace--wander from tribal art to mid century ceramics to a Kiki Smith installation and then finally hit the just opened part 2 classic impressionist exhibit on loan from the Musee de Orsay in Paris-quite the art tour encased in a stunning building with lush landscaping and provocative sculptures peppered among the grasses. Plus--I can see its pyramid like formation rising from the trees in Golden Gate Park from my house.

So I will trot down the few blocks to deliver some of these pieces to them this week-
Go to the museum and take it all in-oh and do not forget to stop at Sam's Chowderhouse food truck if you are there on a friday saturday sunday--the lobster roll is a work of art in itself...

Monday, September 20, 2010

It really is black and white.

I am not typically a black and white gal-I see the gray of most things as well as dream in color often. That said, I do love the spareness and graphic qualities of these 2 base colors.
As part of my restaurant commission-I got to spend a solid 6 weeks thinking about and making white plates--with a few blacks thrown in-- and really enjoyed it. It was a cleanse really and left me wanting more of that-to which I began my path in this direction.
Here are some-I love the way my favored iconography plays against the white and then how the black really draws it all out--

There will be lots more of these down the road.

Friday, August 27, 2010

New York, New York...

Winding down from a good time spent back east. Nice to finally feel some heat after a chilly chilly summer in San Francisco. Of course, I spent 5 days inside at the Javits Center at the New York Gift Show--so the world outside seemed like a dream from the past....
Five days of meet and greet and talking about ceramics, inspirations and business. My work will soon be available in some interesting shops all over the country as well as Kuala Lumpur--which is exciting. I was heartened by the fact that folks appreciated the handmade and what goes into producing this kind of work locally as opposed to the ubiquitous imports that flood so many of the shops out there today. Several people commented on how few truly handmade ceramics they are seeing which led to lots of lively discussion and debate as to why younger designers are more often motivated to go into jewelry design, than getting their hands in the clay. "It is hard"-many said. Yes, there are lots of steps and fragile stages on the way to producing a clay piece. "They are hard to transport"-- yes, my hands still ache from packing and shipping and carrying boxes of fragile weight all over the east coast. "There's a lot of 'made in china' work that is soooo cheap"--yep, and I've discussed it here before, lots of lovely mass produced work out there, but does everyone want to have the same, imported thing made for mass consumption untouched by hands??

But overall, people were thrilled to see that there were still studio ceramicists out there--toiling away and coming up with new innovations and designs to capture the imagination and carrying on a long heralded tradition. I am proud to be a part of that group.
Apart from the show-time to catch up with family, take in the familiar urban landscape of NYC that I traded long ago for the expansive west, and banked a few good images to carry around for my return to working in the studio in September....

 urban sidewalk fruit/veggie stands everywhere..

all night long..

My son eagle eyed this on the sidewalk during an evening stroll---mini candy chalk body outline--- a gummy crime perhaps?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Curio..Curious..a High End Curio

I admit it. I am a total sucker for the funky junk shops that hawk tourist goods that line the streets around a tourist attraction-the small coin purses, aging plaster dolls, coaster sets, they draw me in every time with their kitschy fun and folk art sensibility. I especially love the stands in Mexico and Central America that sell ceramic Mayan figures, ekeko guys carrying the abundance of a life of riches. There is something sweet and honest about those pieces and they forever remind you of the place you have been. Sadly, many or perhaps most of these are now made in China but continue to deceive us and make us believe they are made by hand they once were.  If you are lucky enough to track down the real stuff- it certainly can be made nearby by local hands.
These images have always stayed with me and influenced my work. I love curios, icons, charms, small images that represent something meaningful, folkloric and useful and remind you of where you were, and have incorporated these images into my clay work.

Recently, I was commissioned by a beautiful winery up in Napa to do some pieces for them. I was immediately intrigued by the thought of creating a "curio"--something that represents the winery, its history and the beautiful land it occupies. A fine curio, a genuine local hand crafted memento.
Just as I coveted the ceramic Mayan statues in Central and South America, I wanted to create covetous ceramic pieces that would stay with people for generations to come- and remind them of where they were.

I love my collection of Mexican tourist dolls-some are quite old but back in the day, were hand made locally and did incorporate local weaving and pottery traditions. This is what I aim to do with these pieces, They are functional of course, but will remind visitors of the beauty and delight that is Napa.
And of course, who doesn't love a good plate memento? I found this at a flea market back east right around the time I was moving to San Francisco-I love it.
and this cable car box? a classic..

Here are some of the keepsakes I created for Silver Oak--if you are visiting Napa--pay them a visit--
world class cabernet, beautiful buildings and a few good high end curios to take home...