Inspiration Follows Form | Mingei International Museum

I don’t draw. I don’t sketch. Only when I’m forced to, but I hate doing it. It takes away from the relationship I have with the material. I want it to tell me when it’s done. It’s a balance of control but also understanding.

You mentioned that you started refurbishing jewelry before you began making it. Were you a collector while also studying art?

Totally. I have been collecting and selling jewelry for 10 years. And that’s how it started: collecting pieces that needed help. If I could learn to fix them, I could excuse my buying. That’s no longer my interest at all, but I still resell vintage jewelry.

The first ring I saw of yours was copper, pinched and biomorphic in shape. Do natural materials, forms or processes play a role in your work?

This is where I grew up, and I take inspiration from the texture of the landscapes and particularly the rock formations here. It’s a naturally dry California terrain. Even when the avocados are ripe, there’s not a lot of lush greenery. It’s a really “dry shade” outside, so my color palettes are muted and earthy.

I also want to experience the full process. I mine my own turquoise or spin my own yarn to make it hard on myself. Even my instructors would say, “You know, you can buy this.” For metalsmithing, I used recycled silver from spoons and my own jewelry to mill my own sheets. I guess I owed it to somebody.

Was that more about curiosity or craftivism?

I don’t know—maybe a combination of both—but it’s with whatever medium I happen to be working with.

How much of your work is self-taught?

With metalsmithing, I learned the foundations on my own. I practiced for three and a half years before I took my first professional class. But I learned so many other things like how to hold my body and protect myself. Something we do all the time. I also learned how to use more advanced tools and machinery. However, more important than those skills, are the connections I made with the instructors and fellow artists I worked with.

Can you tell us about this heavy wearable sculpture in your metalworking studio?

That was a project I did under the guidance of artist Nick Cave last semester. Heavyweight was the general theme. It was a woven piece, heavily inflated at one point with balloons. A professional dancer wore it. I wanted it to influence her movement a bit.

What other media have you worked in?

Because of my degree, I’ve worked in wood, metal, clay. I attended four community colleges to get everything in while working full time before transferring to SDSU. I’ve dabbled in everything.

The new sculptural work seems to be an extension of your jewelry making.

Aesthetically it is. Metal is so rigid and working with it can be hard on the body, while clay is supple and a far more tactile experience. I was fortunate to take classes at Haystack and Idyllwild. I tried to find courses that played into my aesthetic but also to get out of my comfort zone.

What was your favorite residency and instructor?

This past June I assisted Steven Hill, the potter; it was a really unique experience. You learn differently when you’re in that position, rather than as a student. It was one week, and really intense—long days, and a lot of work. But to get in the instructor’s head and understand what’s needed before they ask, is challenging. It was a rewarding experience.

Idyllwild Arts is so accessible to us in San Diego, and I cannot speak highly enough about it. It’s more geared towards music and performance art, but they have craft classes for adults and kids, and wonderful Native American art programs. On the complete other side of the country, there is another great place, Haystack. Located in Maine, on a small picturesque island and is truly one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had as an artist. The community there is so special.

Favorite professor at SDSU?

Kerianne Quick. She’s amazing. I went in hesitantly because I was already a practicing metalsmith. I’ve had high expectations in the past and was jaded when transferring schools before. Her class was the best experience ever. In the first week, I knew I was going to learn so. Keri’s vast knowledge and dedication to craft is an inspiration and I’m very grateful to have studied under her.

Tell us about the new netted porcelain work.

The fiber pieces were a direct response to the dismantling of the fiber arts program at SDSU. The work became more independent as I took more advanced ceramics, and this is what I proposed. For me, it’s always about process, about creating a very sensuous experience. It’s a very tactile process. Essentially, I start by knitting a tube, I do loom knitting so that I don’t have to track the loops, then I saturate it heavily in slip, which is liquid clay. Then, I inflate and hang the pieces so they don’t have a flat bottom. It’s been an experiment from the start and maybe one-third of them survive the firing process. The trickiest part was building scaffolding in the kiln to keep them upright, so they won’t tip over in the kiln. Finally, it took eight months to perfect.

I know you’re repeating this process over and over, but there seems to be an innate understanding of it. Did you do this as a kid?

I didn’t touch clay until two years ago. I knew SDSU had amazing jewelry program, and luckily my major required wood and clay classes. I’ve always loved ceramics but never had an interest in making them. It wasn’t until I got my hands on the material that I fell in love with it.

Tell us about this darker netted piece.

It was during my last week of finals. I decided I wanted to try a new clay body. It’s porcelain—the darkest porcelain that I could find; it’s black when I’m working with it but turns dark brown. It’s stained, but I didn’t stain it. It’s called “doll porcelain,” used for dolls. I’m into the color and want to play more with it. They’re beautiful when lit and project spectacular shadows. Some ask if I’d like to make lamps, but I have no interest. I want to play with function, but I want to strip of what it would normally be. This is knit; it should be fabric, but I took that away from it.

Is there a relationship to the mingei aesthetic in making, or do you notice it in the work?

I definitely see it in my work. Not intentionally. It’s not something I purposefully channel. It’s the unappreciated or undervalued aspects of objects I’m really into the ignored places in placement. I think about corners for these hanging pieces. So far they have not been exhibited in corners.

How do you know when you’re finished? Is it organically decided or designed beforehand?

I don’t draw. I don’t sketch. Only when I’m forced to, but I hate doing it. It takes away from the relationship I have with the material. I want it to tell me when it’s done. It’s a balance of control but also understanding.

You went from studying psychology to jewelry. Is there a connection?

In thinking about graduate school and what my thesis might be, I’m interested in the psychology of the home. I’ve been considering taking anthropology classes that start at “the dwelling” . . . at the root. When they asked me as a kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” I said I wanted to be Indiana Jones. I thought I could get certified in archeology. That mindset led me to mining my own turquoise as soon as I started making my own jewelry.

I am inspired by traditional craft and its role in architecture. I don’t go anywhere without thinking about how things are made.

How would you describe your work?

Organic, and no matter how literal the work, I maintain the abstract, like in my jewelry. This is an abstract ring, but “this is a rock, and when I wear it, it is a home for the hand.” The inspiration can be told, but it’s still abstract.

Is midcentury modern a key influence?

One of many. I think it relates to the psychology of the home, the architecture and landscape where I grew up and the relationship between manmade and organic. So no, I would not pinpoint midcentury in particular as my inspiration (though I love and connect with it), but as a theology and a predecessor. I am inspired by traditional craft and its role in architecture. I don’t go anywhere without thinking about how things are made.

And probably relates to the environment or environmental health in sourcing of materials?

That’s a huge importance. Even the cotton I use is grown here.

How did you first connect with Shop Mingei, where your work is carried?

Heather Kerner, Senior Development Manager, suggested I get in touch with Shop Mingei before the holiday market in 2015 or 2016 when I was still fixing vintage jewelry. Then a few months later, they asked if I wanted my own jewelry in the store.

Do you think about the person potentially wearing the object, or do they come to the work?

They come to the work. I never think of the person who will wear this. I’ve seen a wide range in age, in style, in aesthetic, and love whatever it is that’s speaking to them. My jewelry is typically more minimal—it plays well for someone who wears heavy patterns or prefers simplicity.

Your weed pots are also at Shop Mingei. Are they all woodfired?

Yes, I tried to woodfire as much as possible while still at State. I love it. It’s my favorite. Atmospheric firing in ceramics has a real community aspect. I miss that being outside of the university now. It’s at least a 24-hour process that requires constant stoking. You’re always working. It’s a group effort to fire each other’s work. The very first appeal of ceramics for me was this community.

Last question: How did you collect your terrific craft library?

Estate sales are where I collect books. There’s one textbook I had to buy that I love: Theory and Documents of Contemporary Art. Thinking Through Craft is a new one, a gift from collector Steve Aldana.

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