Gleanings From My Tribe: Six Mugs, A Tumbler, Two Vases, One Bowl and A Grenade


Today I spent visiting a few other local ceramic artists in their cleaned up, Ready for Prime Time 2012 Santa Cruz County Open Studios Art Tour habitats,  gleaning the fruits of the passion we hold in common. Since I hardly get out of my paddock, it was a deliciously freeing promenade and I came home with treasures and photos from most of my stops. Up top you see my new wardrobe of mugs, my personal theme this year. At the end of this post you’ll see the tumbler, bowl, vases and grenade.

What follows are short illustrated vignettes about each these folks…three of whom were participating in Open Studios for the very first time and ALL of whom are open Encore Weekend and of course would be willing to share their work by appointment all year long. (I didn’t ask them, I just know this.)

I had only this one day to get out there, since I participate in this 3-weekend Tour myself  and this wasn’t my weekend to be on. I mapped out a strategic travel itinerary like a seasoned Road Warrior for Art. I also announced to associated family and friends I was going it alone. May I recommend that? It makes for agile quality: timing, conversations and all the other decisions: Eat? Pee? See Everything on Every Shelf or Just Enjoy the Overview? It’s my own personal Artist Date, and dang if I ain’t good company to me!!!

The real trick is getting out there as early as possible. Studios are open 11-5; be at the first one as soon after 11 as you can! (But,  too early can be awkward.) Happy Hour everywhere is 1-3, so see if you can get to most places before then, or be prepared to swim upstream through the crowds and maybe not have that intimate artist chat. I did the best I could with the timing because I had a 50 mile loop to execute. I only got mildly lost twice, no, three times, the downside of no-one riding Navigator/Shotgun, I guess.




First stop: Andrea Dana-McCullough, Artist # 265 ( she’s on the left in the photo.) Her love of carving through colored layers onto her pieces (sgraffito) is augmented nicely by her love of insects. I was on a personal quest for a Bug/Beetle Mug, which I found in snappy blue on white. It’s the upper right mug in my lead-off photo. When I got home I washed and began drinking from each vessel in the order I’d acquired it today. Andrea’s was first and I was sorely tempted to just stay put. I have one other piece of hers, a small tray, and these won’t be the last!









At the farthest reaches of my loop was Travis Adams, Artist # 279. He has the entire back work area and yard of the fabulous Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center STUFFED with his amazing range of work. It was a massive effort and looked wonderful. I had to have one of his grenades – see last photo – and then a dangerously drooly crawl-glazed bowl (also below) caught my eye and a sweet little teadust mug – middle left up top. Travis has also SO generously displayed not only my own OS postcard, but the conetop Travis Beer can I traded him for one of his rat sculptures earlier this year. That’s what he’s holding in the photo. My Tribe…I think I’ll keep them!




Looking happily occupied with visitors (back to the camera) is Mattie Leeds, who along with wife Melissa, are Artist Studio #289. There is no shortage of things to see here on this Bonny Doon land, the penultimate  lifelong ceramic artist habitat. From slightly unbelievable shard-pile mosaic installations, to a formal display room, to the working rooms and kilns, it’s huge and worth the trip. It’s lovely that you can wander the cavernous multi-level inside and outside as long as you like. I didn’t buy a Mattie Mug…I have in the past. Instead we spoke of his recently child-proofed studio (!) and of the piece I REALLY want….







My heart has an all-or-nothing thing for this big – as in five feet tall – lidded vase which Mattie created as a demo at Cabrillo College. The size and form are phenomenal, but the Asian bird and bamboo painting is even better. Such intimacy and skill on such a huge work! Yep, it’s all I wanted to take home. How?  Where? *SIGH*










Another lovely artist habitat up by the wilds of UCSC and Pogonip is that of Jeannine Niehaus,  Artist #240. The yard, the teahouse and her sure-handed thrown and slip-decorated pieces all play well together. Since I have a fall birthday, I was thinking of her bright maple leaf decorations on a little sumpin’ sumpin’….I know….a mug!!!! How about TWO? (Middle right and back in the top photo.) Jeannine never stopped long enough to pose; her yard was full of aficionados. (I waited until they briefly cleared from her teahouse deck to take this shot.) She was cheerfully watering her bedding plants and chatting the while and setting a fine example of how to genuinely represent.








Just look at the smiling Hank Scott, Artist #235 at Saltwater Pottery! He’s a first-timer to Open Studios, but obviously NOT to pottery and decorating. With a clear palette and style, I think he’s found a lively following. I bought one vase for me (short with red dots) and one for my mom (creamy with bamboo), both seen below. His late 1800s home is a well-restored Santa Cruz original and  it was SRO by the time I was there. I think he might feel encouraged!







So….the one photo op I did not get to take was with Geof Nicastro, Artist #163 and Rocky Lewycky, Artist #162. They both are showing in the expansive space behind Clay Creation on Soquel Avenue and have a wide and sympatico offering. I was just settling in for a spell and selecting a blue impressed cylinder mug of Geof’s (seen at the top left) when a huge crowd descended upon the two – I’m talking a couple dozen folks on a bus tour! Lucky Geof and Rocky! –  I held my mug close, pressed money into Geof’s hands and left through the back path in the hedge. Sometimes it’s like that! Love you two, and here’s to a fruitful Encore Weekend! I toast your creativity. SO wanted a panoramic shot….take one and send it to me….I’ll include it here.



Last stop:  the engaging Jasper Marino, Artist #149, holding the two pieces I bought from him, both variants of his dense, graffiti-influenced  calligraphy. The mug is up front in the top shot and the tumbler on the left rear down below. (Oh, and time to switch to drinking out of my  Jasper mug.) We had a few moments in his very personal space to talk about self-perceptions and what next-level functioning might entail. “Thoughts become things, baby!”









So, that’s a full day touring the environs of eight ceramic artists in my tribe on the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County’s annual Open Studios Art Tour. We are rich beyond belief here in the Fifth Most Artistic Locale in the US.




~Liz Crain, who is proud to be associated with these fellow ceramic artists and the many more she couldn’t get to either because there is still only one of her (dang it!) or because they are holding Open Studios at the same time she is. Tribe, just the same! Oh, and notice everything hunted and gathered today – even the grenade –  was thrown on a potter’s wheel, which Liz does not do herself, but profoundly appreciates.

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Versatility Plus Meaning: Fifteen Blogs

Sometimes I think that blogging is over-rated, or even should be dead. It’s had its Fifteen Minutes of Fame and should know when to leave the stage to allow us to enjoy some fresher and more engaging interchange. I feel this about writing mine because at times I just don’t want to talk and I especially don’t want to write about what I don’t want to talk about, so I don’t.  What is all this thrashing around with words? What did I enjoy before blog-keeping?

I often strongly feel this ache for the metamorphosis of bloggery  when skimming the relentless bleats of others out there yammering into the blogosphere. They drown each other out with thin opinions, baldfaced marketing (OK, SELLING IT) and yawnable or precious writing. They don’t need to exit the stage, they need to take a flying leap into the mosh pit.

Pretty jaded of me, right? And yes, I know to click away and mostly do. Except…..Except……

Except, there are naturellement blogs I find enthralling, unreal, hilarious, titillating, challenging, informative, irresistible. And, regardless of topic and writing style,  it’s always because it’s the person coming through the screen to evoke my response and connection.

So when one of the first bloggers that I felt that idiosyncratic electricity of recognition with, Quinn McDonald of Quinn Creative, nominated me recently for The Versatile Blogger Award, all blog-related misgivings were washed away. This bloody bloggy biz is bigger in better ways than I thought because Quinn just whisked off my blindfold. (She’s a versatile and skilled blindfold-remover, so I feel safe.)

Here’s how The Versatile Blogger Award works: If you’re nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award. (My first blogging nod and thanks, Quinn!)

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  • Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy.
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award
  • Finally, list  7 things about yourself.

Here’s my list of 15 nominees/winners. Go visit each one and see if the writer/person comes through to your heart too. Some of them I know personally, most I don’t and they generally don’t know I follow them. Some post quite often (even daily)  and others leave me aching for another entry for months and months. They range from fellow ceramic artists, to experts/coaches,  to food and lifestyle advocates. I appreciate their being here, just for me.

  1. Archevore by Kurt Harris MD. I’ve just found this one and I’m magnetized by the thoughtful articulate intelligence.
  2. Cleavage: sex, money and meaning by Kelly Diels. Dark humor and dangerously sharp wisdom. Yow.
  3. Discardia: Make Room for Awesomeness by Dinah Sanders. Creator of a new holiday of awesomeness connecting up several of my favorite life arenas.
  4. Gringado by Susan Dorf and Mark Taylor. Two friends who travel to Mexico for months every winter. They are keen observers of lush and not-so life.
  5. Kelly Thiel Studio by Kelly Thiel. Deepest respect for this woman’s artwork and life balancing. She’s charming, too.
  6. Nom Nom Paleo by Big O’s and Little O’s Mom. One b-u-s-y person with time to tell us what she cooks and eats.
  7. Patricia Scarborough Art by Patricia Scarborough. This is full of wry light and air along with gorgeous painting.
  8. Penelope Trunk by Penelope Trunk. Oh, Penelope… I can’t NOT watch you live your life and tell us about it.
  9. Polka Dot Clay Studio by Karen Hansen. So here’s the newer voice of a clay friend and I’ll never be able to guess what she’ll say next. Never. And I love that.
  10. Sequoia Miller’s Blog: ever wonder ’bout pottery? by Sequoia Miller.  I could use more of his quiet deep discussions. Love his pottery
  11. A Spinner Weaver by Annie MacHale.  Here’s an unusual kind of weaving with a prolific,  passionate advocate.
  12. Terry Parker: Pottery Shards by Terry Parker. Another potter friend who’s been busy in her new studio.
  13. This Artist’s Life: Day to Day in the Clay Studio by Whitney Smith. She’s boldly honest with her successes, challenges and musings. And she can write strongly enough to bring us all along.
  14. The Work of Art: Musings on What it Takes to Make Art Happen by Michelle Williams. A new one by the Executive Director of the local Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County. Big ideas.
  15. The Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. A blog which challenges me to re-think everything I touch and make.


Seven Things About Me…and I’ll stick to the art.

  1. I remember the Class Artist in 2nd grade showing me how to draw a finger and its nail from a side view. Mind blowing stuff.
  2. Almost took Art in high school, but the Speech and Debate coach persuaded me to drop it and take his class, for all four years. (Detour #1)
  3. My first drawing class was Spring Quarter of my Sophomore year in college. I took every Art elective I could after that, but was too scared to change my major. (Detour #2)
  4. I was an artist’s model for about four years right after college (one way to get free instruction, really.)
  5. Had emergency appendectomy. Got corporate job. Years passed. (Detour #3)  Then: Broke my back. Quit corporate job. Began art-making fulltime. Got into first gallery.  All within the same six months.
  6. Moved to the Sierra Foothills for a decade. Explored poetry and community theatre. Oh, and had my sweet babies. (Detour #4)
  7. Rounded up 30 years of art classes into an AA, finding clay along the way. Ah.


~Liz Crain is totally copying her creativity buddy, Quinn, by finding something personal to say at the end of her posts that she intends to be an insightful, touching and witty coda. Love you, Quinn!



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