Moving Fast, So Don’t Blink


OPen Studio 2017 Blurred View
A quick glimpse at my 2017 Open Studio Gallery

 I am in my final approach to my first Open Studio in two years and moving like a dervish. Like childbirth, I guess, one mercifully forgets the gory details, remembering only the love. The task this year was to trim the whole affair and still retain excellence. I think I did that. I think that stripping it down led to solutions to recurring problems such as flow, display, and labeling and here are some that took it to new levels:

  • Adding the Open Studio 2017 section in my website’s SHOP creates a whole new staging arena. It extends the weekend in-person tour mightily, with new work being added all month. Samples of everything are there, except for sculptures and sale stuff. I had a lovely first sale and a couple of inquiries. After the live weekend, I will add even the Sculpture and Studio Sale items – if there are any left.
  • Two years away let me go deep into new creative territories and find the heart of what I’m about now.  While I have plenty of vintage trompe l’oeil cans remaining, fully 70% of my work is new to my Open Studio gallery. It’s delicious to present it in such fullness and fun to find out how each new series looks best. I have lots of wallpieces, too, which is brand new territory, needing a fresh approach to my display spaces.
  • The Studio Sale table is a deep dive into the archives this year. I even got stuff from the attic I forgot I had. Not only are things wildly varied and priced to move, I am continuing something I started two years ago: Anyone still in high school (18 and under…) can choose one item from the Sale Table and get 50% off. It is heartwarming to foster new art collectors by moving into their realistic budget range.
  • In the end, I see that going simpler is essentially good editing: the story gets told with more verve and sparkle and we all benefit from it.
Snaek peek of Open Studio 2017
A Sneak Peek at New Works for Open Studio 2017. Don’t Blink!


–Liz Crain, who invites you to visit her this weekend if you’re in the area (details below) or move over to the SHOP to enjoy a bit of the new works.

OPEN STUDIOS 2017 brought to you by the wonderful Arts Council Santa Cruz County. My Capitola Studio is open one weekend only: Saturday and Sunday, October 14-15 from 11-5, Artist #234 in the free printed Guide or in the free App by My studio is also available for private appointments, so contact me directly for that, but it’s always lovely to visit when things are all cleaned up. Gotta go back to work now, being on deadline and all.  Hope to see you here or there.

Share this:

“Hey, This Handle’s Stuck!” or A Pictorial Diary of a Ceramic Repair




UPDATE: This sad tale of ceramic breakage with a happily-repaired ending was first published January 21, 2012. I DID make the hangtags I refer to within, but I wound up keeping this sentimental piece. It deserved a good home: mine! 

Read More >

Share this:

Studio Tour Part Four: West Wall

Studio West Wall Liz Crain Ceramics


This is the last installment of the Virtual Studio Tour. It knits up the four walls of my creative space. (You can read about the North Wall, the East Wall, and the South Wall to complete your own tour.) This wall is directly opposite the door and what’s on it is the most visible, albeit the most distant. Visitors to my actual Open Studio will see this, but maybe not get all the 411 that you will get here. Enjoy!

West is Best

MORE horizontal workspace and MORE shelves? Yep. It’s how I roll (pun intended.)  Actually, I see this as a second control panel. From left to right we have a slab roller which is more often pressed into horizontal work space and storage. Then a bookcase I could use better, but right now gives me admin area on top for papers and notepads that stay clean as well as the all-important KZSC/KPIG/KKUP  current program schedules (since I am too busy/messy/lazy to manage CDs and audio books.) It is also a place to keep clean rags and dirty tools. Below that are spare tools, tubs of slips, a hair dryer, also the place that the fan is stored, but folks, it has been HOT lately, so that cool breeze stays out.

Last, a couple more shelves with a motley assortment of usefulness and inspirations, which is continued onto the wall above.


A Free Slab Roller


Slab Roller Liz Crain Ceramics


I love good sturdy tools. I used to have an aircraft carrier-sized Brent slab roller (an SR-36, meaning it was nearly 2 1/2 times wider and a LOT longer than this one, which is an SR-14.) The big one dominated the garage. Then, magically, this studio-sized one was GIVEN to me. (Thank you MJ!)  It is the just-right Goldilocks solution that I also use for: a work surface,  easy-grab storage on the shelf, and a place for clay on the floor beneath. Down low, too, there is that lifetime supply roll of plastic cleaner’s clothing bags.  The white round thing? A humongous plaster form given to me my Slab Sister, Elaine Pinkernell.  Come this winter, I aim to play with it in making some larger slab pieces.


And How’s About Those Shelves?


West Wall Shelves Liz Crain Ceramics


There’s a bit of everything here: collected artwork, curated postcards and humor, work that needs replicating in order to do it better, the Dalai Lama, the Radio/CDplayer/iPod player, and pens and pencils. The wall above is covered in my own attempts at ceramic wall art – EXCEPT for the license plate piece – that was a rusty plate I found when I lived at Ham’s Station in Amador County which was just given some real artistic love by Diane Patracuola, whose work is evidenced on every wall in my studio in some way, intentionally but inadvertently, if you know what I mean. Off to the right, more forming, texturing and decorating tools. All this is on my left wing as I work.

I may do one more Virtual Studio Tour post about my kilns, but that will probably happen as a Coda, because during Open Studios folks only get to view a photo of my kiln shed, not the space itself. So that will be the lagniappe for you here.


Liz Crain, who is seriously in the throes of getting her Open Studios chops honed and invites you to drop by on October 10-11 from 10-6. Email  her or see the Open Studios Guide for details. If you are unable to visit in person, you are invited to drop by her brand new SHOP here on the website.  It’s a small endeavor now, but will grow right after Open Studios, and you are the first to know about it!




Share this:

Studio Tour Part Three: South Wall

Studio South Wall


Moving right along with the Virtual Studio Tour, this third week we turn to the shorty South Wall. It’s relatively short because the usable area falls between the furniture on the adjacent walls and the closet door. But what it lacks in length, it makes up for in versatility and depth, as you will soon see. (You are also invited to read about the North Wall and the East Wall.) This very close look at my studio is a way for everyone to step inside and see what’s where and why. It is so much MORE than you would get, even in a personal tour or during my upcoming Open Studios weekend, when you can look, but not go in.

Read More >

Share this:

Studio Tour Part Two: East Wall

Liz Crain Ceramics East Studio Wall


Here we have Part Two of the Up-Close and Personal Virtual Studio Tour. (Read Part One, if you like.) We take a look at the East Wall and its groaning shelves, tubs and binders. During my Santa Cruz Open Studios Art Tour weekends, visitors can peek into my studio, but not enter it. From the doorway (on the left in this photo) they really cannot see this workhorse of a wall. So here it is, from my daily vantage point.

Read More >

Share this:

The Human Vignettes of Open Studios

After all, the deep and true story of any Open Studio is the people. Oh, it might seem like it’s about the unique art on display and available for purchase (My job is to make that true.) Or about the goodies to munch. (Up to my  helpers, really.) Or about clarity and support for the whole shebang. (I pin that on the trendsetting Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.)

All that obvious stuff aside, what it actually comes down to is moment by unscripted moment, person by personal person. You do the artwork, make the signs, buy the flowers, fly the balloons, hang up the process storyboard and the ‘interpretive messages’ and open your doors at the appointed hour. And who comes is…. who comes. And it’s always people: to see you and your art….or maybe just you or maybe just your art. And it could be anyone.



It’s a similar meet and greet as your wedding reception, graduation, or retirement: that  quasi-awkward and soulful roustabout that includes maybe everyone you ever knew and some you didn’t. It takes a special stance and presence to pull off, especially for an avowed introvert like me who needs time and space to recharge from even a supportive tide of humanity. And generally I don’t get that!

This year, opening day was also my birthday.  I passed out faux diamonds to the delight of my visitors and I went out to eat afterwards with my family at a pretty wonderful place. I was an overwrought birthday girl who still needed to pull it together and manage 11-5 on Sunday, too.  I swear, the voices did not leave my head for a week. At least I had time between first weekend and Encore Weekend, but of course I spent that time making more work and visiting other ceramics artists.

Yet, now that a week or more has passed since the closing Encore Weekend of the Tour, I’m able to describe in small vignettes who extra unexpectedly dropped by this year.


We love Pete. He’s 94 – as he is quick to tell you – and still full of vinegar and gab. He met my son Roger and his girlfriend Cassandra on the sidewalk when they were returning from placing my green directional  signs at the corner. He regaled them with (um…repeated from last year) stories of World War II and the young men he trained to fly, saying he still gets birthday cards from them. It’s a juicy memory for Pete and he came up the driveway and into the Open Studio gallery at least twice more that day to tell anyone and everyone in the room of his fond escapades. His lively blue eyes and peppery gestures delight, and it’s fun to manage his excitement with as much love and enthusiasm as he generates.



I can easily tell the local high school ceramics students who come to dash a few notes and check off another artist visit. I jokingly ask them “Got homework?” and proceed from there. My mission: become ‘real’ and defy the Artist on a Pedestal mystique. It’s just me, Lizzy-From-the-Block, who happens to make some awesome shit. Yeah, take photos! Yeah, I’ll pose. Yeah, say hi to your instructor because I KNOW him and we’re passionate about the same thing.  May they come to see how this is not mysterious, just fueled by love of expression, the curious artistic “What if?” and an excellent work ethic.



About 48 hours before opening day, I got an email from the Cultural Council alerting me to the arrival on Sunday of the 24-seater bus full of major donors to the Cultural Council. I was the last stop.  I could have opted out of the visit, but why would I?  It proved to have an unforeseen impact. First, the bus arrived 20 minutes earlier than targeted! Son Max, the professional bartender, scrambled to grab the wines and glasses on the front table and also serve up  the husband-made foccacia and olive tapenade.  The bus tour completely filled my small old-house spaces with bodies! They’d already had lunch and enough wine and appetizers at the five other studios they’d taken in earlier,  so they were tuckered out and had seen enough.

One of the tour leaders mentioned to me in the milling onslaught that I could speak to the group if I was so inclined. I hadn’t considered that, but taking it as my only chance to make friends – seeing as how some were beginning to leave after only about 15 minutes  –  I decided on the fly to address them. Many were already outside headed back out to the bus, so I found myself on my front porch delivering a heartfelt and choked-up impromptu speech about the Full Circle. It went some thing like this: Thank you deeply for being here.  We all count in this artsy endeavor. Even when you are not here, I carry your enjoyment and support back into my studio. The learners you also support in the schools matter.  I’ve seen the 2nd graders I taught as a SPECTRA artist in the 90s arrive at Cabrillo College Ceramics or here in my studio,  still on fire for the arts. All hail Arts Education, your vision and your presence!

What I said – I wish I had a video – felt genuine and true. I was SO glad the bus tour came here, but not for the reasons I thought I would be.



Some of my visitors walked unannounced up my front path after decades of no communication. I was relieved to recognize them AND remember their names. Seriously. That is one of the greatest skills an Open Studios artist can cultivate: name and place retention. Of course you have your mailing list to help jog your cognition, but these folks, well, I’m talking OUT OF THE BLUE and good luck with it!

Mom of Young Son’s Playmates: Stunningly beautiful, with her new husband in tow, after moving out of the country and back and then to at least three other states before returning to CA, was the mom of two grown boys, friends of my sons back in the day. I remember all four kids perching in the almond tree out back when the branch her boys were on gave way and dumped them on the ground, with only a few scrapes and lots of tears. The almond tree has never looked right since. A joy to see her now, though.

Former Co-Worker Buddy:  What’s special about the smiling face of a fellow Intel adventurer from the 70s? I left, he stayed and retired comfortably at 50. It’s been a long time, and we have Facebook to thank for the initial reunion, but there he was, smiling the same and sharing some of his current interests that also happen to be mine and my hubby’s. I sense another confab real soon. No time lost and what a pleasure to reconnect.

Very Special Auntie: She was frail and tentative. And before I knew she was here, the bus-tour had overwhelmed her like a tidal wave. When they left, she was still there, aiming to make herself known. We chatted a little and then I re-introduced her to my now-grown sons that she’d doted on. An honor for her to visit.

Longtime Missing Clay Colleague: She had moved and moved again, I’d heard. It’d been over seven years, yet I’d never heard from her, even with a few notecards of inquiry sent. But the soulfulness of our formative years in clay classes and open labs was not to be denied. She came with her gracious grown daughter and I’ve forged a reconnection for which I have hungered and hungered.


As it turns out, the Art and the Open Studios format is the bait. It’s the human connection that  binds and lasts. My artwork, as passionate as I am about it, is merely a backdrop to those connections.  Yet without the Open in Open Studios, without the Full Service presentation and a certain formality, without the serious and true family backup, the postcards to my mailing list, the consistent Facebook postings, the rest would not take place. Of that I am convinced.

Last post I talked about the  chunk of my Clay Tribe I could visit during Open Studios. That tribal group really extends to all the neighbors, students, bus tourists,  former acquaintances, appreciators and visitors. After five years of Open Studios I finally get how the reception is for everyone and I expect and welcome all comers. Because that’s who matters.

~Liz Crain, who struggles to maintain her harmony and equilibrium all year long, not just during Open Studios.




Share this: