Where are you from and where do you reside?
I grew up on a small family farm in Temperance, Michigan. I left home at 19 to go to art school in California. Then I moved to Tokyo, Baltimore, and finally made my way to Houston, Texas where I currently live.
Of the all the places you’ve lived, why did you settle in Houston?
I chose to live in Houston because I saw it as a place to build an artistic practice. There is a rich history in this city with supporting the arts. Between the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts I felt supported by the legacy of the community and also the dynamic programming at the CAMH and various arts organizations. I felt immediately at home with the pace and diversity of the city. It didn’t take long for me to build a support group of friends. All of the artists I know are autonomous in their practices, not referencing or pulling from the same theory or aesthetic. In this way, it is the Lone Star state. And honestly, nothing beats a Texas sunset.
Have you always worked with ceramic?
Ceramics Club was the coolest thing to me in high school. I wanted to run the kilns and make the clay. I became obsessed by the process and studio flow. I went on to study painting and drawing at CCA, but never lost my love of clay. The thing that interested me about painting was the color, but the process of ceramics and working in three dimensions was so rewarding. I love how a piece changes through its life in the studio. It moves through all kinds of stages and matures into its final form. They’re little living objects doing their thing trying to make it through the fires. Also, there’s no better feeling than opening a kiln. It’s like every Birthday and Christmas morning combined in one exciting moment.
You have a particularly unique process for creating your artwork. What led you to this process and how did you know it was the right one to pursue?
My process for building came from my experience of making doll clothing. I studied under a master pattern maker in Japan where we made couture clothing for dolls which requires very specific and unique patterns in miniature. My sculptures are formed through a soft mold technique. I make a life sized pattern and use that to create fluffy, plush molds that I drape the wet slabs of clay over. Each sculpture has its own, unique soft mold. I only use each mold once and then I disassemble it. This process allows my work to feel buoyant and look really soft like marshmallows. I want the sculptures to be imbued with ethereal feelings.
When did you begin your current practice?
Seven years ago I decided to get back into ceramics and I delved in deeply by taking workshops in Baltimore, followed by classes in Houston. I eventually became a studio tech at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston in the ceramics department. There I learned how a ceramics studio was run. I made many different kinds of clay, glazes, and learned a litany of building techniques. I really built up my chops. Through trial and error I honed my skills and also found my voice in clay.
"Also, there’s no better feeling than opening a kiln. It’s like every Birthday and Christmas morning combined in one exciting moment."
How do you choose your materials?
Color is the major component of my work. I look for glazes that have maximum color pay off. The advantage of working with glaze is there are so many textures and finishes you can only get with glaze. I try to horde together a palette of shiny gold lusters, underglazes, and texturizers that are very visually dynamic and bright. The importance of color even comes down to my clay selection. The clay I use fires very white and smooth which gives me the perfect surface to layer color.
What type of clay do you favor?
The sculpture is made from a low fire clay from Texas called “Long Horn White”, it’s a talc base which has a very smooth finish and fires paper white. I need this white base to give ultimate payoff for my color. I don’t want to fight against the tone of the clay. It is incredibly strong and has great plasticity which allows me to build and manipulate with very little cracking or loss. I want the work bright and smooth, so it really vibrates.
How do the different elements of color come together in your works?
When I find dynamic color combinations, I rush to take a reference photo or even make watercolors and sketches. It could be something as simple as a water droplet on a picnic table or the rainbow skin of a soap bubble floating at sunset. I love to pair dynamic colors with interesting textures to create visually sumptuous experience.
"I need this white base to give ultimate payoff for my color. I don’t want to fight against the tone of the clay."
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
As a teenager I would go to the Toledo Museum of Art. Among the rooms of traditional landscape and portrait painting I saw at the end of a long corridor a glowing Mark Rothko painting. I sat looking at it and it was the first time a work of art stirred something deep inside me. I was enveloped in the transcendence of the painting. At that moment I knew the power of art and I wanted to be a part of it. The funny thing is, I now live three blocks from the Rothko Chapel at the Menil Collection. He’s right down the street when I need him.
What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?
I love exploring Houston in all its diversity. One of my favorite objects is this crazy neon piggy bank I got in Houston Chinatown. My adopted mother Leticia and I get reflexology and pho a few times a month. We were at this grocery store and there was about six variety of banana from all over the world. She was teaching me how to cook and eat the different ones. For instance, the long thick ones you can microwave and eat with a little butter and cinnamon. The small purple skin bananas were good for smashing and frying into chips. We were checking out when I saw this row of neon, ceramic piggy banks. They have really clashing colors very loosely airbrushed over the surface of the pig. There was an orchid stencil spray painted on the side of it with a splat/daisy shape on the forehead. It had these huge Betty Boop cartoon eyes and a tiny smile with little dimples in it’s cheeks. I was obsessed. We hunted someone down to get one out of the case for me. Leticia thought I was crazy, but I really saw myself in that psychedelic pig. It’s both a self portrait avatar and a memento for this special time spent with my mother.