featured artist Archive

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Noel Danforth

Noel Danforth is a graphic designer with a sense of style that not only influences her work, but her whole lifestyle. Enjoy the interview!

Noel Danforth of Goldstar Studios

Art Life: Since “design is a state of mind” how is that you keep your mind in the creative spirit?

Noel: Staying in the creative flow, that is being receptive to and ready for inspiration, means keeping things open and allowing for space to exist within a project.  I keep my mind in the creative spirit by working on something and then letting it be, allowing the dust to settle and for the ideas to grow. Changing ‘scenery’ is important to the process, too, as is changing my blood flow. Taking a walk, going for a run, listening to music, playing music, and practicing yoga are all ways for me to keep in flow. They are practices that can help me alter the way I see or approach a project.


Noel Danforth of Gold Star Studios

Noel Danforth of Gold Star Studios

Art Life: What is the balance you find necessary between the world of the computer and the world of hands-on? How does one affect the other?

Noel: It’s true, the computer is my main tool. It has also become an interface through which we lead part of our lives. I find it important to remind myself in a more tactile way why I love what I do. Picking up another media and working with color, shape and texture in an intuitive way helps me to connect to a less directed problem-solving. Whether it’s drawing, painting, sewing, or beading, I love to work in a way that allows more freedom for my intuition to connect with an unconscious flow. We all carry ideas around that sometimes need a little coaxing into the light.

Art Life:  How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Noel: My design aesthetic leans toward smart (with a wink and a nod), organized, colorful and crafted.  But I am also drawn to work that’s sometimes a little dark, and I love the unexpected . . . that spontaneous line.


Noel Danforth of Gold Star Studios

Noel Danforth of Gold Star Studios

Art Life: How does your dog, Gaiter, influence your creativity?

Noel: By being present. Gaiter reminds me to be in the now. Animals have a rhythm that they connect with–when they eat, when they sleep, and a love of routine, but they live in the present, the here and now, and I think that’s important when you want to really see something. I have a tendency to push toward completion, i.e. think about the future and deadlines, but the process is so important. I think it’s where the creative stuff happens, in that awkward liminal space between the known and unknown. Being aware, being present, allows us to be receptive to what is sometimes more interesting, more intuitive. Work that’s not obvious but gets at some other level of meaning through our subconscious is so interesting to me.  And that’s all about how you perceive something. Ya gotta be open to it.

Art Life: What is the art life all about to you?

Noel: For me the meaning of living a life in the arts is about being fulfilled by creating and seeking beauty. Not the superficial beauty lauded by our increasingly consumer-driven world, but the beauty that transports us, transcends time and connects us to our best inner and outer worlds. I believe a sense of fulfillment in life is easier to achieve when you strive to connect with your inner world, to your thoughts, your dreams, and the things that don’t get expressed in other ways. In a sense, the art life is about tapping your inner light.


Noel Danforth of Goldstar Studios

For more information on Noel Danforth visit Gold Star Studios.

To view the entire photo shoot go to Boston Art Life gallery.

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Paul Pedulla

I met Paul while visiting the South End open studios. I found his paintings memorable due to their simplicity and big sky. Enjoy the interview!

 Art Life: Describe your move from art collector to artist.

Paul: I’ve always loved art. I remember my final art class in eighth grade. I was upset because I realized art would not be mandatory in the next school year. But then I just forgot about it, went on to high school, to college and a career in advertising that eventually allowed me to buy art that I liked. It didn’t occur to me until about six years ago that I should be painting myself. It was like a “calling.” So I took classes, got studio space and just kept painting. This led to juried shows, sales, interest from the press and gallery representation. All it took was a decision to begin painting. Then everything in the universe seemed to line up for me. The doors kept opening.

Pedulla painting“Ocean Edge” Acrylic on Canvas 30″x30″

Art Life: How is it that space came to be such a dominant theme in your paintings? Have you always been drawn to the sky?

Paul: When I was a kid, I’d lie on my back in the grass and watch the clouds go by. So, yes, the sky has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. It is a dominant theme in much of my work, along with the unexpected cropping of natural and man-made landscape features. I do have work with no sky at all, such as in a newer piece titled INTO THE WOODS. But even in this painting, the freeing feeling of space along with some unanswered questions make it pretty clear the composition is mine.


 Art Life: Your work has a great ability to connect with people, yet there are no people in your paintings. Why?

Paul: Doesn’t it feel as though people don’t belong in my paintings? It seems that way to me. When one looks at one of my pieces, there is a distinct feeling what was left out is as important as what was included. Clearly, people have been left out and that feels right somehow. However, I wouldn’t rule out including a figure in a future piece. It may or may not happen. I mostly don’t know what will come out when I’m in my studio painting. If I’m prompted to include a person in a composition, it will happen. That may surprise us all.

Paul Pedulla painting“Lemon Lime” Acrylic on Canvas  20″x16″

 Art Life: Your paintings are organized and distilled to a simplicity. Where did you glean such an aesthetic?

Paul: This question may be best answered with an anecdotal story. It goes back to 2008, my second year in the juried group show at South End Open Studios, before I had more permanent studio space at 450 Harrison Ave. Three women in their early twenties came by my exhibition area. They liked my work very much. One smiled and said to me, “I bet you have a very neat apartment.” She got that right away just from looking at my work. I laughed and responded, “How did you guess?” I’m drawn to simple, clean lines, a certain degree of starkness and a generally uncluttered life, both on the canvas and in my day-to-day world. I think this resonates with a lot of people and provides a sense of peace. At least this is the feedback I get consistently.

Pedulla outside his studio

 Art Life: Do other art forms influence your artistry?

Sure, I’m influenced by many art forms, including film, photography, sculpture, music, theater and so much more. I’m particularly drawn to conceptual ideas in whatever form they may take. You’ve probably noticed there’s a somewhat mutually dependent relationship between the titles of some of my paintings and the piece itself. This comes in part from years of conceptual thinking as a creative person in the advertising industry.

Paul Pedulla

Art Life: What does the “art life” mean to you?

I think we are all artists in that each morning when we wake up, we have the opportunity to “paint our own canvas” figuratively. In other words, we can and do make up the day we experience. As a painter, I can take this a step further and express my creativity literally on an actual canvas. The image and emotions that result will no doubt resonate with others, too. The painting then becomes more than just my expression. It is an idea that belongs to the world and is open to a variety of individual interpretations.

Visit Paul Pedulla for more information!

For more pictures of Paul visit Boston Art Life Photo Gallery.

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Lauren Bateman

Speaking with singer/songwriter and musician Lauren Bateman I discovered that she was an archeologist who dug in Pompeii, Belize and China and that she graduated from Boston University with a degree in Archaeology and Biology. What then made her turn to music?

Art Life: You quit your day job to live the life of art and music. How did you do this and why?

Lauren: Let’s start with the reason why. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with Hodgekin’s Lymphoma. That’s pretty scary when you are 16 years old. But I learned at a very young age, usually when you think you are indestructible, that life is pretty short. Since then, I like embracing every day and living it like it is your last. Unfortunately, working a day job and then sitting in traffic were not the ideal situations for me and my adventurist spirit.

I decided I needed a vacation and I went on this great cruise called Cayamo. I got to meet one of my idols, Brandi Carlile, and play blackjack with her. It was fantastic. I got to go on stage and play the acoustic for the lead singer of Collective Soul, Ed Rolands, and I performed in the little lounges on the ship in my spare time. When I got back to my job, I decided there was no way I could take much more of living my life the way I was. I loved music and I wanted to do it every day.

So I decided to join a music careers program online and started my own guitar and voice teaching business. At the age of 27, I recorded my first album and quit my job. It was fantastic. I had never felt so free. It’s great! If I want to sit and write music for a few hours or even the whole day, I’m able to do that.

Lauren Bateman

Art Life: Writing songs can be daunting to some can you provide some tips on how to keep inspired and productive?

Lauren: I get a lot of inspiration from every day life. It’s funny, I might not write a song for a few weeks or even a month or two and then I get an avalanche of ideas and write 4 or 5 songs in a day. The best thing to do is to look to your life, your friend’s lives, the news, Facebook, movies, etc. You never know when something will spark your interest and motivate you to get writing.

I usually start with the music and melody first, but sometimes just brain storming ideas of what you want to write about is a great start. What’s a story you want to tell? Is there a moral to the song? Is there a happy or twist ending? Sometimes playing with lyrical rhyming can be fun. The best thing to do is to keep your creative juices flowing even if you are not writing a song. Sometimes it’s crap, sometimes it’s great, but practice makes perfect.

Art Life: How do you get ready for a performance?

Lauren: Before performances, if I am with my band, we will rehearse our set going over the little details like the order of the songs, different dynamic changes, will we make this song slightly different from the CD, etc. A lot of people concentrate on the songs when they are performing and it’s really not about that live. Think about why you go and see a performance. It’s the experience. It’s about giving people a great performance.

So do not think because you wrote a song that it HAS TO be performed that same way every time. Think of ways you can switch things up, for example, playing a different instrument. I am not an amazing drummer or lead guitar player, but there are times on stage when I will play drums, hand my guitar off to someone else to play or pick up an electric and rock out with the guys. People like when you do those things, it makes the show fun and entertaining.

Other than that, a little vocal warm up before the show and we are rocking and rolling. I do not really get nervous any more so there is not a lot of psyching myself up for things.

Lauren Bateman

Art Life: Are there other musicians and artists that inspire your creativity?

Lauren: Oh absolutely. One of my biggest influences is Brandi Carlile. I love the way that woman plays guitar and she is a great songwriter. Her dynamics and stage presence have really made me sit back and analyze my writing and performance. I am also a big Pat Benatar and Melissa Etheridge fan.  I get a rock element from those artists. I also like Sheryl Crow, U2 and Natalie Merchant. Great songs. I will even be listening to classical music sometimes and you will here this cool rhythm in the background on the violin or the drums and you go, “Wow, that was really cool”. Then you go home and try to write a song that imitates that.

Art Life: Your last album was titled “I’ve Been Waiting” and your soon to be released album is “Here I Am”.  There seems to be a message here?

Lauren: Yeah, there definitely is a little bit of a message. “I’ve Been Waiting” was kind of the, alright, I made it, I’m totally doing this after so many years kind of thing. Some of the songs on that album were written years before they were ever recorded. I think I had secretly always dreamed of recording my own music but never really believed it until that album was done.

“Here I Am” I feel is more of who I am as an artist today. Even though it has only been a couple of years, I have really grown so much in my playing and writing. It’s almost like it was not the same person. I am really proud of this album. I was proud of the first one, but I always felt it could be so much better and I feel this album is everything I was hoping to do with the first album. So I wanted to let people know, “Here I am. This is the real Lauren Bateman and she is ready for prime time.”

Lauren Bateman

Art Life: How does “life” and “art” relate for you?

For me, life is art. Life is the expression of who you are and what moves you. That can be many different things for different people, but for me, art is what moves me and makes me feel alive. I do not know what my life would be like without the art of music. But I think that even if you are not musically inclined, music will always find a way to touch you at some point in your life. It could be a song that brings you back to high school or a song that reminds you of an old friend or lover. Art has a way of touching the soul in ways we can not comprehend and I am so excited to be a part of that.

Art Life: Thank you!

For more information visit Lauren Bateman

Her CD “Here I Am” will be released Saturday May 5th 8 PM at Sally O’Briens of Somerville, MA

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Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

I ran into Stumpy and Mr. Bear in Somerville’s Union Square taking in the sites, hitting the pubs and doing what they do to get ready for their hit radio show The Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals. They allowed me to tag along, take a few shots and ask a couple of questions. Heck, I even got to be a guest on their radio show (listen to it by clicking here: Radio Show of March 27, 2012). Enjoy!


Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Art Life: You are both stuffed animals but unique in that you lead creative lives. How do you do this?

Stumpy: It just comes naturally.

Mr. Bear: We also have especially understanding owners who let us do our thing. And Boston Free Radio is unique in offering stuffed animals a public voice. The folks at SCATV [Somerville Community Access TV] have been awfully welcoming to us. We like to say it’s where speech is free, even for stuffed animals!


Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Art Life: Animals have always been second-rate to humans. Stuffed animals even more so. What is your message to the other animals of earth?

Stumpy: It’s really a matter of opinion this first-rate, second-rate thing. Being stuffed animals, or regular animals, will always be up against the human opinion.

Mr. Bear: Yeah, we have our own opinion of humans — and live animals. But we encourage solidarity with all animals, even humans.


Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Art Life: As radio talk show hosts what do you like to talk about most? Least?

Mr. Bear: Beer.

Stumpy: Beer.

Mr. Bear: And poetry and Roald Dahl. And the Sweet Valley Oracle, which you’ll have to tune in to hear. It’s indescribable. Plus, we have special guests — local poets, musicians, other stuffed animals. And our listeners can call in. We love to hear from them.

Stumpy: And there’s nothing we like least to talk about since we don’t have to talk about anything. That’s kind of the secret of The Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals; no topic’s off limits. And we do whatever we want.


Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Art Life: Do you feel there is any prejudice against you because you’re stuffed?

Mr. Bear: Yes.

Stumpy:  Absolutely.

Mr. Bear: People think we’re just full of stuffing. But we’re full of feelings too. And human secrets. I like to think of us as secret-holding love machines.

Stumpy:  We’re full of beer sometimes too. And laughs. Kids get us at least.


Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Art Life: Your show is called The Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals. What’s so secret about it? Can you reveal one?

Stumpy: We’re trying to fight prejudice by revealing our secrets and what we have in common with humans. It’s kind of like the Stuffed Civil Rights Movement. We listen to Elvis, Snoop Dogg , Gillian Welch; raid the liquor cabinet; eat chips in bed; read poetry; feel our owners’ joy and pain. … We’re not as inanimate as we are made out to be.

Mr. Bear:  Exactly. Humans can learn we’re not so different from them and maybe they shouldn’t just stuff us in a corner and neglect us, or leave us for the family dog or cat to maul. And stuffed animals can take comfort in knowing there are others like them out there in the same situation, and there’s hope. And of course we reveal some of our owners’ secrets too.

Stumpy:  Yeah, we like to dish out the dirt on them. … And it’s not much of a secret, but I’m a chick magnet.

Mr. Bear: Yeah, he is.


Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Art Life: How can beings of all walks of life live together and create together peacefully?

Mr. Bear: Join our peaceful stuffed animal revolution. And kazoo marching band. How can you not get along if you’re blowing a kazoo together?

Stumpy: We’re also accepting applications for our Department of Stuffedmanities. Part of our admissions process is having potential faculty as guests on the show to try them out. Candidates can be in touch via our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/secret.lives.of.stuffed.animals or email us at stumpy.misterbear@gmail.com.

Mr. Bear: We are strongly committed to a policy of equal opportunity and affirmative action; we do not discriminate against humans. Of course, we don’t pay them either.

Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

Tune in to The Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals live, Tuesday nights 8-9, on Boston Free Radio.

Podcasts are (slowly) available at http://secretlives.podbean.com/ or through iTunes.

To view the entire gallery of pictures go to Secret Lives Photoshoot.

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J Rebecca Trueblood

J. Rebecca Trueblood lives, breaths and creates art. Her sense of color, dimension and texture have broken free as her ideas take shape. Enjoy the interview!

j rebecca trueblood artist

Art Life: Once an artistic idea comes, how do you develop it for a painting? a series?

JRT: I make the leap from idea to painting very quickly; I get very excited and my imagination spirals far, far away from the original idea after perhaps a few initial sketches. Making art, for me, is a pure play/work fusion. I have no preconceived notions about what something should look like before I make it. I enjoy the element of surprise in creation and when I’m finished, very rarely make alterations.

J Rebecca Trueblood artist

Art Life: You’ve developed several abstract series’ from various inspirational sources, is there a common element amongst them?

JRT: My main concern in making art is to say something about the ideas of intimacy versus individuality. I express this in different ways: I’ll make something so small that the viewer is forced to get close enough to see it properly- thereby imposing this singular, personal experience with the object. Personal space and the invisible lines that everyone has around them is of great interest. I use shapes to express this as well: how close can two shapes come together before they are touching? Does the space increase in tension as they get closer? The other way I like to address this is use of color in a way that blurs the lines between second and third dimension: a color I choose may want to force its way to the front, but another color obstructs and pushes it back, creating tension and jostling. I use surfaces to create different effects, depending on the physical position of the viewer: many of my paintings look completely different when viewed from another angle. It is the highest problem of humanity, in my opinion: getting close to other human beings without losing one’s sense of self. This is a fairly modern problem, too. Ultimately, we cannot merge completely with another person, even if you fall madly in love- you are still separated by skin and mind and sensibilities.

j rebecca trueblood artist

Art Life: How does the spiritual enter into your work?

JRT: I was not brought up religiously, although I find many aspects of religion to be beautiful: the rituals, the iconography, and the ideas that began them in the first place. I make paintings about the idea of ghosts (which I have seen)- although I am not interested in actual ghosts as much as I am in the notion of there being different levels of presence; I struggle with a strange fear of vanishing from the consciousness of others, as if I’m going to somehow slip sideways out of the world and no one will remember I ever existed. Another way I would have to say spirituality enters into my practice is that it is the closest thing I have to worship; I go into a meditative state and experience peace when I paint, unlike anything else, even when taking time out to do yoga or meditate the conventional way.

j rebecca trueblood artist

Art Life: Your studio is filled with your art, how does that resonate for you and the creating of further art?

JRT: I really enjoy looking at my work. It gives me ideas for different variations and directions; I also revisit series that I haven’t worked on for several years, because looking at them still intrigues me. At the same time, I’d love to move more of it out into the world so that I have the space to make new stuff.

j rebecca trueblood artist

Art Life: You recently overcame a “block” in creating your art, have you taken away anything that you can share with others who may be in similar situations?

JRT: A block is really difficult and, for me, painful. It took saying goodbye to a toxic relationship to overcome it. It gets increasingly clear that if I have people in my life who drain my psychic energy, I am handicapped severely in my capability to create; when my life force is going to trying to figure out how to make something work, it doesn’t leave much left over. So if you can, identify the people and work situations that are blocking your flow, and extricate yourself!

j rebecca trueblood artist

Art Life: Your identity and life is so entwined in the art process, what is the “art life” for you?

JRT: The art life means simply figuring out what invigorates you the most, and having the courage to follow it to whatever end… and if you can figure out how to survive in the practical world along the way, you’ve won. I haven’t quite figured the whole thing out yet- it can be a scary balancing act- but I hope I’m getting there.

Thank you!

J. Rebecca Trueblood can be found at her website Jenny Rebecca Trueblood.

She founded and administers the Boston Area Artists group on Facebook which works to inform and connect artists.

To view the entire photoshoot of artist J. Rebecca Trueblood go to Featured Artist Gallery.


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Elizabeth Colburn-Moraites

Elizabeth Colburn-Moraites is a painter creating self-portraits, re-imagining herself in abstraction, flowers and nature. Enjoy the interview and explore the process!

Elizabeth Colburn Moraites

1. Your paintings are a reflection of you, how do you make that connection?

I began this series about 2 years ago. I was in a serious artistic slump and hadn’t painted for almost a year.  It was a time when I felt like the world was telling me that I was old, no longer had any use, and had lost my looks. I wanted to say back to the world, “Screw you I’m a flower !”  It was then that I decided to do a series entitled , “Self Portrait as a Flower.” I wanted to paint a single flower that would be taken out of its natural element and be placed on a background that would abstractly reflect what was going on in my life at the time.

I remember after I finished, “Self Portrait as a Flower #5″ I didn’t want anyone to see it. That piece made me feel like I was standing stark naked in Time Square. It finally dawned on me that others can’t see what I see when looking at my work. It’s not like they can crawl inside my head.

Although they are self portraits, I believe that they could represent anyone. We are all flowers in the process of blooming. I think that people need to start seeing their own beauty. There are too many people in this world that don’t think positively of themselves and because of that they don’t treat themselves or others well. I strongly believe that we are all connected.

Elizabeth Colburn Moraites painting

Elizabeth Colburn Moraites painting

2. What are the most important aspects of your art process?

I generally just let my subconscious be the guide with this series. I pick a flower that I feel particularly drawn to at the time. I don’t know why I am drawn to the flower, but it doesn’t really matter.  I try not to think too much when painting. Every action is merely a reaction to the previous action. I don’t want to over think it too much.

I learn a tremendous amount about myself through this series. I can’t always see what I am saying in a piece after I’ve completed it.  Sometimes it can take a good 6 months. Other times I can see it while the piece is in progress, but that’s rare. Whatever the case, sometimes I am shocked by what is coming out. I look at a painting and say to myself, “Oh God, this painting illustrates such and such. I didn’t even know that I felt that way.”

Recently I made a big change in the way I lay the paint down. It put my work into another realm and I’m highly pleased with the results. The process I describe as being a controlled mess whereas my earlier works were highly controlled. Now I lay really wet layers of paint down and let other colors bleed into them.  I lay the paint down one petal at a time so it is somewhat controlled although my chances for losing a piece to accident have increased greatly.

In the beginning I was rather frightened by the chance that I was taking. It made it so that I was almost afraid to paint. I hated the thought that I might have to scrap a piece after spending a lot of time on it. Then I decided that this change in style was reflective of a change I had made in my approach to life. I had decided to be more willing to put myself out there and try new things. I could always scrap it if I wasn’t happy with it.

Elizabeth Colburn Moraites painting

3. Do any other art forms contribute to your work? If so, how?

Photography, I always work off of photographs. A flower doesn’t change in a photo like it can if you are working off of life. I usually use my own photos, but not always. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful photo, it just needs to show the flower well and not hide it in the photo’s highlights and shadows. I generally don’t go for art photographs of flowers. They are already pieces of art.

Elizabeth Colburn Moraites painting

4. You are quite prolific, how do you stay motivated and inspired to work?

When people ask me if I am seeing anyone my response is generally, “I’m having a sordid affair with Art.”  I’m happier to be in my studio painting and I think it’s because I found something that speaks to my soul.  It’s sort of like a soap opera for me, I can’t wait to see what will happen next so I go back and paint a little more. When I’m working on something that excites me that’s all the motivation I need.

I’m an artist who also happens to have multiple sclerosis (MS). MS affects my eyesight and hand coordination amongst other things. I manage to get by these symptoms with some modifications. The one thing I can’t get by is the fatigue. I’m currently in a period of fatigue and I’m taking a little time off. I actually feel guilty because I’m not painting right now. Life is a balancing act for all of us.

Elizabeth Colburn-Moraites

5. Art and life merge for most artists, in what way does art become every day life for you?

I try to keep up on the art world. I go and look at art through museums,  gallery openings, and open studios. It’s a great idea to see what’s out there locally. I read about art, whether it be a magazine with current happenings or a biography of an artist.
Getting together with artist friends and talking art is another favorite past time. They don’t have to be visual artists, their art can take on another form. I think we motivate and inspire each other.

After a day of visual art I love to head out for another art form in the evening. The Dockside in Malden has an open mike on Monday nights. Musicians, comedians, and poets all take the mike. The audience is wonderfully supportive and the acts are quite good. They have even begun to show visual art.  There is also an organization called Massmouth. It’s a storytelling group. Writers go up and tell their stories which are about 5 minutes long and revolve around a particular theme for the night. Massmouth performances are held at various bars and pubs in the Boston Area.

Thank you!

More information on Elizabeth Colburn-Moraites can be found at ECM fine arts at Etsy or on her Facebook fan page.

To view the entire photoshoot of painter Elizabeth Colburn-Moraites go to Featured Artist Gallery.

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Liz Rodriguez

Liz Rodriguez has decided to join the ranks of full-time artists and loves it. This year she opened her own studio and started creating her own line of ceramics. Her insights and ideas can be found in our feature artist interview below. Enjoy!

Liz Rodriguez potter hands

Art Life: What was it like to make the plunge to being a full-time artist?

My favorite quote of all time answers this question perfectly, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin

Liz: Coming out of a very financially comfortable yet spiritually unfulfilling corporate career, this was and still is the scariest thing that I’ve ever done but truly, the best thing I have ever done.  This first year as a full-time artist has been the happiest of my year of my entire life, without question.

Liz Rodriguez potter hands

Art Life: What other art forms do you draw upon in making your pottery?

Liz: I’m inspired by many art forms and objects.  I am grateful that my inspirations feel limitless right now.  Aesthetically, I’m drawn to texture and natural forms therefore I find inspiration in textiles, sculpture, other ceramic work (particularly Kristin Kieffer, Ruchika Madan, Adero Willard and Kari Radasch), nature, and fashion.  Spiritually, I find inspiration in music and poetry.

Art Life: You have a beautiful sense of color, please tell me about your ideas on color and their combination?

Liz: Wow, thanks!  The colors in the work are born from my attraction to how colors contrast and complement each other, for example, the cool Mediterranean Sea turquoise blue laid under warm rich espresso brown contrasts while the deep almost pitch ocean blue color under the sky blue glaze complements.  Much of my work is highlighted with a pop of red which adds another dimension of contrast to the work. I’m not exactly sure where that comes from – perhaps art school and studying the color wheel or as my partner Mike likes to think, it’s intuitive.  This pattern of mixing cool and warm colors can be found in every aspect of my life – from my home with the wheat colored walls with gray/blue painted furniture to my own fashion sense as you’ll often see me in a favorite pair of faded blue jeans with a bright red sweater.

Liz Rodriguez ceramics

Art Life: How does the various senses come into play in your art?

Liz: I am always encouraging people to pick up my pieces because the contrasts don’t simply exist in the colors but contrasts also exist in the textures as well.  The tactility of the work is half the experience as I will lay a smooth glossy glaze over a matte glaze and highlight the pieces with a pattern of bumpy texture and protrusions of buttons and birds.

In addition to the actual visual and physical experience of the piece, the work also carries a contrast in the emotional senses as well.  I describe it as sober frivolity in that the work carries a rather serious overtone with its elegant rich colors and patterns but then has a whimsical undertone with silly little inquisitive looking birds and little rose buttons adorning each piece.

Art Life: Tell me about your journal and the information that you keep there.

Liz: My journal is the heart of my studio and gets carried from one end of my space to the other.  It’s divided into five sections of notes:

1 – sizing:  For consistency, I sketch out  each piece in my line of work and break it down into size and weight, i.e., each mug is made with 1.4 lbs of clay, it is thrown to a height of 5 inches and a lip width of 4 inches with a waist of 3.5 inches in width that starts 1.75 inches from the rim.  The hip of the piece is 6 inches and foot is finished at a circumference of 2.5 inches.   The handle is 6 inches long and sits exactly at the hip and ½ inch from the bottom.  The handle is 1.2 inches in width and is adhered with the acacia leaf textile stamp.  It helps keep the work consistent as possible so that people may add to their collection of mugs without feeling as if they are getting an entirely different mug each time.  That said, I tweak this regularly as I recently found that the mugs feel better in the hand with the hips sitting a bit higher (exactly 1.75 inches from the foot).

Liz Rodriguez journal

2 – ideas:  I’ll sketch out ideas of new pots or perhaps write down thoughts and feelings, i.e., the latest idea I have is this idea of mending.  We all overcome some adversity as no one gets through life unscathed.  At some point we deal with some kind of loss – whether it be a job, our health, divorce, death of a loved one, etc. and how we all survive this is through mending or healing.  As a result of this idea, I’m in the process of developing a line of intention candle holders where we can light a candle to help us process some of these emotions and come through the other side.

3 – glaze notes:  This helps me keep track of how much glaze I’m mixing for material usage tracking and also helps me to develop new glazes.   Many times a new glaze recipe will take several tries (maybe a year or more of testing) before a larger batch is mixed and used in the work.

4 – firing notes: I keep track of dates and times fired, how long the kiln takes to go through a cycle and how long it takes too cool. I also keep track of how full my kiln is when it is fired.  All of these variables affect how the glaze will sit on a piece and this helps me adjust firing speed, i.e., I recently discovered that my underglazes don’t crawl if I fast fire the work which felt very counterintuitive.  I was slow firing with a soaking period (I let the kiln sit at 1,800 degrees for several hours before ramping up to finish at 2,300 degrees) thinking that the glazes would lay flatter as they’ll have a luxurious amount of time to melt when in fact the opposite is true.  The faster firing kept the underglazes from getting too dry and pulling away from the clay body and as a result, I have richer smoother finishes in the work.

Liz Rodriguez kiln

5 – pricing notes:  I recently realized I have over 50 different pieces in my line of work and this helps me keep track of my prices and how fast each piece in the line is selling.  This helps me figure out what pieces are working for people and what pieces need to be taken out of the line.

Art Life: Since we are all about the art life, how do you incorporate art into your daily life?

Liz: I think we all incorporate art into our lives on a daily basis if not hourly basis.  It is in every selection we make throughout our day from the clothes and accessories we wear, the objects we choose to surround ourselves with, the music we listen to, and to what we decide to read.  I could be driving somewhere and notice the cool line of a gas station sign.  Everything in our daily lives has been created by someone for our use, enjoyment or information.  Art is in nature as well with vibrant colors, textures and sounds.  The trick is simply realizing that just about everything in this world can be a rich sensory experience worth noticing and appreciating.

Liz Rodriguez

Thank you!

More information on Liz Rodriguez can be found at her website Liz Rodriguez Ceramics.

To view the entire photoshoot of potter Liz Rodriguez go to Featured Artist Gallery.

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Dina Ali

If in Davis Square in Somerville stop at the Blue Shirt Cafe not necessarily for a bite to eat but for a refreshing view of life. Dina Ali has put on display her photographs, I believe for the first time.

Bike Seat by Dina AliBike Seat by Dina Ali

Shallow depth of field is a technique available to the photographer which allows a narrow band of focus to be greeted with aesthetic blur on either side, near and far.  Dina has used this technique on subject matter that arrests the eye. It is the technique coupled with the vision that captivates. For example, her bicycle pictures which have an ethereal, dreamy quality, bring to mind memories of weekend bike trips. Yet they are unique, not typical.   Other close ups of wood or moss suggest a simple, often overlooked object for concentration. Her eye is clean and clear and is attracted to new things that others don’t see.

Dina is an artist with a camera. View her work at Dina’s Photos.

Bike Frame by Dina AliBike Frame by Dina Ali

Blue Shirt cafe is located at 424 Highland Avenue in Somerville MA, in the heart of Davis Square. Dina Ali can be reached at dinaaliphoto@gmail.com.

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Jessica Liggero

Artist Sightings

This is the first of many impromptu artist sightings. Instead of being considered a thorough review of an exhibition or body of work, it is an intimate and more casual recognition of art and the artist.

An artist sighting was made at Espresso Royale Cafe located at 286 Newbury Street in Boston. The paintings of Jessica Liggero.

What caught my attention almost immediately was her still-life works of red peppers. Their chiseled brightness and taut shadows captivated. It threw me back to the famed pepper photograph by black and white photographer Edward Weston. The essential beauty of a pepper, its shape and form, highlights and shadow. Why not worship the pepper?

Three Peppers

Yet again there was another still life of boxes, highlighted in red. These intrigued me. Possibly the red again set me off. The stern strokes of the painter provided a geometric expression of color and line. I even noticed on her website that she combined the red pepper with a box!

Jessica Liggero is a very talented painter and should not be ignored. View her work at Jessica Liggero.

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Zack Jonas

Our next feature artist melds various art forms to create stunning works that last life times. Bladesmith Zack Jonas, apprenticed to master smith JD Smith, can be found in either his home studio or forging at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. His interview follows:

Boston Bladesmith

Bladesmith Knife

Art Life: I know that your background involves many art forms, from drawing to writing. How did you finally settle on bladecraft?

Zack: Landing on knifemaking was a pretty natural conclusion for me. I have always been an artist. I started taking lessons when I was about four years old, and from that point on, I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t regularly drawing, painting, or sculpting. I have also always had a strong affinity for knives. My interest in them was always much less about their lethality (i.e. that they are weapons) than it was about the way that beauty of form and function can be brought together in such a satisfying way. The only reason I didn’t start making knives earlier than I did, honestly, is that it never occurred to me that I could. As soon as I found someone who could teach me how, I was in.

Art Life: How do the other art forms inform and influence your craft?

Zack: My experience in other art forms plays a regular role in my work. I use my ability to draw quite directly when I’m working out a design on paper. I very rarely take up the materials without having a pretty refined drawing of what I intend to make. My experience in jewelery comes to bear when I’m considering how to execute a design in terms of pieces joining together, and also when I’m planning embellishments. Working in sculpture has left me with fairly attentive hands. The knife (particularly the handle) is a sculpted, three-dimensional object, and in order to leave my shop, it has to FEEL good. And believe it or not, my education in painting helps me select and pair materials with the overall design and feel of the piece.

Art Life: How do you come up with a design for a knife?

Zack: My designs are inspired by any number of sources. The simplest is when I have a client who says “I want a nine-inch bowie knife.” That’s a particular style of knife, so I start with the most basic components of that style and then make it my own by implementing my personal design vocabulary. An entirely different path would be something most artists are probably familiar with. Namely, an idea pops into my head, and then I refine it down to something workable. Workability is paramount with me, both on the side of literally being able to make a piece, and on the side of the knife being a KNIFE, one of man’s most basic and most useful tools. Beauty is also tremendously important to me, but ultimately, if it can’t work as a knife, it’s not a knife.

Bladesmith hands

Bladesmith sparks

Bladesmith Zack

Art Life: Describe the work that goes into making a knife or blade.

Zack: There are several major stages of work that go into making a knife. The first step is the forging. The steel needs to be heated up in a forge fire to about 1740 degrees and hammered into shape. Once the basic shape of the knife is formed, the blank (as it’s called at this point) is taken to the grinder. This part of the process can be likened to lapidary [ editors note: lapidary is the art of cutting, polishing and engraving precious stones ]. I use the grinder to remove material and crisp up the contours of the blade as I see it WITHIN the blank I’ve forged. Next, the blade is hardened and then tempered (the two of which taken together are called “heat treating” the blade). The blade is hardened by heating it up to 1475 degrees, and then dropped beneath 900 degrees in less than one second. This is done by plunging the hot blade into fluid–usually either water or oil. This makes the blade extremely hard, but also extremely brittle, so some of that hardness is tempered selectively out of the steel by applying lower and much more gradual heat to the hardened blade. After that, it’s time for handle shaping–starting with rectangular blocks of wood and metal–and construction. Next, the blade is polished by hand, and fitted together with the handle. And presto, it’s a knife!

Art Life: Within the blade making process you make and design every piece, from the blade itself, to the handle and even the leather sheath. What is the time process from start to completion of a project?

Zack: The length of time required to complete a knife from raw stock, through the sheath varies quite widely, moderated by the scope and complexity of the finished work. But as a rule of thumb, the simplest of knives might take a single day, while master Japanese sword makers may spend six months to a year on one piece. Generally speaking most of my knives take between one and three weeks of work to complete.

Bladesmith Zack Jonas

Art Life: What does the art life mean to you on a whole?

Zack: I find the art life to be incredibly satisfying. I like working with my hands and getting dirty. I like that I produce pieces that are beautiful and useful. I like that I’m a part of a tradition stretching millennia into the past, a tradition that I’m helping to sustain. Making knives is incredibly satisfying to me–and then the fact that others want what I’ve made and can really use them is the icing on the cake.

Thank you!

Zack Jonas can be reached at his website Jonas Blade.

For more information on Bladesmithing classes at Massachusetts College of Art click on Professional and Continuing Education and select the Bladesmithing class video.

To view the entire photoshoot of bladesmith Zack Jonas go to Featured Artist Gallery.