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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.