artist interviews

Artist Interview – Creek Van Houten of Compass Rose Design

October 2011 Show Interview:

The big event is just a few days away and we still need to introduce you to a few more artists. There’s a very good chance you will get two of these posts today, so keep your eyes peeled for yet another introduction!

We are excited to present you with Creek Van Houten of Compass Rose Design (www.compassrosedesign.etsy.com). Creek creates understated steampunk & Victorian adornments for both women and men using antique ephemera, found objects, metal, vintage buttons and anything old or whimsical.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Becoming a full-time crafter and artist was the last thing I ever thought possible, but after returning to the U.S. from Amsterdam in 2008 – necessity was a great inspiration. While looking for a job and making a jewelry collection for my wedding party, I began to get more requests for necklaces and earring sets. I studied environmental science and politics, but after working a decade in environmental non-profits, public relations and a few years abroad in the Netherlands, I have just followed the passion and the requests. I truly love the combination of skills that make this work possible.

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What kind of artist are you, and what first drew you to that particular medium?
I’ve been making stained glass and jewelry for the last ten years with vintage and found treasures. My tendency both for collecting as well as reassembling has been a lifelong project. I took apart my first stereo at age seven and disassembled my first broken pocket watch at nine. In both cases, my goal was to repair the items, but upon realizing the parts were so beautiful, I began constructing art. After almost a decade of work in non-profits and then some marketing, I’ve taken the plunge to become a full time crafter maker metal alchemist.  I also weave, mostly Navajo – style, but this is a much more personal art form. I learned to weave while herding sheep in Arizona in 1999, and experience great parallels in working with glass, metal, and wool – all textiles of a sort, with their own behaviors, inclinations and tendencies.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
When I’m not making jewelry, I am working on founding a small beer company with my husband. Keeping as much of the work in-house for both companies takes most of my time and covers most of what I love. In addition to the making of real things, I get to stay up on web design to social media to marketing and bookkeeping.

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Who is your greatest creative influence?
My dad, who showed me that unexpectedly marvelous possibilities are worth pursuit. After being a dentist for 20 years, he followed his skill and passion – and invented swim fins as well as an exercise wheel for small rodents. Both sell internationally. He showed me it is possible to make your own life way.

Please describe your creative process.
I love what I do. From scouring antique fairs and flea markets, to web design and soldering and art shows, I adore working hard and making things. Especially at a time when watch makers rarely repair mechanical watches, I feel great purpose in giving a new life to these precious items from the junk pile.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My Dutch grandmother, who died when I was 8, made me a crocheted lace table cloth. It reminds me of the world of textiles and skills and stories that connect us all, and the world of fiber and home-based arts that only recently left the bounds of the kitchen, pantry and courtyard.

What is it about living in the North Bay that most inspires your creativity?
There is nothing I have experienced like the close juxtaposition of art, culture, nature and urban populations in the North Bay. Particularly after living in Holland, where no forests or wide-open spaces exist, really at all, I appreciate the sense of mental space and possibility. We live in a world that bridges art and technology and wildness – all of which inform who I am and the type of mechanical, yet refined art I seek to create.

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Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Loving the North Bay, hopefully still making things and pursuing new skills and mediums. The North Bay truly combines the things I love about the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, the woods, and the Netherlands  – a community which values the simple pleasures of family, food, art, music, and togetherness.

Thank you Creek!

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Artist Interview – Franci Claudon of Magpie Studio

October 2011 Show Interview:

We’ve been away for a couple of days, but over here at Marin Handmade there are still a few artists left to introduce you to.  The weekend comes to a close with another exceptional addition to our group.

Enjoy today’s interview with Franci Claudon of Magpie Studio (www.magpiestudiodesign.etsy.com). With her amazing functional glass work, Franci’s keen eye for color and contemporary style might make you rethink your serving pieces for the upcoming Holidays!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I bring color, light and joy to the world with my art.  I am a Silicon Valley cubicle refugee who is now living in the Napa Valley and expressing my creativity via kiln-formed and stained glass art.  I am inspired by whimsy and play and curiosity and color – always color.

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What kind of artist are you? And what first drew you to that particular medium?
I am a modernist with a playful heart.

I’ve been making art since I could grip a crayon and have played with paint, pencils, clay, beads, textiles, etc.  I was curious about glass so enrolled in an evening stained glass workshop with the goal of making a simple little project.  In the process of purchasing the materials for the class I found an amazing teacher, Jeffrey Castaline, owner of Aanraku Glass Studios in San Mateo, CA.  The “standard” teaching practice is to start with very small projects and gradually build up to larger and more difficult ones.

Jeffrey had a very different philosophy about how to teach glass – his requirement was that a first project had to have at least 200 pieces and be complex and large. By the time a student finished the project she would have a solid skills foundation and would know if she loved or hated doing stained glass. If it was love – great!  Keep making more.  If it was hate – great!  Never do it again but you will forever have an amazing piece of art you made.

For me it was love.  I like to say that I had been “dating” all the other mediums but found my soul mate in glass.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I am a coach who works with clients who are creating their most kick ass lives. My coaching is another expression of my creativity.  I fully believe that anything is possible when intention, commitment and “moving your feet” are combined.

Please describe your creative process.
Curiosity is my muse.  Many pieces begin with the question “I wonder what would happen if…?”  When the kiln gods are smiling the answer is “Magic!”

I am a collector of random bits of information, inspiration and influence.  While I would never do well on Jeopardy I may surprise you with some arcane factoid that I’ve squirreled away.  These disparate bits coalesce into design inspirations when my mind is left to wander about while I’m doing something mundane like cleaning the house.  Like a dream forgotten upon waking I need to record them or they will drift off like wisps of smoke.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I most cherish the items that connect me to my family, friends and memories.  Photos taken, clocks restored, pictures drawn or painted, clay sculpted, beads strung, letters written, wine produced.

What is it about living in the North Bay that most inspires your creativity?
The abundant natural beauty in the North Bay feeds my soul.

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Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Artist, author and student. Continuing to create in every aspect of my life. Led by curiosity to keep learning, growing, exploring and playing.

Thank you Franci!

Artist Interview – Melinda Talbot of Blue Banana Studio

October 2011 Show Interview:

Hmmm…. things may be a little damp around here, but the 10-day forecast predicts the sun will win out for our long-awaited outdoor shopping experience!

Today we introduce you to Melinda Talbot of Blue Banana Studio (www.bluebananastudio.etsy.com).
We think you’ll find Melinda’s concise, but thoughtful responses to echo perfectly the delicate simplicity of her jewelry. Enjoy!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have a lovely and amazing husband who lets me indulge my passion to be an artist.  We live in Sonoma with our dog, Skye, who spends most of his time relaxing in my studio.

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What kind of artist are you? And what first drew you to that particular medium?
Whatever kind of artist I can be! I make and sell my jewelry, but I paint, dabble in photography and make mosaic things to relax when I have jeweler’s block.

Who is your greatest creative influence?
My sixth grade teacher, Miss B, who completely believed in my artistic abilities way before I did; and the International Terminal of any airport in the world.

Please describe your creative process.
I see it in my head, I sketch like a caveman (very primitive drawings that only I see the beauty in), then I gather the materials and put the piece together.  I love the satisfaction of a finished piece.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A leather coin purse my brother made when he was eight years old.

What is it about living in the North Bay that most inspires your creativity?
The peaceful surroundings and the beautiful vineyards.  There is a certain serenity in Sonoma that I have yet to experience any place else.

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Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Still active in making jewelry, but with a finer knowledge of the next generation of undiscovered semi-precious stones and workable metals.

Thank you Melinda!

Artist Interview – Sally Stokes of Sarahracha

October 2011 Show Interview:

Looking for the perfect gift for that super Eco-concious family member you are visiting over the Holidays? Well, look no further than Marin Handmade…

We are so excited to feature Sally Stokes of Sarahracha today (www.sarahracha.etsy.com) whose amazing woven baskets and reused cork pieces bring a whole new meaning to the term “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!”

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have lived in Marin since I was 4 years old. My husband and I raised our two children here in Marin. I have been an organic gardener for the last 30 years.  I worked in education while my children were in school. Now I devote my time to the pursuit of creativity.

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What kind of artist are you? And what first drew you to that particular medium?
I love every medium.  These days I would describe myself as a frugal textile artist. I don’t like spending money on artist supplies so rely on what I can find. I am most proud of my baskets woven in the coil method out of 100% recycled plastic bags. Each one uses up to 100 plastic bags keeping them from clogging up our landfill and our oceans.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Living here, I like to hike with my two dogs.  My husband and I love to go wine tasting, where I will ask for corks that I make into doormats and trivets and wreaths. We are theater lovers, music lovers and we travel as much as possible.

Who is your greatest creative influence?
My mother told me to never waste paper, to fill each page with as many drawings. We were taught how to make do with what we had. I think this has carried through into my recycling art.

Please describe your creative process.
So many times when seeing something get thrown away I think there has to be something useful I can make from this. I have more ideas than time to execute them.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A jewelry box my husband made for me

What is it about living in the North Bay that most inspires your creativity?
I love the open spaces and coastal lands in Marin County. I hike all the trails I can bring my dogs on. The environmental movement has been a huge part of my life. As a kid I remember helping my dad fill up the station wagon with recyclable materials we would take to Drake High where we recycled can’s bottles, and newspapers.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
We plan on splitting our time between Marin and our second home in La Quinta. As much as I love Marin, the winters are not sunny enough.

Thank you Sally!

Artist Interview – Debra Paddack of Gourds In Costume

October 2011 Show Interview:

Today we introduce you to the work of Debra Paddack of Gourds In Costume (www.gourdsincostume.etsy.com). Debra creates amazing carved, dyed and embellished artisan craft gourds. We are so glad to be able to start the autumn off right with her beautiful work, Tumbling Leaves.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

After retiring ten years ago, I bought a motor home and spent the next five years wandering around.  Weaving pine needle baskets was one hobby that would “fit” in the limited space of the motor home and since I was often in the mountains weaving materials were readily available.  I just naturally began to weave the pine needles onto gourds, which is still one of my favorite pieces to do.

What kind of artist are you, and what first drew you to that particular medium?

When a friend once asked me why I had so many freshly scrubbed gourds sitting in my living room, I replied “I am interviewing them to see what they want to be and who goes next.” This statement sums up my relationship with my gourds. I have had a lifelong love of crafts including needlework, stained glass, and pine needle baskets, but once I began working with gourds the wonderful organic nature of the work enthralled me.

For inspiration in my designs I turn to many cultures, nature and my love of color and form. I use a variety of coloring mediums and prefer to embellish with materials provided by nature such as pine needles, seeds, driftwood and sea shells. Everything and anything can be used on my gourd “canvases” so the experimentation and learning process never end. My primary designing goal is to let the natural beauty of the gourd shine through. Though the gourd may be dyed, painted, carved or embellished, I want the viewer to always be aware that it is first and foremost a beautiful, organic creation of nature, thus the name “Gourds in Costume.”

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Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I have sold my pieces at art galleries and art fairs in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties (yeah for wine country!), and love the diversity of the people I meet in this area.  They make the whole “fair” experience so enjoyable I hope to always be able to do them, but would love to expand my on-line marketing to further support my gourd habit!

Thank you Debra!

Artist Interview – Carol Lancour of Mid Century Mosaics

October 2011 Show Interview:

With Marin Handmade’s inaugural event coming up in just a couple of short weeks, we wanted to bring you all a sneak peek of just who and what you’ll be seeing when you join us on October 14! Over the next several days we’ll be bringing you profiles of the eclectic group of artists we have pulled together. We hope you’ll be as excited as we are to meet all of these talented artists and crafters.

To kick things off, we bring you Carol Lancour of Mid Century Mosaics (www.midcenturymosaics.etsy.com). Carol creates beautiful and original mosaics and garden pieces in Marin County’s northernmost town of Novato. Thank you Carol for helping us get things off to a great start… Cheers!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have a BA in fine art and an MA in art history from Michigan State University.  I’m a transplanted Midwesterner living in the North Bay of California.  “Lost in time” accurately describes me.

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What kind of artist are you? And what first drew you to that particular medium?
Mosaic has been my medium for the past 10 years. I realized that I don’t enjoy painting and it’s always been a chore for me.  I like doing large scale mosaic installations, walls and floors, because I become part of the structure of that building.  It becomes more sculptural. I love working with glass because it is a fragile material that can be transformed into something strong enough to walk on. Glass also comes in every color imaginable.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I am a research analyst for a hotel broker.

Who is your greatest creative influence?
The painter, John Singer Sargeant.  The way he captures light in his paintings is particularly beautiful.  He wore a suit when he painted and never got his hands dirty.  I also like that guy who does “The Oatmeal”.

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Please describe your creative process.
I become obsessed with a motif (martini glasses, hummingbirds drinking out of martini glasses, olive branches, cats and dogs) and then abstract it and interpret it in glass.  I also look at art and garden books and drink wine for inspiration.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
The ugly cinderblocks my husband dug out of our backyard. I made them into an herb garden planter by stacking them 2 high and making them beautiful with an olive branch mosaic.

What is it about living in the North Bay that most inspires your creativity?
The beautiful quality of the light and the fog.  Also, the abundance of birds and flowers.  Nature is my greatest inspiration and it is truly lovely and fragrant here.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Living in Venice like Peggy Guggenheim.  No wait…since I hate moving and traveling I will most likely be in my back yard sitting by the swimming pool I plan to dig after I download the directions for “digging your own swimming pool” from eHow.  I could tile it myself!

Thank you Carol!