Stan Bitters Road Trips

Whew! We’ve been traveling intermittently over the past two weeks and both trips, oddly enough, included Stan Bitters centered pit stops. His large scale textural ceramic work and creative process have left me so inspired. And I love that these memories will now be part of my kids’ “annoying things my parents made me do on road trips” file.

First round, we hit up Sequoia National Park for a few days of camping. (Not my favorite way to shelter, but Sequoia/King’s Canyon is one of the most beautiful and underrated places in the world. It’s like Redwoods/Yosemite/Mt. Rainier all mashed up into one glorious uncrowded park. GO!) Fresno is never our destination, but we find ourselves driving through at least a few times a year so I recently started making note of Fresno gems that I want to see during our drive-bys. Obviously, Stan Bitters’ work at Duncan Ceramics was at the top of the list!

The 1969 Duncan Ceramics installations were part of a remodel to spiff up the company’s buildings and to highlight their products. Fifty tons of clay were used to create over 600 feet of clay wonders. Literally a rainbow of glazes is represented in rainbow order. And the sheer scale of the work is overwhelming.  From Environmental CeramicsWhile most pottery is extremely utilitarian, and is often beautiful in that function, there is something so moving about clay work done at such a massive scale (and in such a violent manner!) solely for human visual enjoyment. The tactile, monolithic, and kinda bonkers installations left me so happy and inspired. Never have I ever had such a huge goofy grin in a parking lot. 

While in Fresno, we also cruised downtown and viewed the remains of the Fulton Mall and checked out the large exterior mural at the Savings and Loan (I just learned there are interior ones too??!!), neither of which I photographed so just go yourself. Fresno, man!

The next Bitters-related detour was unplanned (so excuse the cell phone photos) but oh so good! A few days after Sequoia, we made a quick trip to Southern California for a big day at Disneyland. Bummed to miss the sweet Stan Bitter’s exhibit at Mohawk General Store, you can imagine my excitement when I saw it was extended into August. You better believe I dragged my exhausted and cranky kids to see yet more ceramic goodness. So worth the extra time spent in LA traffic. I highly recommend you catch it if you are in the area this month! I don’t know a ton about this installation other than it is masterfully put together in a backyard desert garden setting, the perfect way to view environmental ceramic work. FULL ON LANDSCAPE DESIGN GOALS. Stan Bitters + aloe trees = what dreams are made of. The best part was seeing so many different applications of the media in one place. Medallion sculptures, mural installations, birdhouses, screens, pots, and fountains are all in attendance. A fun house of clay eeek!!!

It’s incredible, in the span of a week, to see work created 40 years apart by an artist STILL IN IT. Still working. Even through times of obscurity and under-appreciation. While I obviously LOVE the enthusiastic creations themselves, the creative pursuit and seeing a person give their everything to their passion is so encouraging…as is the return of “craft” to public favor!

Stan Bitters, 1969Stan Bitters, 2008

I’m gonna leave you with words of wisdom from from the man himself (from his book Environmental Ceramics) that I think apply to any creative. Production & Depression > Nothing. Forget the pots. And get in it!I couldn’t resist this studio portrait…Thank you Stan Bitters for showing up and doing your work. Holy moly what a gift to the rest of us.

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