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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Tiny Paintings

I’m gonna keep this short because making sure a certain fluffy husky stays out of trouble is my demanding and stressful full-time job right now. But I made these diminutive round paintings and had to share the weirdness!

I found these tiny but beefy 4″ wood frames at an antique store last year, filled with horrifying drawings that would surely be the type of drawings to murder you in your sleep. Murder drawings or not, at $3/each I couldn’t leave them behind. I planned on filling them with little precious starburst embroideries, but motivation to embroider rarely arrives. So I moved to plan B, whipping up some quick little paintings. I stuck to my regular colors and made about 20 designs, narrowing it down to 4 that worked well together. I attached the frames together with black chain to add even more beef, and ta-da: new thing to hang on my wall!

I would link to some similar frames, but nothing out there is doing it for me. I really think vintage is the way to go here, so check ebay/etsy/etc if you want some tiny paintings for yourself!The weirdness ended up in our family room and all was well for a few days until fluffy husky showed up and A GIANT DOG CRATE MOVED INTO THIS CORNER :( It’s so ugly, but our dog is crazy and needs a safe space for the brief moments we leave the house. Any suggestions on how to make a giant ugly dog crate invisible????

Hanging Art and Poking Holes In Wallpaper

mid century dining room heywood wakefield wishbone table grasscloth wallpaper nelson bubble light jereI finally had the urge/courage to nail into the dining room grasscloth. After a few enjoyable months of seeing just the wallpaper, it was time. I was unreasonably nervous about nail holes in the wallpaper and even researched gallery style ceiling hooks. But I talked myself down from that ridiculousness with stuff like, “It’s only wallpaper and heavily textured at that.” Or, “The worst that can happen is I mess up and have visible holes.” And that’s kind of how it went. I got out the hammer, measured extremely carefully and…I think I biffed it!mid century dining room heywood wakefield wishbone table grasscloth wallpaper nelson bubble light

I wrongly assumed that I would just want this crazy abstract painting in there again. It made the room in its previous state. I had concerns about the large surface area of it with the inevitable fading of the grasscloth, but decided that I liked it enough to deal with the consequence. But when I actually hung it on the wall and it didn’t love it there like it used to. It’s funny how such a small change can largely impact the feel of a room. And, by the way, I decided to hang it centered to the wallpaper panels instead of perfectly centered on the wall.mid century dining room heywood wakefield wishbone table vintage wallpaper nelson bubble light

mid century dining room heywood wakefield wishbone table grasscloth wallpaper nelson bubble light abstract artThere is now an irrevocable nail hole in a useless spot since nothing else I would hang here is as huge as that painting. Thankfully, it’s not that noticeable at all with all this paper has going on and, of course, it could be worse.

I’ve tried nearly every hanging object in my house on this wall and I’ve narrowed it down to this Curtis Jere sculpture or the wood starburst clock. Both winners. The sculpture is so beautiful and subtle, and the clock a bit more interesting. Grasscloth should be expected to mellow/fade, much like wood floors, so I really like how neither of these will leave huge marks as that happens. Fun decisions for me…curtis jere sculpture brass birds starburst grasscloth wallpaper

nelson bubble light lamp starburst clock seth thomas grasscloth wallpaper

mid century dining room heywood wakefield wishbone table grasscloth wallpaper nelson bubble light jere

mid century dining room heywood wakefield wishbone table grasscloth wallpaper nelson bubble light starburst clock Either way, I’m loving how earthy and textured and warm it all looks. A big difference from the contrast and sheen from the old wallpaper. I have a lot of white walls to share so I’ll be back next time with that! Thanks for reading!!!