Monday, May 12

Unexpected Guests: Whitney Smith.

Today we're visiting a very talented local craftswoman, Whitney Smith. Whitney is an amazing ceramics artist who's been living in Oakland, California since 1996, along with her husband, Andrew. Whitney first fell in love with throwing clay on the wheel when she took a class at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz in 1994, and her design aesthetic definitely emulates the craftsmanship of an earlier time. Her style is strongly influenced by Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement of the 19th and early 20th Century, and is often laced with Dogwood and Lotus flowers. Whitney likes the look and feel of old things and antiques, and her glaze choices have a certain look that reminds us of a different era. Whitney currently has a ceramics design studio in Oakland, and her beautiful pieces are carried in shops all across the country. For more about Whitney and her work, check out her blog, This Artist's Life, as well as her etsy shop and her ceramics shop, where you can purchase her beautiful pieces online. Oh, and Whitney is also having an Open Studio Sale on Saturday, May 17th, from 11-5, so don't miss it!

What is your idea of a perfect day in your city?
Riding my tandem Schwinn around with a friend from out of town so I can show my city off. I would take them around Lake Merritt, over to Oakland Chinatown, through downtown to admire all of the great old buildings and architecture, up to Mountain View Cemetery to wander through the acres of hills and admire the beautiful views. We’d also have to have to eat every few hours at some of my favorite restaurants Cock-A-Doodle Café for breakfast, BC Deli for lunchtime Vietnamese sandwiches, Mezze for dinner… Sounds like a pretty good day to me!

What don't you leave home without?
Shiny lip gloss. Most of the time I look like a mud-wrestling street urchin in my work clothes, but lip gloss makes me feel glamorous.

What's your favorite local shop?
Favor on College Avenue. Caramia makes jewelry under her label Hotcakes Design that is so fun to wear. She always has great stuff she picks up from other designers, plus champagne in her little fridge in the back! And for pure imagination and fun I love Castle in the Air on Fourth Street.

What's one thing about you that would surprise people?
I used to be painfully shy and sometimes I still am!

Who are your favorite artists? And why?
My first favorite artist was Georgia O’Keefe. I found her when I was 14 and really getting into my painting. She was the first accomplished artist who I identified with. After seeing her work I realized I could paint the stuff I wanted to paint, which was mostly nature inspired abstracts. Being that young I didn’t have my style down yet, but she totally inspired me.

Where do you find inspiration?
Nature is my main source for ideas. Being out in the world and away from the city opens me up to beauty and gives me inspiration to create. I also love to spend an afternoon looking at contemporary art in the galleries. It reminds me that art is a wide, open place and it’s important to stay receptive and not oppress my own ideas.

Who do you admire and why?
I have a strong admiration for my husband, Andrew. He is so patient, calm, and brave. He’s an extremely good influence on me. We’ve been together since I started making pottery and he has always supported my development as a ceramic artist, even when I’ve been down to my last dollar and not sure how I would make it another month.

What's the last great book you read?
I was delighted by Eat Pray Love. I also just read Bill Byson’s The Lost Continent and I laughed every five minutes. Any book that can make me laugh that much is a great book!

What's your favorite film?
I don’t really have a favorite because as much as I love movies, I forget them almost immediately. One movie that I saw within the last year that made an impression was The Lives of Others. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of what it means to be an artist in an open, free and privileged culture.

If you could photograph anyone in the world, who might that be?
Nelson Mandela.

Who would you like to sit down to tea with?
All of my girlfriends. At once. Without their kids (sorry kids!). Oh, and with vodka tonics, not tea.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I love blowing my money on wine. I don’t feel very guilty about it though!

What is your most treasured belonging?
A teapot made by Christa Assad that I traded some pottery with her for. And a quilt my mother made for my 30th birthday where she scanned some of my drawings from when I was a kid a stitched the images onto the quilt.

What's souvenir did you bring back from your last trip?
I was in Japan last summer for a ceramic residency and I went to a craft fair where I bought some exquisite pottery, including a paper thin porcelain plate with a matching cup. I actually came home with so much pottery I had to buy myself a new baby blue hard case to transport it all home!

What are your greatest indulgences?
Trips to New York City! And I love buying pottery.

What is your idea of living hell?
Having to be at the same uninspiring place everyday at the same time surrounded by annoying and insecure people. I think it’s called junior high.

What are some of your favorites websites/blogs to visit?
Well, of course I love sfgirlbybay (shameless flattery) and my favorite blog is Thirty-Year Old Secretary, but he has not posted in while, which is unfortunate for his readers. I always read Savage Love every week. I secretly want to be an advice columnist and Dan’s advice is always so thoughtful and right on, even with the crazy topics he writes about. I also love to check in on Urban Mercantile’s blog; Bradley Burch writes about more than just home décor in a style that I really appreciate. I love Posy Gets Cozy, her writing is so engaging. And I always visit my friend’s blogs to see what they are up to — Rae Dunn, Diana Fayt, Terrill Waldman, and Christa Assad.

What music are you listening to these days?
I let other people control my listening habits—at the studio I pretty much listen to whatever the KALX dj, or my assistant plays, at home whatever my husband has going in our 300 CD player. My favorite recent musical discovery is Toshi Regan. I saw her at Joe’s Pub in the East Village last year and there was not a dry eye in the house.


Regardez Moi said...

Wow, I really love all of the pieces you have pictured.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pottery aside, the picture of Whitney and her friend posing with their tea makes me want to be her friend:)

flutterbyblue said...

This work is absolutely beautiful!!! Thank you for posting on this artist!

Shelli said...

stunning work! and the interview was equally great! LOVE the comment about Junior High! :) Thanks for sharing this ♥shelli

Carrie Nicole said...

Wow, really lovely work. My mom bought me a little electric table top potters wheel when I was in grade school, I adored it!

Can you ask where she happened upon that big couch? It really caught my eye and looks SO comfy!

Whitney Smith said...

Thank you Victoria for doing such a lovely post on me and my work!



sfgirlbybay said...

Thank YOU, Whitney! Your work is inspiring!

Oh - and lolabloom is wondering about your sofa, if you check back in! :)

read me... said...

Thanks SO much for a fabulous guest post... I love the images I've seen of Whitney's work and would love to see some for real... the red cake stands are my favourite!

Anonymous said...

I love her work! I have the red creamer and sugar bowl set, and they make me smile when I use them. Her pottery is reminiscent of the Arts & Crafts period, I wish I could buy some of her more elaborate vases, like the green one in the photo.

Happy Birthday Victoria!

Furniture27 said...

Those are all great pictures. I like the "tea party" comment.

Fifi Flowers said...

Great pottery!!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

Ohhh!!! I love those red cakes stands!!

Pamcasso said...

Beautiful work, and I always love your interviews! All the pieces feel very personal. Junior high comment cracked me up.

Happy Birthday Victoria!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful pottery! Did the delicate porcelain from japan make it home in a hard side luggage? I am also a huge fan of O'Keefe- anything floral inspires me. Great work and great interview. Nice pics also!

Naomi Cleary said...

I am so excited to see Whitney doing so well. i spoke with her in Philly a while ago. very lovely lady. gives me hope for my own future as a ceramist

Sugar Plum Invitations said...

Beautiful work. I love Georgia O'Keefe too. I like the little details!

Modern Craft said...

Beautiful work-- I love the forms and details.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Double wow!
Her work is amazing! I love the greenish hues she uses!
can't get enough of these pictures!

Mrs.French said...

Thanks so much for the interview..she is one of my absolute favorites.

Anonymous said...

Whitney is a fabulous blend of earth-mama hippie gal and whip-smart business guru. I look to her for advice, inspiration, and fabulous "tea" parties! Oh, and fashion tips - guess she's really NOT a hippie, come to think of it...not with all that STYLE. Gorgeous work, Whit, and gorgeous life!! Can't wait to re-join you by the bay...