Malia Landis: Sculptor/Ceramic Artist

There is an element of grace that flows through the work of Malia Landis.  It's magical in a way that it gives the viewer a three dimensional sense of surrealism that you can also take home.  Landis utilizes memories and environmental elements from her experiences living near the coast in California and on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Plants for growth, braids for time, boats for journey and birds for migration and nesting.  In addition to her creative abilities Landis has a smart business sense and knows when a piece should be a consumer piece and when a piece should be a portfolio piece.  Her side company Salt and Earth has helped her reach a larger audience for her abalone shells that vary in size, from hand held to a custom sink.  Landis recently moved to the Oakland Bay Area where she will be hosting an open studio in the coming months.
To see more of her work check out her Instagram feeds @malia_landis and @saltandearthceramics her website at www.malialandis.com   and her esty shop for S a l t a n d E a r t h

You can see more of her work alongside artists Michelle Gregor and Eve Mathias, next March 2015 at San Jose City College, in San Jose.  And, most exciting of all she will be having a solo exhibition next September 2015 at the Roscoe Gallery, 25th Street in Downtown Oakland.   

Malia Landis at work with a commission piece for an abalone shell sink.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Malia Landis at work with a commission piece for an abalone shell sink.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Quietly nestled in her studio Malia Landis creates miniature beauties that reflect on her time growing up in Hawaii.  Surrounded by inspiration from the islands of her childhood Landis follows her instinct towards the creations that begin in her mind and flow through her fingertips on a block of ceramic clay.  There is a delicacy that exists throughout her work and one that carries a story in each piece.  

Malia Landis at work in her studio creating a series of head busts for her Thesis project that she earned at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Malia Landis at work in her studio creating a series of head busts for her Thesis project that she earned at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Gardenia Bloom' detail, Porcelain, Stoneware, 13"X8"x8", 2014.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Gardenia Bloom' detail, Porcelain, Stoneware, 13"X8"x8", 2014.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Many times I hear people describe an artist as not like their work, yours however I feel has this nurturing quality to it that I see in you.  Do you think that because as a ceramic artist you mold your work from a solid block of clay into a sculpture that there is a closer connection to your work than other mediums?

Clay has an immediate and inherent intimacy to it because of its malleability.  Wet clay has memory, it records your touch and mark into something archival.  I love clay for its temperament and sensitivity and am never board of its complex chemistry. It takes patience to understand and work with the material, you constantly are experimenting and investigating, especially when building complex pieces.  This makes my relationship with the material always fresh and rewarding and I am constantly learning when presented with new variables such as the weather.  Once you nurture and invest so much energy and time into something, inherently you feel very connected to it in the end.

While documenting her Thesis show Malia made note to try and photograph her thumb print that had made it's way in some of the Leis she made for her 'Handmade Rhythm' piece.  Photo © Aimee Santos

While documenting her Thesis show Malia made note to try and photograph her thumb print that had made it's way in some of the Leis she made for her 'Handmade Rhythm' piece.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Clay shavings on the floor are a common element in Landis' life and being from Hawaii sandals are too.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Clay shavings on the floor are a common element in Landis' life and being from Hawaii sandals are too.  Photo © Aimee Santos

With many artists being out priced of Art Districts was it a challenge to find a location in the Bay Area that allowed you to keep your craft practice a priority in finding a place to live and work?  Can you speak to the pitfalls and compromises?   

When I finished school this past Spring, my partner Wesley Wright and I, also a ceramic artist, decided that our priority was to find and establish ourselves a studio space.  Leaving the comforts and privileges of the University was a challenging transition.  On top of that, we were competing with the the onslaught of Silicon Valley hires.  The competitive housing market in the Bay Area is a real thing, and what we experienced is that we were likely to be out bid for what we considered just within our means.  Our expectations to find an industrial space with minimal amenities was not unrealistic, but all around the East Bay these ideal studio spaces are getting face lifts, and are being marketed to individuals who are willing to pay more.  We were lucky and found a live/work loft that could house our kilns and equipment, and offered us an opportunity to have in addition an affordable living space.  I feel that we may have lucked out as well in finding one of the last live/work loft opportunities that do not inhibit you from being loud, messy and productive. 

'California Bloom' Stoneware, Porcelain, Wire, 32"x20"x15", 2014.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'California Bloom' Stoneware, Porcelain, Wire, 32"x20"x15", 2014.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Divergence keeps up whole' Stoneware, Twine, 15"x9"x6", 2011.  Photo courtesy of Malia Landis.

'Divergence keeps up whole' Stoneware, Twine, 15"x9"x6", 2011.  Photo courtesy of Malia Landis.

Salt and Earth Ceramics is Landis' side business.  When she is not creating imaginative sculpture she is selling her wares at craft fairs locally in the Northern California Bay Area.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Salt and Earth Ceramics is Landis' side business.  When she is not creating imaginative sculpture she is selling her wares at craft fairs locally in the Northern California Bay Area.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Can you describe how Salt and Earth came about and how you now have two sides to your work?  

When I first started working with clay, I knew right away that I wanted to be a full time maker.  And I knew, in order to do this, I needed to sell my work.  One of the first bodies of work I made ended up developing into quite the production line, and it happened in a really natural way.  I had sculpted an abalone shell as a gift for my Dad, an abalone diver and avid outdoors man, when I realized how complimentary the form was to being both sculptural and functional.  As I created the first abalone, I thought, "what if this was bigger?".  So, I made it bigger, and then bigger, and then the biggest size I could fit into a kiln.  I started having inquires to purchase the ceramic shells- and so began  s a l t  a n d  e a r t h.  The creation and management of a small business has given me the opportunity to be independent and self reliant.  What I also have to do is be self motivated.  This can be the most challenging element to any art practice.  You must be willing to work, all of the time, everywhere.  In order to be successful, you make your art practice your priority.   I find that in my production work, I need to be consistent and calculated, and when I want to be experimental and expressive I focus on my more conceptual work.  It is a dichotomy that keeps me busy and satisfied. 

You must be willing to work, all of the time, everywhere. In order to be successful, you make your art practice your priority.
Malia Landis works on a commission piece of one of her Abalone shells that is part of her side business Salt and Earth and Sky.  CLICK THE IMAGE to view her Abalone creations.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Malia Landis works on a commission piece of one of her Abalone shells that is part of her side business Salt and Earth and Sky.  CLICK THE IMAGE to view her Abalone creations.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Malia Landis is a ceramic artist based in Oakland, CA.  Click on any of the images to see more of her work.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Malia Landis is a ceramic artist based in Oakland, CA.  Click on any of the images to see more of her work.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Pacific Bloom' detail, Stoneware, Porcelain, Wire, 32"x20"x15", 2014.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Pacific Bloom' detail, Stoneware, Porcelain, Wire, 32"x20"x15", 2014.  Photo © Aimee Santos

One of Landis' signature pieces she sells is Zodiac cups through a silk screen transfer process that she developed while in graduate school at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

One of Landis' signature pieces she sells is Zodiac cups through a silk screen transfer process that she developed while in graduate school at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Handmade Rhythm' Porcelain, Hydrocal, Gold Leaf, String, 30"x20"x8".  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Handmade Rhythm' Porcelain, Hydrocal, Gold Leaf, String, 30"x20"x8".  Photo © Aimee Santos

Many artists who experience a displacement from their home environment go through a dark period of feeling lost yet your work seems like it is constantly evolving.  How do you think your creations have maintained a more positive aesthetic?  Or am I wrong in assuming this? 

Much of my work is about Hawaii, where I spent much of my childhood and well into my formative teenage years. In some of my pieces there is a certain sense of longing. a nostalgia for a place and time.  But, I choose to celebrate in remembrance the place that I long for, and in this process I am there. So I guess there is both a joy and a sorrow in the work.

'California Bloom' Stoneware, Porcelain, Wire, 32"x20"x15" in front of 'The Rhythm: Birth' Stoneware, Gold Leaf 27"x14"x5".  Photo © Aimee Santos

'California Bloom' Stoneware, Porcelain, Wire, 32"x20"x15" in front of 'The Rhythm: Birth' Stoneware, Gold Leaf 27"x14"x5".  Photo © Aimee Santos

Your ‘Boxes' series feel self referential in both internal and external qualities. Can you describe the formation of this project and how it allowed your work to evolve to your current project ‘Bloom?’  

In the box series, I was interested in the story book format the framed niches provided. I had been previously investigating inside and outside spaces and creating nooks and dwellings inside vessel like sculptures, composing a space that felt safe and protective.  My work is often very delicate and complex, so this format functioned as a technical choice as well.  At one point, I realized that the box format was dictating how I would start a piece, and I wanted to change my own perspective of what the foundation of the piece could be, and how that would alter the sculpture over all.  Those delicate parts, in all of their intricacies, could live on the outside of the form, and they themselves became the protective barrier.

'Residence' Earthenware, Screen Print, Horse Hair, Glass, Wire, Luster, 16"x12"x5" 2012.  Photo Courtesy of Malia Landis.

'Residence' Earthenware, Screen Print, Horse Hair, Glass, Wire, Luster, 16"x12"x5" 2012.  Photo Courtesy of Malia Landis.

To see more Malia Landis' work simply click any of the above images.  Photo © Aimee Santos

To see more Malia Landis' work simply click any of the above images.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Attention to detail comes with the job in the life of Malia Landis.  Do it right the first time and it makes the production process down the line go much more smoothly.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Attention to detail comes with the job in the life of Malia Landis.  Do it right the first time and it makes the production process down the line go much more smoothly.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The Abalone shells Malia Landis makes come in a variety of vibrant colors and unique textures on the back side.  Click the image to see more.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The Abalone shells Malia Landis makes come in a variety of vibrant colors and unique textures on the back side.  Click the image to see more.  Photo © Aimee Santos

What can we look forward to with your work aesthetic and any upcoming shows or workshops? 

Since the move, I have been super busy mixing, testing, and producing a new line of glazes for s a l t  a n d   e a r t h, that will be launching this next Spring, 2015.  Recently I finished some of my first sculptural pieces made here in the new space, and am super pumped on these newest "clusters" and "blooms" that are coming to fruition.  You can see my work alongside artists Michelle Gregor and Eve Mathias, next March at San Jose City College, in San Jose.  And, most exciting of all- I will be having a solo exhibition next September at Roscoe Gallery, 25th Street in Downtown Oakland.   

As far as workshops go, Wesley and I are planning to host a variety of handbuilding workshops this next year in our new space!  Also, I will be teaching a Screen printing and Image Transfer onto Clay course this next Spring at the Palo Alto Art Center in downtown Palo Alto, and another in July at the Mendocino Art Center in Mendocino.

Wesely T. Wright: Ceramic Hand Builder

What if turtles could fly and goats could tell you your future?

What if phones rolled up and walked away when your call was finished?  Imagination is a large part of Wesley T. Wright's world but it goes deeper than you might think.  With the skill of a sculptor's hand creatures that never walked the earth manifest into the reality but Wright takes his upbringing and the philosophy of Joseph Campbell to give the viewer a much deeper view into his three dimensional creations.

To see more of Wright's work  
Instagram @wesleytwrightart
His Website 
wesleytwright.com
If you are in the Bay Area September 20-25th check out Wesley's work in person
 at Anne & Marks Art Party at the San Jose Fairgrounds. http://artpartysj.com
Also the 4th Street Window Gallery at San Jose City Hall on 4th Street Between San Fernando and Santa Clara. The work can be seen 24 hours a day. This exhibition is for the Centennial Anniversary of San Jose State University and features work from HSU Alumni.

And lastly Wright will be teaching Ceramic Sculpture at Santa Clara University this fall quarter.

An Armadillo Head.  Photo © Aimee Santos

An Armadillo Head.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Cherub' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'Cherub' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

What made you want to create the cherub?  And why as an animal and not the traditional chubby baby type body?

Much of my work involves reimagining, recombining and reinterpreting myth. I enjoy taking the connotations that come along with certain mythological characters and adding my own eccentric twist

'Idol of the Tribe' by Wesley T. Wright. Image courtesy of the artist.

'Idol of the Tribe' by Wesley T. Wright. Image courtesy of the artist.

There is an element of mysticism throughout some of your pieces.  Where does this come from?

I grew up in a progressive almost Unitarian Christian community. The philosophy of Joseph Campbell is a big part of the ideology of this group. I rediscovered his ideas in the past few years and really enjoy his philosophy about underlying human truths that one finds across all religions. When these sacred stories can are interpreted as metaphor and put in to context of place and time there is a lot that one can learn. I embrace an analytical, non-dogmatic spirituality, one that honors the complexity of the universe and the human experience.

Armadillo body detail.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Armadillo body detail.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Bug Phone' by Wesley T. Wright.  Click the photo to buy your own.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Bug Phone' by Wesley T. Wright.  Click the photo to buy your own.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Wesley T. Wright working on the 'Idol of the Tribe' in downtown San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Wesley T. Wright working on the 'Idol of the Tribe' in downtown San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

How do your pieces evolve?  Do you sketch any in advance?  Or is it an intuitive process?

I always start my pieces with sketches. Usually I start with an idea sketch that eventually becomes more technical as I suss out the more structural elements of the piece. The drawings are usually not very developed pieces of art in them selves. As I work on a sculpture usually the form and the content of the piece will evolve and become more complex. I do research before and during the process of construction so the entire process becomes a learning experience which concludes with the final piece itself.

Wesley T. Wright working on the 'Idol of the Tribe' in downtown San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Wesley T. Wright working on the 'Idol of the Tribe' in downtown San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Being a collector of some of your pieces I can say they all make me smile.  Is this your intent for you audience to find a light heartedness in your work?  

The humor is an inherent part of my personality and often comes through in my work. There’s often an absurdity or irony that I’m using to make a point which creates humor.

An overall shot of Wesley T. Wright in his graduate studio last year.  Photo © Aimee Santos

An overall shot of Wesley T. Wright in his graduate studio last year.  Photo © Aimee Santos

You seem to have a strong balance between commission work, exhibitions and workshops.  How did you set up this work ethic and what aspirations do you have for the future of your ceramics career?

Really it's a free for all. In the future I hope get better at everything and to have more stability, but not enough to lull me out of being creative.

'The Historian' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'The Historian' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

The creation of 'The Historian.'  Photo © Aimee Santos

The creation of 'The Historian.'  Photo © Aimee Santos

What has your work as an artist and as a human being living in 'the place and time' taught you thus far?

It's taught me that I have a great deal more to learn and that it's very exciting to continue this process of trying to figuring out our historical, psychological, and spiritual context as conscious beings.

'The Historian' on it's way to Wright's Thesis show.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'The Historian' on it's way to Wright's Thesis show.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Do you find any correlations between an era that time forgot and the one you create with your hands?

I think that we are much closer to our history than we realize. There’s a sense of nostalgia in some of the industrial elements in my work, as well as an appreciation for the patina of time. I also reference ancient stories and place them in a modern context. In this way I’m looking at time in a cyclical way and creating an ancient future.

'Autonomous' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'Autonomous' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

Many people do not know there are different kinds of ceramic artists.  Can you elaborate on what a hand builder is and what a potter is? 

A potter is someone who makes functional vessels on a potter’s wheel. Hand building is a technique of building with clay that does not involve the potter’s wheel but does not necessarily mean that it's not for functional work. Though I dabble in pottery and functional Ceramics I generally work in a representational sculptural way. However I often use the potter’s wheel as a tool to create forms to build off of.

'Self Discovery' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'Self Discovery' by Wesley T. Wright.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

Your works always have an element of nature and/or animals to them.  What about these elements are you drawn to and how do you feel they are successful in their concept or message?

The conflict between man and nature is really the conflict of our time. I enjoyed the contrast of human and animal, natural and man-made objects, both in content and also visual composition.