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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.