This week's blog post is written by John Stephenson.
Veronica Guzman, a relative newcomer to our Co-op, has had a very interesting and varied life as an artist and world traveler. Her ceramic artistry is featured in our Co-op Store, but she also expresses her creativity in many other art mediums. She recognized as a child that her calling was to find meaning and expression in creating art in whatever paths were open to her. Her father, who was a biologist with a deep love of nature, encouraged her to follow her heart in whatever direction she envisioned.
Veronica has followed the wisdom of her heart ever since. She grew up in Mexico but has lived in more places than most people visit in a lifetime. These countries include China, Malaysia, India, Viet Nam, Italy and now the United States for a number of years.
Her Mexican heritage strongly influences her choice of materials, themes and design, but there are many strands to her work. She studied graphic design for three years after attending high school in Guadalajara and has continued her studies in all the places where she has lived. Beginning with an interest in painting and design, she branched into ceramics while living in Malaysia and bought a potter’s wheel. That has been a major interest ever since. Other areas of her artistic curiosity include painting, printmaking, collage and papier maché, and most recently has begun working in encaustic painting.
Visiting her living space, you soon realize how immersed she is in her artistry. Every wall and shelf is filled with her paintings, prints, and ceramic pieces. One room of her condo is her studio and another a small showroom. A kiln sits in her garage which also houses her potting materials. She has a collection of newspaper clippings and articles that outline the work she has created in the various countries she has lived. Part of her vision today is to reach out to the artwork that is available in the Hispanic community in Portland, and to advance public understanding and exposure of this artwork to the community at large in the Portland area.
The underlying theme of her work is a spiritual view of the cosmos especially as it is expressed in the entire array of natural creations visible in sky, water, and animals. There are very imposing, large paintings of koi on her walls which symbolize prosperity, longevity, courage and perseverance. Her ceramic bowls, which can be seen at our store, incorporate various animals for their traits, and her encaustic work expresses the purity and healing power of water. Her approach is well stated on a bowl she made with the text: “Train yourself to find the blessing in everything.” That phrase embodies what she is doing - using the power of art to reflect the deep appreciation for the natural world.
Hopefully, this article will encourage the reader to come in and see for yourself the wonderful artistry of Veronica Guzman and to view the work of all the other members of the Artistic Portland Cooperative who contribute beautiful, quality products in all areas of art.
Bryan Baer is a metal sculptor whose works are seen throughout the Co-op. The largest of these is a bird sculpture he calls the Great Blue Heron perched high above the main floor.
Bryan’s metal sculpting began when his creative mind saw the possibilities of using parts from his day work as a welder in heavy equipment repair which he has done for many years. He began collecting parts that were of no use in the repair business and were just tossed out. He initially had no clear plan but thought the gears, heavy springs, rods, cams, etc., were interesting pieces. As they stacked up he studied the work of other metal sculptors; and since he already had the skills and equipment to weld, cut and form metal pieces, he decided to see what he could make with these spare parts.
About five years ago he started creating pieces and putting them in his yard. His neighbors were impressed and bought his sculptures which spurred his imagination to make more interesting creations. Where others might see ball bearings, railroad spikes, or horseshoes he sees feathers, crab pinchers, eyes, bird legs. and the like. He then puts them together in interesting and often whimsical ways. His imagination takes over when he walks in his shop and sees parts from ball bearings to brake drums. He usually has all the parts he needs but admits that sometimes he scouts around in junkyards and auto shops to find a special part that completes a creation.
Bryan sells his sculptures on eBay and at craft shows and fairs. His creations are compelling enough that people have been willing to pay more for the shipping than for the price of the piece itself. Some of his small pieces only take a few hours to weld and shape. Others he has spent seven to eight months trying to find the right pieces and ways to fit them together as his mind envisions. Sometimes he sees it all before he starts and at other times the end product comes out of the process itself. It took 178 small pieces of metal welded on the great heron just to create the feathers for this striking and beautiful sculpture. He gives most of his pieces names that strike his fancy and taps into past memories. Songs from the ’80s are a special source of names and titles that he may use. Each piece may have significance as a reminder of events from his past such as a whimsical piece he entitled “Scorpion” that refers to a song and a memory.
Bryan’s partner, Kymberlee, is a major supporter of his work and is working toward marketing some of her own creations as well. She does tie-dye clothing, jewelry, and is making Christmas ornaments. Bryan is considering branching out and making some smaller items like ornaments and decorative objects. Besides working full time he finds the time and energy to hike, mountain bike, and do cross fit training. We have to know that he is in good shape to lug some of these heavy pieces around his shop! We are privileged to have him as a member of the Co-op and grateful that he is always willing to do his part to keep Artistic Portland successful.
Stop by Artistic Portland to view and purchase Bryan's work in person!
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the Co-op?
I’ve been a member of Artistic Portland since we opened in 2013. I wanted to sell not only my own, but other people’s art, as well. When I saw the opportunity to join the co-op, it seemed like the perfect way to fulfill this desire.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Tigard, Oregon and moved down the road to SE Portland in 1992.
What is your background?
I’ve worked in fast food, big box retail, and as an office assistant. I’m a bit of an underachiever. I don’t have a college degree and I have always worked jobs solely to support myself, not to follow a career path. My mother is an artist, so we painted and colored all the time at home. I took a ceramics class my senior year in high school and wanted to have my own studio some day. I’ve been seriously exploring making my living as an artist in the last two years.
What prompted you to start making ceramic pods?
I took a hand building class at Georgies, the local pottery supply company, and we learned to make hollow forms by attaching two pinch pots together. I experimented with this for years, trying to figure out what to do with this form and pods were born. Originally, pods were garden ornaments on a stake. They felt too precious to leave out in the yard, so they came into the house and mounted themselves on walls, so the cats couldn’t break them.
How has your practice changed over time?
I started by making wheel-thrown mugs and bowls in 1999 out in the garage. Other than making a room in my house my studio, I feel like my practice hasn’t changed. I’ve been making pods in my home studio for about ten years now and I don’t know where to go next. I’m ready for a change and some growth.
What do you love about working with clay?
The best thing about clay is the endless opportunity for design. It is an earthy, raw material that you can use to form your intentions. I like the many steps in the process – designing different forms, forming wet clay, adding details after it firms up, drying it, firing it, glazing it, and the many steps involved in selling it. After I make pods, I have to find out how to get rid of them, so I can make more and hopefully make a living. I also love the fragile nature of clay. It can break at any step, so I need to be able to let it go when it’s time.
What frustrates you about working with clay?
I do get frustrated with my lack of time management when I can’t get into the studio to finish something before it dries out. The other thing I have problems with is my messy studio. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but my work area is always a disaster. I try to be neat, but I get sucked into the process and then I have to stop for something and boom! There’s a mess. I can’t blame the clay for either of those problems, though. I would probably be a slob no matter what art I was making.
What inspires you?
Nature is my entire inspiration. I love observing the lush gardens of Portland through the four seasons. Taking trips to the coast at low tide is my favorite, where you can see tide pools full of sea stars, sea anemones, chitons, barnacles and snails. The last time I was there, I saw an amazing tiny cave full of baby anemones. There was also a bright purple sea star, a color I’d never seen before.
What do you like to do when you’re not creating?
I like to make people laugh, listen to music and take walks.
What is one thing that you’ve never tried, but would like to??
If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do instead?
I would be a barista or a succulent farmer. I would probably be a successful accountant if I hadn’t been distracted by art since birth.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself
I took a belly dance class a few years ago and I love to shimmy.
June 1st we open our doors at our new location in Downtown Portland at 318 SW Taylor Street. Because of the move to this bigger space, we will also be welcoming 13 more artists into our co-op (and counting!). Here is more about a one of these exciting new members:
Tom Jackson developed an interest in metal and mechanical work when he was a boy. For many years, he worked as an auto and equipment mechanic. After obtaining an education in automotive and manufacturing technology, he put his fabrication skills to use in 2011 with his new fascination in metal art.
He has combined his love of metal and nature into unique metal artwork. His continued quest for knowledge and attention to detail brings on a new evolution of art regularly.
His artwork integrates art and technology. CAD designs are created by Tom, cut from metal and then artistically formed, shaped and colored to create each unique piece. His belief in using many types of equipment available from old-school to CNC CAD design allows him to produce extremely detailed and precise hand-made art.
Tom’s work is usually colored in primary forms consisting of heat treating and application of natural metal colors. He enjoys working with a variety of metals including steel, brass and copper.
Come visit us in June to see some of Tom's metal sculptures in person!