Lisa Neimeth

Artist's Statement:

Clay has been in my life since studying ceramics in college--but after getting graduate degrees in social work and non profit management/urban planning--I pursued low income housing development as a career in New York City and San Francisco until my 2 children were born. Even while doing that work, I always worked with clay on the side--working in private studios as well as annual workshops in New Mexico studying with Native American potters. My community development work exposed me to lots of different cultures, neighborhoods and ways of life and really helped to hone my observation skills which I use regularly to influence and inform my clay design work. After my kids were born, I worked doing more sculptural work combining my love of collecting found and vintage objects and clay. After eating in a restaurant that used handmade plates- I felt motivated to move my work to a more functional place. But I wanted to bridge the concept of a “work of art” with something completely useable--and there was born creating one of a kind handmade tableware using impressed objects and hand-etched design elements. Everything inspires me. I am constantly taking note of colors in nature, food, in magazines, newspapers, fashion, street art and graffiti and love seeing colors put together unexpectedly. Traveling has been a big influence on my work as it heightens your observation skills and offers opportunities to experience things in a new way. I have traveled extensively to Mexico, Central and South America-infusing my vision with the collecting of folk art, perusing ancient indigenous sites and wonderful age old traditions of pottery. I also spend a lot of time in the American Southwest where the tradition of pottery and combining function and design has survived thousands of years and have inspired my approach to the clay. I take lots of photos when I travel. They could be of color combinations, or scenarios that are juxtaposed in a way to either amuse or encourage further observation. I like to think about my plates as little tableaus to capture these recorded and observed images. Also, just living in an urban environment, I get to travel a little bit each day to new neighborhoods with new people, sights, smells and images. I bank these images which often wind up on a plate. I have always been a collector- flea markets, the beach, the woods, the street , second hand shops, the desert--basically I am always on alert to pick up an object anywhere. The vintage objects I use a lot include broken off pieces from old tourist toys that one may have purchased early in the 20th century in Mexico- an old plaster bird or just an arm from a doll. I love to use old figurines-known as Charlottes who were used as good luck charms baked into cakes-whoever got the slice had a year of good luck! I also use a lot of found natural objects-textured branches, pods, berries, bones..I’ll press anything into a piece of clay and see how it looks!

I really make my work to be used-not just displayed or admired. The plates can inspire and tell a story-so they are evocative in the traditional “art” sense--but then you can also eat on them. I also love the notion of high end craft- and taking time to carefully make everyday items. It is the way things used to be made-- by hand and with great care and craft. It encourages an appreciation of the everyday.