Beth Shook  |  Ceramic  |  Gilbert, AZ

Artist Statement

I was born on Christmas Eve, 1963 in Jeanette, Pennsylvania. Still, I consider myself a native of the southwest, having lived my most reckless and influential years in El Paso, Texas. Growing up in El Paso, I discovered a love for history, culture, the border and the desert. Nothing beats the smell of rain on the hot desert in summer.

I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts from UTEP in 1985. Under the instruction of the most accomplished professors, I developed skills as a craftsman, found a love for clay and a near obsession with the drawn line. That drawing obsession turned to compulsion as the clay became the canvas during graduate school at Arizona State University (ASU). My brief exposure to printmaking processes as an undergraduate would work its way into my clay. Indeed, that near complete English degree didn’t go to waste as my work became increasingly more narrative. Those lines developed into images. The images led to stories. I received my Masters of Fine Arts in ceramics from ASU in 1990.

I am inspired by my faith in Jesus Christ, my environment, people, conversations, objects and images that I find throughout my day. Though sometimes appearing disconnected, they create one story – autobiographic, adopted into my life, my narrative – simply because they make me stop and examine how each experience affects me and those around me. Each encounter elicits a reaction to communicate to others. Because I’m assured that my world view is not singular, my narrative becomes allegory. I invite others to join my story, fully aware of potential conflict and distance as well as comfort and familiarity. I continue to draw on clay, whether compulsively or obsessively, to tell my story. There is nothing better than to share your story in such a way as to find connection with another person, to come to some level of understanding. Well, nothing except maybe the smell of rain on the hot desert.

Q&A with Beth Shook

What process/materials did you use to create your artwork?  Functional work: For my functional work I use B-Mix clay fired in oxidation at cone 6. The work is thrown on the potters wheel. Clay Drawings: For my drawings on clay I use a white sculpture clay covered with a porcelain slip, fired to cone 6 in oxidation. On the surface I use colored slips and glazes to create the image; to tell the story. I up-cycle the wood from discarded furniture and other found objects to support the image, tell my story.

What inspires you to create and what inspires your work?  Functional work: My early training was as a production potter. I paid for a lot of my undergraduate tuition designing/producing dinnerware.  I have a love for dinnerware and functional work. My recent work is more fluid visually. I was looking for some freedom in my glaze process. Though the forms are simple, I work to create a layered surface for depth and for drawing; coupling that with the fluidity of the glazes. Clay drawings: My drawings are all about telling a story. The motivation for that story is my faith and where it intersects life. Often artwork motivated by faith incorporates icons. However, I sometimes feel that prejudices the viewer. As a result I choose to incorporate contemporary imaging in a morepersonal story.

If you had to describe your artwork in 5 words or less, what words would you use? Functional work: functional ware with drawn surfaces. Clay drawings: narrative drawings on clay.

What other artists inspire you? What's your favorite art work?  Larry Rivers, Louise Nevelson, old masters prints and drawings, vintage botanical drawings, fresco images - particularly when those images/figures are squeezed between the ribs of a barrel vault :)

What's the best advice you've ever been given?   Don't fall in love with the work until it survives the last firing.

What is your favorite artist tool?  My favorite tool is my print-maker's dry point tool. I use it to draw on clay. I also have a Chinese rooster tail brush that is absolutely wonderful!

What do you like about your work?  Drawing!! I am a ceramic artist that draws...or maybe a draw-er that works in clay.

Why art?  Art is communication. As a story teller, I communicate most deeply and intimately through image.