Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Patricia Griffin – Artist Interview

As I started my interview series I’ve found many amazing artists, but this time one found me.  Patricia Griffin found me!  Then I fell in love; with her scraffito work!! Her imagery is very frisky and cheerful.  I imagine her frolicking in her garden.  I am so grateful that I get to meet other ceramic artists through the internet, and I always hope to meet them in person.

With that said…Let me introduce Patricia Griffin Scraffito artist extraordinaire!

If you would like more information on Patricia please hop on over to her blog, and like her on Facebook!

When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

It was about 16 years ago. I was running a very busy marketing and design firm and was up to my eyeballs in stress. A counselor suggested that I pursue a creative outlet that was not a part of problem-solving for a client. That eventually led to clay classes at the community college.

In between client meetings, I would rush to the college, run into the school restroom to change  out of my business suit and into clay clothes, fly into the ceramics studio, find a vacant wheel, and then try to mellow out enough to throw a pot… At the end of class, I’d do the whole thing in reverse. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be at a client meeting and see that I still had clay stuck to my forearms!

After a couple of years of that chaos, I set up a home studio. I spent the next seven years or so spending as much time as possible in the studio and going to workshops for additional instruction and inspiration. Seven years ago, I opened a studio and gallery in a converted one-room schoolhouse in Cambria. It’s a little artist colony on the central coast of California.

There is a remarkable touch of sensibility in your decorations. Tell us more about how you decorate and where do you get inspiration from.

On my (almost) daily walk, I follow a bluff trail overlooking the central coast of California where I live. What I experience here shows up in woodcut-style imagery on my forms — the rhythm of the sea and patterns of pines needles, rocky coastline and grassy meadows.

I etch plants, insects and animals, line and pattern — creating images that resemble woodcuts and scrimshaw on my pieces.

Please tell us about how you started working with Mishima and what do you love most about this process. 

I have been combining mishima (etching a line design and later inlaying color) and scraffito (applying color and carving out designs). I really enjoy using both techniques to create a layered collage of imagery. But it’s sooooo time-consuming!

How has your work developed throughout the years?

I love so much about clay, and it’s been my greatest challenge to narrow down and hone in on what makes my work “my work.”  I’ve had years exploring form, several years with earthenware and majolica, then left that for a year or so to do larger sculptural pieces that looked like the heads of cartoon animals.

When I moved to the coast seven years ago, I started working in the style I’m still pursuing. It’s held my interest. I feel like the pieces and decoration are more resolved and integrated. I like what comes out of the kiln and it inspires me to see how I can advance it further.

What techniques do you usually work with and what is your favorite tool?

In terms of form, I work with the wheel primarily. But I’m increasingly mixing it up with the slab roller and extruder, adding hand-built elements and combining forms.

I do most of my decoration at the cheese-hard stage, and each piece takes a considerable amount of time to decorate. So, there is a lot of plastic covering pieces in my studio so they stay at the cheese-hard stage until I can get to them.

My favorite tool:

My favorite tool is a ball stylus that I use when I initiate the woodcut-style scraffito work on my pieces. It has a .030” on one side and a .045” on the other. I have other favorites too, but I go crazy if I can’t find this little guy when I’m ready to start working on a new piece.

How would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics? 

I love the idea that people take my pieces into their own homes and use them on a daily basis.

Do you have any favorite blogs you read?

Yes, I have a long list of blogs on my reader. Top on my list are those who share their own work and inspirations, as well as news and interviews about others in the field. Here are a few:

Conne Norman: I was thrilled to find your blog and read the interviews! (aaw shucks!  Thank you for saying that!)

Carol Epp: Musings about Mud – Emerging artists, inspiring work, clay exhibits and competitions

Ben Carter: Tales of a Red Clay Rambler – Also subscribe to the podcast. Great stuff!

Whitney Smith: Practical and very forthright advice. This girl pulls no punches, so it’s always an interesting read. I’ve learned so much. (Unfortunately, she’s on a blogging hiatus right now.)

What other clay artist influenced you if any and why?

So many!

Gary David Wright, who led the first workshop I attended at Sierra Nevada College, got me thinking beyond the basics. Lana Wilson and Nick Joerling team-taught at Arrowmont and my mind exploded with more possibilities. I returned a couple of years later for an intermediate workshop with Suze Lindsay and Peter Beasecker. They started out the workshop with some creativity/design exercises that I still use today.

More recently, I have been looking at the decoration/imagery on the work of artists like Jenny Mendes, Diana Fayt and Kip O’Krongly. And I love the way you turn words into patterns, imprinting the letters into the clay and making the meanings even more profound. Another one is Chandra Debuse whose work is pure fun and inspiration. The common denominator with all of this work is the layering of pattern, images and mark-making that interest me.

Please tell us about your creative dreams for 2013 and beyond. What are some of the future projects would you love to work on?

In the studio, I am interested in further developing my forms, staying within the functional arena but adding sculptural elements that integrate with the decoration.

At the same time, I have an almost dynamically opposed dream of creating a line of handmade pieces that can be produced more cost-effectively and be accessible to a larger market. I’ve been mulling that over, and watching the progress of wonderful artists like Molly Hatch and Rae Dunn who have put their creativity and business savvy to work.


Tell us about your studio?  And what do you love most about your studio?

 My studio and gallery are in a converted one-room schoolhouse on Main Street in Cambria, a small tourist town on the central coast of California. It’s a beautiful area, along the Pacific Coast Highway south of Hearst Castle and Big Sur.

I rent the 100-year-old schoolhouse from the Lions Club of Cambria. It still has a bell tower and people can come inside and pull on the rope to ring the bell. Because of the historic nature of the building, it feels like I’m part of the community.

I love the light that pours into the building from these beautiful old windows. And the double-door on the front entrance is adorable.

I also love having Mae and Champ with me (two very large standard poodles), and listening to my music playlist on shuffle all day.


Thanks for stopping by my blog, comments are continually appreciated, and it is always great to hear from everyone.  I’m sure Patricia will love to read your comments too.

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8 Responses to “Patricia Griffin – Artist Interview”

  1. Meredith Says:

    I love Patricia ‘s work and her.
    Great interview.

  2. Connie Says:

    Hi Meredith! Isn’t her work just amazing!

  3. Patricia Griffin Says:

    Thank you so much Connie! It’s such an honor to be interviewed and featured on your blog! I am jazzed!!!

  4. Connie Says:

    Pat it is my pleasure! Your work is beautiful!

  5. Gina Says:

    Great interview and wonderful work!

  6. Sharon Casey Says:

    I am fortunate enough to own several of her pieces and I treasure them!
    Thank you for this wonderful, insightful interview!

  7. Connie Says:

    Sharon, you are so lucky! Thanks for stopping by the blog!

  8. Connie Says:

    Thanks Gina! Pat gave us a great interview!