Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Posts Tagged ‘Shalene Valenzuela’

Shalene Valenzuela’s Workshop

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Shalene’s workshop at Plinth Gallery was first-rate.  She shared tons of very cool printing techniques.  And I loved her slide show; I really enjoyed seeing images from her past to explain why she makes what she does.  Also it was great to see her show, I wish I could make it to Denver more often to see art, but alas I do live in the cultural Mecca of Cheyenne.  (ha ha)

Thanks Shalene for sharing with us.  It was great time.  Thank you Jonathan for putting on the workshops and the delicious food brought to us from Fuel Cafe.

Here is the workshop in pictures.

After the demo.

After she finished the flask.


Here are some of the things we made.

This hammer, I am proud to say will be coming to live with us some time soon.

Here is the class, with Joshua Green making a special appearance.

Here are some of the artists represented by Plinth.

Peter Saenger

Courtney Murphy

Shelia Hrasky (Check out her interview here.)

Lisa Pedolsky (Read her interview here.)

And here is my work!

Shalene Valenzuela Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011


Shalene Valenzuela’s website:

Plinth Gallery:

“Shalene Valenzuela’s ceramic work consists of quirky pieces that reflect a variety of issues with a thoughtful, yet humorous and ironic tone. Her inspiration is found in everyday common objects she reproduces through slipcasting, then illustrates  with a variety of handpainted and screenprinted imagery. Her narratives explore topics ranging from fairytales, urban mythologies, consumer culture, societal expectations, etiquette, and coming-of-age issues. Many of her images are pulled from somewhat “dated” sources that, for her, represent an idealized time in society and advertising. Such gems include instructional guides, cookbooks, old advertisements, and old family photos. Beneath the shiny veneer of these relics hides a complex and sometimes contradicting truth that things may not always be what they appear upon first glance.” – from Plinth Gallery – Jonathan Kaplan

Plinth Gallery will host a WORKSHOP with Shalene on Saturday, February 5,  from 9am-5pm. Cost is $85 per person which will include lunch.  Contact Plinth Gallery by email or call 303-295-0717 for more information.

Exhibition opens First Friday, February 4, 2011, 6-9pm. Reception with the Artist.

Plinth Gallery
3520 Brighton Blvd
Denver CO 80216

Tell us little about yourself!

I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA. I attended school at UC Berkeley as an undergrad, and continued in graduate school at California College of Arts & Crafts. I remained in the Bay Area for several years, working, teaching and running a small independent art space.

I did a two-week residency at Watershed in 2004 and then a summer residency at the Bray in 2006, and grew increasingly interested in taking a chance and trying a longer residency stint. In 2007, I left Oakland to begin a two year residency at The Clay Studio of Missoula, where I got my first real taste of living in “real winter” (sorry to say, I still prefer those glorious summer days over snow!). I spent the last academic year as visiting faculty at Oregon College of Art and Craft, and returned to Missoula this past summer. I currently have a studio at the Brunswick Building in downtown Missoula, I sometimes teach classes in the School of Art at the University of Montana, and I am serving as Interim Director at the Clay Studio of Missoula through March 2011. I tend to keep pretty busy.



How did you become an artist?

I dabbled in art at a young age, and it was present throughout my childhood. My mother took art classes at the local community college when I was very young, so I was around her making things, and it stuck with me from there. I continued art classes through primary and secondary education, and eventually decided to major in art at UC Berkeley. I took my first college level ceramics class with Richard Shaw, and from there, I was hooked. I even ditched the Math major part of my undergrad degree. I finished grad school at the age of 24 and have been working in clay since.

How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

I often hear my work described in the genre of “maniacal 50’s housewife”, or something to that affect. I think that mainly stems from the visuals that I gain inspiration from in many of my works. My work deals with humor, narrative, and an imagined nostalgia, plus a bit of what I like to call “trompe l’oeil with a twist.”

I have always found that introducing a sense of humor and playfulness is what makes my pieces feel most successful to me. I started to hone in on the imagery in graduate school, and have spent time since then refining my style and setting up technical challenges for myself. I’d say that my general stylistic approach made its path over ten years ago, but I have developed the surfaces and refined my techniques over time with age and experience (Boy, that makes me sound old!!!).



What is your inspiration for your pieces?

My inspiration? Quite possibly, the irony of everything around us. However, though I see myself as somewhat of a cynic, I tend to be playful in my approach. My narratives explore topics ranging from fairytales, urban mythologies, consumer culture, societal expectations, etiquette, and coming-of-age issues. Stylistically, much of my imagery is pulled from somewhat “dated” sources that I find represent an idealized time in society and advertising. Such gems include instructional guides, cookbooks, old advertisements, and old family photos. Beneath the shiny veneer of these relics hides a complex and sometimes contradicting truth of what things seem to appear as upon first glance.


What keeps you motivated?

I tend to keep busy. I get really fussy when I don’t get enough time in the studio. I have developed a dedication to my craft over the years, and still enjoy the fact that I really obsess over details. Plus ceramics, and even art in general, is always a learning process, and I enjoy that aspect.



Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?

A full-time artist? Hah! I wish I had that luxury. In this market at the perpetually “emerging” level, a venture like that is a little risky. I do actually enjoy teaching, and that will always be a part of my life, whether it’s eventually something that is more permanent (which nowadays seems akin to winning the lottery) or even just my adjunct classes and workshops.

My creative process, like many, seems to operate like the tides- there are highs and lows. There are certain objects that resonate with me and I find some way to transform them into my dialogue. Other times, a pun may suddenly occur to me, and out of that, a more complex narrative will form. Plus I am a big admirer of objects and am intrigued in how they work themselves into our everyday lives. Something so seemingly mundane can be so integral to one’s identity. That is rather fascinating to me.



What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it? 

As I had mentioned, creating had always been part of my life from an early age. And again, I am transfixed by the learning process as well, which is an ongoing process in creating. As an instructor, one of the greatest things to accept is that you never stop learning.



What or who inspires you?

There is not one specific answer to this for me. “What” inspires me can be related to many of the answers I have given in regards to what inspires my pieces in general.

As far as the “who” part of the equation is concerned: Though there is that aspect of ironic humor in my work, I find a general inspiration in people who are earnestly invested in dedicated to their pursuits in creating. In working in residencies, collaborating on exhibits, and exchanging ideas with other artists, there is an energy that positively feeds us all.

I studied with Richard Shaw at Berkeley and Arthur Gonzalez at CCAC, and they are both equally dedicated educators as they are talented and productive artists. They have both been very supportive of me over the many years, and I strive to live by their example and hope to someday be that person who is there and supportive thorough someone’s ongoing artistic development.



How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

That is an important question that we all must have different answers to! I am fortunate to have a partner who keeps me in check. My husband is not an artist, but does have work, classes and his different interests that keep him busy. It is nice to have someone so pertinent in your life that can pull you back into those other parts of reality that do not have anything to do with the studio. Last year when I was visiting faculty at Oregon College of Art & Craft, we were apart from each other and it was very easy to just go to campus, teach, and disappear into the studio until late at night with little contact with life outside the ceramics world. Sometimes it helps that someone else is there who will pleasantly distract you, but be supportive when you are in a deadline crunch.

I know it may sound cliché, but I make of point of riding my bike everywhere, going to yoga classes, and preparing meals from scratch. These things sort of keep me sane and prevent me from being run down, and I get antsy if they are present in my schedule. Truthfully, I’m likely more healthy now in my 30s than I was as a young undergrad or grad student.



You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting and didn’t get into it for the sake of “business”. But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

Keep your receipts! I am a natural pack rat, and have been blessed with some analytical sensibilities, so numbers and taxes make sense to me. Another important factoid: Websites are so essential to have nowadays. It really helps to have web presence, and not having a website seems to now be a disadvantage. People do so much research on the internet, that having a website has become a requirement of sorts. I have gotten exhibition opportunities simply because someone has “run across the website” in a search for new work.

Be gracious to all venues that show your work: opportunities big and small, local and national, from scrappy independent spaces to established museums. They are all important!

My biggest problem that is one that many of us have: I am horrible at personally promoting myself when it comes to approaching people for opportunities. I can be a somewhat self-deprecating person at times, and I would say the toughest part for 95% of artists is promoting oneself. Promoting someone else’s work… sure! If I think they are great, I have no problem! But at a party, I am generally considered a corner-dweller. It is not natural for me to approach someone and sell myself. I guess my advice to myself AND others is to do your best to get over the self-doubt.



What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

It is important to listen to feedback, but do not completely reinvent yourself to just please others. I see many students struggle with this, primarily in graduate programs. Grad school is a great time to experiment and push oneself in new directions, but it is also a very vulnerable time. There is this feeling you have to “change things up”, then you find people who start school with beautiful work putting on an MFA thesis show a few years later with pedestals just filled with random piles of vacuum lint. Seriously.

I did a bit of investigating and floundering in my first semester of my graduate program, then decided to ditch all that work and go back to my aesthetic with an improved perspective. It really helped to have the reassurance of Viola Frey, who simply stated- “you needed to do that work, now I am glad you are over it.” How right she was.