Karen Shapiro

KAREN SHAPIRO: LARGER THAN LIFE American Icons as Ceramic Sculpture

My first recorded attempts at artistic expression were at the ripe age of five, painstakingly painting the adobe brick walls surrounding our house in Tucson.

Years later I majored in art in high school where I began working in clay and continued in this medium as a design major in college. After college and continuing for many years, my medium changed drastically to a more edible art form in the shape of a long, hard career as a pastry chef, running my own pastry shop, La Viennoise in North Oakland. After about 8 years, I sold it and spent the next three years in Italy.

After returning to California, I once again started a business – this time a wholesale cookie company called Damn Good Cookies; but the physical work proved too much for me. My transition out of the kitchen began with my becoming the Manager of and Food Product Developer for a Bay Area company called Mashuga Nuts, and while working there, I enrolled in a ceramics course at the Marin College of Art, taught by Anne Peet Carrington, who had worked as an assistant for the legendary ceramic sculptor Richard Shaw. It changed my life. Although many years have passed since that time, we are still close friends.

I am now happily out of the kitchen and have been working full time in my ceramics studio since then. I am finding great joy in working in a fresh new sculpture style. In earlier years, my emphasis was on the ‘perfection’ of abstract forms. I naturally tried to take up where I had left off many years ago but was immediately frustrated and disappointed to see that those "perfect" forms would no longer come from my hands.

Instead, I was drawn to the form of a milk carton, then to my Italian espresso pot, next to an artichoke from the market -- in other words, I found an inexhaustible source of fascinating shapes and forms staring at me from all sides.... and in addition to these wonderful objects I have also discovered the raku kiln.

The excitement of reaching into a red-hot environment with tongs, of the flaming bucket, even the choking smoke, and finding results I never dreamt of -- always changing, always so much to learn -- has given me back an enormous energy, appetite and passion for my work.

-Karen Shapiro

On view from December 6, 2013 to January 18, 2014.
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Karen Shapiro, Installation, 2013

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