Danielle, tell us about yourself. What led you to become an artist and start Canyon Ceramics Co?
Hi! I’m a Topanga based painter and ceramicist, originally from Baltimore. I spent a chunk of time in Charleston before landing here in Topanga, which is an awesome area right outside of LA. I have career background in Art Direction and Graphic Design, and after nearly a decade working behind the screen, I felt the need to express myself voice through my hands. Days spent on the computer had me craving physical work and I started taking ceramics classes in the evening which turned into quitting my job and focusing on my heart and my practice. Three years later, I have a home ceramics studio with my partner, called Canyon Ceramics Co. nestled up here in Topanaga Canyon.
In both ceramics and painting, I use a sustainable practice to bring an earthy essence to my pieces. My recent work explores themes of play, the balance of feminine and masculine energy, and curiosity of nature through the hands-on, patient process of natural materials.
What separates you from other artists?
I think as artists we are all different from each other just by being alive and expressing our uniqueness in the way that only we can. But at that same time we are all in a sort of tribe together as well, just by being artists.
My focus on sustainability and my effort to reduce my environmental impact separates me from some artists, but I'm hoping more artists become intrigued with a more sustainable practice and that it becomes much more common.
Living on Topanga, your environment must be a constant source of inspiration. Where do you seek your inspiration for both your paintings and ceramic pieces?
Oh yeah, the environment here has an endless influence on my work. For my newer work, some of the stones I made pigments from were found in my yard or the beaches and hikes nearby. So the colors of the work are a direct translation of the earth.
We also have a really beautiful garden, created by the previous owner who was a loving permaculturist. So the shapes of leaves of the milkweed, or the alien flowers of the passionfruit vine––these wild forms found in nature all give me inspiration.
The Topanga environment also encourages me to take things a half-beat slower than I normally would which opens my eyes to more subtleties.
Like LINNÉ, you create your ceramics in small batches. How do you incorporate the element of sustainability into your work/ How does the element of nature play a role in your work?
Nature has always been my muse and now recently my material.
My ceramics process is intentionally sustainable, and now I am finding ways to make my painting practice as environmentally neutral as possible too.
My process includes sourcing pigments from hikes and mixing with nontoxic binders like walnut oil. I’ve also been experimenting with recycled clay as color on unprimed canvas––fusing my practices and media together naturally.
In ceramics we collect all of our water to quench the thirst of our garden and collect extra clay to recycle and create new workable clay from.
What do you think differentiates making art for yourself versus for others?
When I make art for myself I am more free and experimental. I’m really focused on the exploration and the process as a whole. When I make art for others I can tend to focus on the final outcome. There is a little more pressure to please when you are creating for others. Having a balance between the two is important for me. If I’m making a dinner set for a client, I’ll be sure to add a candle holder or mug as I’m throwing so I have something fun for myself to break up the pressure.
Outside of your studio, you work closely with brands in the digital world. How does your digital design process differ from your physical pieces?
The initial phase, client collaboration and inspiration sourcing, is somewhat similar with a handful of question-driven conversations as my mind starts collecting ideas. But when it comes to the creation phase, the digital process can be very zippy once I’m in the flow. I can try hundreds of different color ways or tweaks to a shape in the matter of minutes. I also can have all possibilities laid out in front of me to choose from. And can endlessly undo or CommandZ.
When it comes to my painting or ceramics process, it requires more trust in myself and more confidence in what’s coming out of me. I have to be patient with the overall composition coming together and sometimes take several days to see the work in different settings and mindsets before adding next layers.
Sometimes they’ll blur. I’ll find myself mentally “CommandZ-ing” something in my painting just to realize that won’t work in this arena.
What do you love most about art?
I love how, in any format, art is a person’s inner thoughts/feelings/being expressed outside of their body. We get a glimpse into someone’s interior. That’s so remarkable.
How can our community members make space for their art practice?
The way I started making space for my art practice was to do it in the morning. If you have the freedom of your own schedule, put art or creative play at the start of the day.
For me, by putting it first, I was telling myself (and the world) that it was my priority over the computer tasks and daily to-dos. And then my artistic practice became more and more of a priority and started taking up space for itself.