I attended UTEP with Beth Shook (formerly Beth Davis). We both received our undergrad degrees in Ceramics, studying under John Arnold. Beth went on to complete her MFA at Arizona State University, in Ceramics. I continued to NMSU and studied Printmaking. Years later I found myself living in Arizona. Through a mutual friend (and ceramicist) Jo, I got Beth’s number and telephoned to say hey. I was happy to hear a familiar voice. I learned she was still working in clay. When we first spoke, she was teaching at Mesa Community College. She has since retired from teaching, to run her own studio.
dessadog studio is the name of her creative space. I asked Beth about the significance of the unusual name, it is also her email address. She explained, the studio is named after her and her husband Steve’s first dog, Odessa. A rescue dog that was sick with distemper. This was before we had kids, she says, and we were attached, so we spent the money to get her well. The vet became quite attached to her, too – the dog had to stay at the vets while I was in class so she could receive the meds she needed mid day. He started calling her ‘dessa girl’ and that eventually became dessa dog. She lived to be about 14. She completes the thought…She was a great dog.
dessadog is clearly a working ceramic studio. It includes a front area set up for display. Walls are covered with her (mixed media) tile drawings and large platters. Shelving holds her functional ware and other one of a kind works.
Beth’s wall pieces are a combination of clay, wood and the odd piece of metal or other found object. The title’s and imagery lead me to believe I am peeking into a moment of someones life. The central characters are male. Is it her life? Her son’s? Who’s? I wonder. The drawings on the clay, have a printerly quality about them. They also give a sense of paper…story book paper, drawing notebook, printing paper perhaps. Beth also studied printmaking. She scratches through clay, with a needle tool, I suspect, like one might a piece of metal. Her use of line always catches my eye, more than any other element of design she might use. Lines moves me through the various parts of the composition. They are eloquent in their simplicity and even in their roughness. The artist hand is clear and present. The variety of materials, the framed structure, and the figures create intimate space.
One of the thoughts I always have when I come across her wall pieces is usually…this girl…can draw!
There is another little element of creativity at dessadog studio worth mentioning. The bathroom. It has a story, as does much of Beth’s work. Concerning the crazy tile work in the bathroom Beth says: Steve and I did some of the work on the studio in an effort to save money. One of the projects we took on was the bathroom. The building code required that the walls be impervious to water from the floor to at least four feet up…only the walls with potential water issues, but we did the whole bathroom. The contractor suggested that I make the tile. Good suggestion except I knew I wouldn’t have the time because the city was breathing down our necks to vacate the old studio. So, I put out a call to several former students and a few faculty for any tiles they might have – even test tiles. So I started the collecting of tiles – not all were flat, we had several relief tiles included from sculpture students that had been in my glaze class. We filled in the rest with purchased tiles and just really had fun with it.
This coming February dessadog studio will be a part of the Ceramic Studio Tour that ASU and the Ceramic Research Center organize every year. During the tour Beth will have two other artist at her location. All participating studios will have demonstrations and work will be available for sale. There are 14 studio’s taking part throughout the valley, 40 artists included. It’s a two day event, Feb. 21-22, 2009. Calendar the event now, and drop in and visit with Beth this February.
dessadog studio is located at:
1410 W. Guadalupe Rd. suite 103
Gilbert, AZ 85233
For more info about Beth, her process and work, visit her web site. To schedule a visit to her space (by appointment only) email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are ever in the area, Beth’s functional work can also be seen in El Paso, TX.
Casa de Emma
Placita Sante Fe
5034 Doniphan Dr
El Paso, Texas 79932