I had the good fortune to grow up with parents who really liked having children. My mother claimed until the day she died that she was not artistic, which was not true. However, because my father created his art in the more conventional manner…with pencil, paint, leather punch, or table saw, she found it easy to give him the title. Throughout her life, she provided the aesthetic underpinnings that shaped so much of how I see the world.
I loved doing things with my father. Some of the projects were of the home improvement variety such as laying bricks for the patio or painting his homemade barbeque/smoke oven. If he was working in his shop creating with wood, or doing leatherwork in the living room, I was a welcome companion. It is perhaps important here to mention that I was 5, 6, 7, or 8 when this took place.
He had taught himself slight of hand magic and showed me a couple of moves. Sometimes when he arrived home from work (he had his own printing business) he would stand in the kitchen and teach us how to do some cute parlor trick.
One night he came home and handed each of us a wood model kit for a small sailboat. The swimming pool had been built and he thought it would be fun to have races. The model was simple, consisting of a mostly formed hull and parts for the mast and sails. We learned how to sand and seal and apply the necessary parts. The races weren’t very successful, but being involved in the process of making struck a real chord with me.
That next spring we went to the hobby store to find another kit. He was very upset because everything for my age was made of plastic. He seldom showed frustration like that, so it made an impression on me. We walked out of the store with our purchase of a chunk of balsa wood. At home he showed me the magic of carving it to create my own boat designs.
By September of that year he was dead. The cigarettes had killed him, but what he lit in me has stayed alive and well. In those early years I continued to make boats and tool leather. There were some art classes along the way, but it was not until the summer of 1966 that I struck pay dirt. I went to the apartment of a new friend and upon walking through the door was struck by a shelf full of ceramic pots. “Where did you get those?” I asked. “I made them,” she answered.
That summer I took my first class at Cal State Northridge and the world just continued to open up from there. Yes, today my primary material is metal, but it was walking out of the clay studio around 5:00ish with mud stuck to my clothes and my father close in my thoughts, that I realized I had found home.
Where is the Elephant?
Crissa’s studio will be open both weekends of ARTS Obispo’s Open Studios Art Tour. Stop by and see all of her beautiful work!