Let's go back to the time when I was 18 years old in Houston. I was so new that I didn't know anybody, the roads sucked, James Harden wasn't playing for the Rockets, Axelrad wasn't even an art space, I didn't know where to eat, where to hang and honestly what to do with my time. There was this one evening where I went to this philosopher's house with my soul sister and local guide Kristyn IsWade. He lived in Montrose and had a really great set up: a big dance space in the front of the house, wood floors, decent plants, a huge yard in the back and he even had the same bedspread as my sister. We were all sitting on the back porch and I remember meeting Claire Webb for the first time. She had gotten off her day job and was ready to relax. She was already everyone's best friend and I had never seen short bangs on anyone. Not even Rooney Mara. My friend described her as "the homegirl" and everyone respected what she had to say. I continued to see her around town, started following her jewelry design and eventually saw her in the Contemporary Art Museum Houston (CAMH)'s Texas Design Now exhibition. I was thrilled! I saw Claire's work in the show and my eyes truly lit up. It was like the museum was paying homage to all of the hardworking local makers and designers. To this day, it is very hard to miss Claire at an art opening. I truly don't know what this community would be like without her, her teaching and art work. I urge you to read more about this talented artist below. She's a gem and a valuable asset to Houston.
I remember when I first met you back in 2011/2012 and you mentioned you were an art teacher. Are you still teaching? I am still teaching! This year will be my eighth year teaching 9th grade art in Aldine. Teaching (and any day job really) takes a lot of your energy and I always wish that I had more time to work on my own stuff. However, teaching has actually helped me expand my own practice quite a bit. Materials that I'm experimenting with for a new assignment often make their way into my work. I'm constantly reviewing and learning more about art history as I work on incorporating art history into my classroom. Also, being in an art classroom, despite it being my “day job," is still a creative environment and often allows me to be creative and make progress on my own work. Ideally, I would be able to be in my own studio all day, but as jobs go, teaching art has been my favorite.
How have your designs evolved over the years? Where have you experimented the most? I'm not quite sure how to describe how my designs have evolved except that I'm always trying to do new things. New in the sense that I haven't done them before and new in the sense that I haven't seen them before. I'm very wary of creating any work that seems derivative. I feel like where I experiment the most is with material. When I was in school, my metals professor was an amazing craftsman and a world class teacher, but I was mostly exposed to traditional metalsmithing techniques. I’m actually very grateful to have stumbled into that program at University of Houston (before Val Link retired) because without the foundation of sound and traditional techniques, I wouldn’t have a good base to build from. Craftsmanship is baseline. However, I had very little exposure to work in a jewelry metalsmithing tradition that felt more contemporary and progressive. At that time social media was not what it is today, and there's not really a robust community of contemporary art jewelers in Houston like there is farther east. As my awareness of the possibilities for experimentation and overlap between what's generally relegated to a “craft” realm and what's considered “fine art” grew, I opened up my mind and my practice more and more. I feel like the more art I see, the better my work gets and the more confident I am. So ... I suppose the evolution of my work is driven by those forces: awareness, control of different media and an ever more educated eye.
Where do you seek most of your inspiration from? I'm inspired by everything! History, natural and manmade forms, color, other people's art and quite a bit by materials themselves. I'm always looking carefully at things around me and when I get a few moments to space out, I set my mind to smushing everything together in search for combinations of elements (form, color, material) that feel right. I especially like materials that can be made soft or liquid, and then hardened. I like the combination of control and unexpected effects I get when translating a form through states of matter. In the conceptual aspect of my work, I pass over commentary or meaning and try to engage the subconscious or more mysterious parts of our experiences. I usually start from a place of intuition and curiosity. I need a piece to resonate with me in a certain way before I can acknowledge it as a complete “thing." An artwork has to hold its own once the artist steps away from it, much like a child ... once it is grown it must persist in the world. It is unkind to send either out unprepared. I’ll also add that I'm drawn to qualities that are more inherent in metal jewelry like durability and a personal and symbolic nature. I like the feeling of holding or wearing something that's persistent and mine. I still like to produce pieces that invoke this feeling, although I have widened my reach from this root quite a bit.
You have always felt so close, always around the neighborhood. I think it is really comforting to see your work continue to evolve after all of these years of knowing you. How does Houston inspire you? Has the city changed? Thank you! When I first moved to Houston I was 18 and I didn't know what to expect. I really fell in love with Houston much more than I thought I would. I've always found it to be a very comfortable place to live with a super active, lively, and eccentric art scene. I've always felt like I had a place here and continue to discover new things. New artists, new spaces, new restaurants, new parts of the city. It's a huge place! The community I feel connected to also feels small enough to give support and comfort, in the ways that we want a community to. The city has definitely grown and changed but we should expect that. Places that we used to go close, neighborhoods we used to live in become too expensive, there's a new place that we go and a new place that we live. It's more interesting that way.
What was it like to be featured in Texas Design Now at the CAMH? Being included in the CAMH show was such a surprise! I owe it to Garrett Hunter mostly, who saw some of my new work at Design Fair at Lawndale Art Center. I was very proud to be included with so many amazing designers, artists, and craftspeople (however you want to categorize them). It's hard sometimes to draw lines when your work is in several spheres. I'm not sure that it's always very useful to try and draw lines anyway. Having work at a place like the CAMH helps cast a certain level of legitimacy over an artist, which I am super grateful for. It motivated me and gave me more confidence to do more and better work.
What are your design goals for the rest of the year? Ah, the rest of the year . . . well my jewelry practice is kind of twofold. I'm mostly steeped in a metalsmithing/jewelry tradition and I have a lot of ideas in that realm. I would like to have a very wearable retail line of jewelry. I love to have my work worn in people's daily lives on a regular basis. Many people who have bought my simple rings tell me “I wear this everyday!” and I love to hear that. So moving that forward is one of my goals. I'm traveling to New York at the end of July and I'm hoping to explore places there that would be capable of reproducing my designs. The other fold is more conceptual or experimental jewelry. I have a ton of ideas but I have decided to focus on a new body of sculptural, non-jewelry work for a while. I just moved into a new shop at The Foundry and it's the most space I've ever had which allows me to experiment with new media. The work I'm doing now is meant to be cohesive, which can be a challenge for me because I like to experiment and the way I work usually sets me all over the place. Although I'm working with a lot of different media (cyanotype, ceramic, found-object, plastic), I'm working to point specifically to things like the mysteries of the body and the wider world, our attempts at understanding and controlling our pain and pleasures such as divination and ritual.
In your opinion, what is "the perfect weekend" in Houston? The perfect weekend in Houston! My weekends usually start with art openings on Friday night. I love going to Art League Houston, Lawndale Art Center, Box 13 ArtSpace, Isabella Court, Blaffer Art Museum, 4411 Montrose, BLUEorange Contemporary . . . the list goes on. There is usually at least one opening every Friday. After the art openings, my friends and I usually go out and have a few drinks: perhaps to Grand Prize, Double Trouble or the places on/off Main Street like Little Dipper andHouston Watch Company. If everyone is still going by midnight we go to Arlo’s Ballroom and dance our butts off. Arlo's is one of my favorite new places in town. Best place to dance. On Saturday morning my brain might feel a bit mushy so I would try to wrangle someone into going to Pho Saigon with me and getting a “healing soup” as Alex Larsen says. I also love Baby Barnaby's for breakfast. Let's pretend the soup works and that I have the wherewithal to do anything but lay on my couch and watch Chef's Table ... I would then hit the studio for a bit. Weekends are often my biggest chunks of time to be alone, creative and focus on getting work done. A perfect evening would include dinner with friends at Aka, Huynh or any number of other amazing Houston restaurants. Then some kind of party or event Saturday night, something to get dressed up for! My favorite days have pretty equal portions of alone chill time, alone work time, and friend time, with as many tasty meals as my budget and waistline allow. On a perfect Sunday I would to go to the Menil Collection. I love everything there and make sure to circle through the Surrealist rooms. I especially love the little room (Witnesses) with the objects the Surrealists collected. Then I would want to picnic in the Menil Park with friends all afternoon, drinking mimosas and watching the acro yogis, musicians, hula hoopers and people with their animals, families, and friends.