We had the good fortune of connecting with Liz Lauter and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Liz, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’ve had several creative businesses over the years, but finally the time to do my own artwork every day arrived when I retired from full time teaching. I ran the Ceramics program at Redwood High School in Marin County, Ca for about 20 years where I also taught beginning Art. I loved it and grew professionally as a ceramics artist. My classroom studio had every imaginable ceramic technique, tool, equipment, library, supply in it. The only way to leave it was to create a studio at home that was also an oasis. And that is how I went about envisioning my next chapter. I actually had a career coach, Andrea Huff who helped me with what I called my “segue”. I wanted a straight line, not trial and error track to being an exhibiting, selling ceramics artist. I set up my studio and invested in a kiln and equipment. I joined arts organizations, signed up for art festivals. And I got to work. It was gradual, but consistent. I watched endless tutorials on how to use social media and began doing more of that. I learned how to put together a website with SquareSpace. I spent hours on the support chats getting help. I wasn’t discouraged because there wasn’t a particular deadline, and my financial goal was to to just pay my way, And the feeling of freedom from having my own schedule was exhilarating. I slept, ate, took breaks when I wanted to.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
After 65 years of life, patterns emerge in your life and you have the perspective to see how the threads of experiences weave into who you are and what you create. I used to excuse my creative expressions with the toss–“I’m really just a painter”, because I studied drawing and painting most of my young life, and Wayne Thiebaud was my favorite teacher at UC Davis, where I double majored in Art and Botany. But I always did ceramics because Ruby O’Burke’s Ceramics studio was around the corner from my house in San Francisco, and my mother signed me up for classes when I was 11 years old. I never stopped doing ceramics. Mexican folk art was easy to notice in San Francisco, particularly in the Mission District, near where I lived. Cost Plus used to have a huge warehouse near Fisherman’s Wharf and I’d go shopping there with my mom. I remember the piles of fun wicker chairs, pinatas and huge ornate ceramic “tree of life” candelabras. I was entranced by them. My mother was not in the buying mood for those.
That starts four influence threads so far: painting, ceramics, plants, and Mexican

The “Tree of Life” motif reaching from Persian, Middle Eastern Design to Western Mexican folk-art candelabras (Arbol de La Vida) continuously inspires me. I see Islamic arabesque vines and delicate flower forms becoming tree like growing sculptures colorfully painted as playful folk art. I love to attach moving decorative sculptural elements, so my pieces come alive.

My work is very autobiographical, expressing my playfulness and femininity as a mother. Sometimes I identify with being a “folk artist” because I indulge in adding layers of detailed decorationfolk art.

I married my husband at age 19 (he was “the one”) and we moved to Israel where I lived with the Islamic arts. That love affair only grew as I dug deeper into looking at Middle Eastern embroideries, architecture, textiles, patterns, more ceramics.
Somewhere along the way, back home in San Francisco I noticed Italian majolica ceramics. There was a store called Biordi in North Beach with imported ceramics from Deruta, Italy. I collected the catalogs and used them in my high school classroom for reference, and we learned how to paint with majolica colors.
In my curiosity about majolica, I signed up for some private studies in Deruta, Italy and my husband and I made a trip of it. I brought back their ceramic colors, special brushes and a toolbox of techniques.
I had an opportunity to learn how to make terra cotta tree of life candelabras, and that’s when the threads of all of my interests and skills converged into the work I’ve been making for the past few years.
Normally, Mexican folk art tree of life candelabras are not glazed, but I decided to use majolica techniques with my tree of life pieces. I evolved my construction techniques and decorative ideas with lots of trial and error. I can’t begin to describe all of the things that went wrong, but I was my own teacher, and I chose to see these things as learning opportunities instead of set backs. I didn’t always know why something didn’t work technically, so I had to research and sometimes I found someone to help with an explanation, but not often.
I’ve known that the lyrical, fanciful, decorative style of my majolica candelabras are a a fusion of cultures, but I didn’t realize how unique they were until I began to get people’s reactions. I had realized that the tree of life, or tree of knowledge could also be a menorah for Hanukkah. So I made menorahs. Each one is different. The Judaica people found me in Instagram and explained that they have seen everything possible, and that nothing is like my work. I showed my menorahs to the Jewish Museum Gift Shop in New York. She said the same thing and bought a giant selection.
I’m not just the Judaica artist of functional objects though. I have an ongoing series about Adam & Eve in the Tree of Life. They are sculptural figurative pieces with Adam and Eve, or just Eve in their daily lives in Eden. Yes, they are autobiographical. I have endless material and I love to invent the titles.
Risk taking is part of what I am addicted to in my creative work. I push myself to do something out of my comfort zone every day. Even if it is something minor, I push myself to try something, learn something, test something, give something. Every day should not be 100% comfortable. After awhile, you realize how much you have expanded your capacity.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d take them to my house. We’d shop at the local Farmer’s Market, and then we’d cook together. We’d do some really fun art project together, like indigo Shibori fabric dying. We’d go into Fairfax to my favorite Italian restaurant, then walk over to Scoop to get ice cream. We’d go into SF to MOMA and see what other art shows are on. We’d walk down the Coit Tower steps and take the Ferry back to Marin. We’d hike on a mountain ridge in Marin near my house.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My artist daughter Mimi Lauter is very much a role model for me. I was a role model for her in many ways when she was growing up, and as she matured into a successful artist, she showed me what it is like to build a career as an artist. She is in a league of her own, but I’ve been front row watching her rise.

Website: lizlauter.com

Instagram: lizlauterdesigns

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