Suki Diamond is a serious artist but not all of her art is meant to be taken seriously.
This is apparent when you enter her Sebastopol studio and display gallery, an other-side of the-looking glass kind of place, where mugs and vases peer back at you with expressive faces, whimsical animals smile up from plates, precarious-appearing towers of what are faintly reminiscent of flying saucers loom out of the landscape and mysterious succulents spill out of ceramic pots perched on absurdly uneven stilts. Look down in the garden and you may see footprints — the soles of real shoes embedded in the ground.
Humorous and whimsical are words frequently used to describe Diamond’s distinctive style. But her work is also functional. It’s art designed not just to look at but to use, everything from table vases, platters and butter dishes to dog bowls and birdbaths for the backyard. “They’re happy,” she said of her ceramics and sculptures, which all seem to exude a personality of their own. “They’re kind of fun but they’re also practical. They’re useful. Like the everyday dishes that bring joy to your life.”
Diamond says she has regular buyers who put out her hand-painted ceramic plates at a dinner party and tell their guests, “Which animal do you think you are today?” and then invite them to go sit at the place setting with their animal.
Or there are the grown men who wax on boyishly about how much they love their special animal cereal bowl, an admission she finds “cute.”
But Diamond doesn’t want to be wedged into an artistic box. Her work can also show sophistication, like her ceramic lamps in earthy colors with shades made out of a wire mesh dipped in a paper pulp slurry that let off a jeweled glow.
Visitors can stop by her studio, gallery and garden at 1237 Bing Tree Way (sukidiamond.com) to see for themselves during the annual Art at the Source Open Studios event. Sponsored by The Sebastopol Center for the Arts, it runs two weekends: June 2-3 and June 9-10 (artatthesource.org).
The event is a chance to see and talk to artists in their working spaces, and maybe tote home a piece or two. Virtually every type of art is represented, from oil painting and sculpture to mixed media, jewelry, woodwork and mosaics. Diamond however, is among only a few who make functional art that can be put to work in the home or garden.
She works out of her garage and an attached sunroom, a space that accommodates her potter’s wheel and four kilns.
When she first moved to this home in the Bloomfield area years ago, she slowly began converting the backyard into a magical garden, where a walk-through reveals intriguing finds dotted among the flowering perennials. There are modernistic “totem poles” the height of a tall man, that are large ceramic discs stacked between poles of high-fired clay. For the birds there are birdbaths as you’ve never seen them — 30-inch wide bowls set on of a tripod of legs made of hand-formed ceramic beads. Not just for looks, the baths are designed with birds in mind, with shallow bowls for safe splashing and standing a secure three feet tall to be safely beyond the reach of prying paws.