Wednesday, May 5, 2010 Cristin Zimmer

We at The Artists' House are pleased to bring you a glimpse of artist Cristin Zimmer as our first featured artist.   Check out Cristin's work in person at her Senior Thesis Show, May 12-27 at Gittins Gallery, located on the Campus of the University of Utah.

The Artists House: Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started in this field?

Cristin Zimmer:  I am originally from Denver, CO, and got my BA at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA in 2001.  I studied Studio Art and Environmental Studies.  I went to Pitzer to study ceramics, a medium that has interested me since I was a small child.  As a child, I think I was interested because I had supportive and inspiring teachers who encouraged me in art classes and parents who did the same.  In high school, I had a neighbor who was an elderly potter, who had a studio in her garage.  She taught me to throw and I spent most days in the ceramics studio at school even staying after school ended to work on projects.  With the exception of about five years that I took off after I graduated from college, when I worked primarily as a river guide, involvement with clay has been a lifelong pursuit.

AH:  When did you first discover your creative talents? 

CZ:  My mom tells a story that when I was around three years old, I got into the cupboard and became fascinated with the papers that you line muffin tins with to make cupcakes or muffins.  I took the muffin papers that were multicolored and began to stack them into an abstract form.  My mom gave me glue and I glued them into a crazy stack that was taller than I was.  This was my first sculpture project and I have been trying to build and make things ever since.

AH:  What inspires you to keep going when you are in an artistic slump, and how do you keep yourself motivated?  

CZ:  I have a strong work ethic and I am stubborn so I just keep forging ahead even if I know I am not making my best work.  I make it through slumps by working and somehow my hands intuitively work things out eventually.  I have to trust myself.  In the end I only pick my best pieces.

AH:  How would you describe your style? 

CZ:  This is really hard.  I hope my style has not been defined yet, and I work in different media and genre depending on what my ideas demand.  I am interested in natural materials, the passage of time, trying to visually link human self-consciousness through time and place, gender roles and identity, and the interface of humans and the environment.

AH:  What is your approach to design? 

CZ:  I get ideas and let them swirl around in my head for a few days.  Then I sketch them very crudely just to get a general sense of form.  Next I may make a small maquette to make sure proportions are what I envisioned.  Some of my pieces are larger and must be built in pieces.  These require more planning.  On some pieces I have made several of, I have an idea in my head and I just trust the intuitive process.

AH:  Any influences or anyone you look up to when it comes to designing/creating art? 

CZ:  I love the ceramic artists Adrienne Arleo and Tip Toland, the earth artists Robert Smithson, and Andy Goldsworthy, and Spanish modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. 

AH:  What other interests do you have outside of creating art?

CZ:  I love being outdoors and am inspired by spending time in the natural environment.  I enjoy skiing, biking and kayaking.  I also like to read fiction and get many ideas for pieces for listening or reading peoples’ stories.  

AH:  How long does it take to create one sculpture? 

CZ:  Around two weeks to build, and I usually have a couple going at once.  Most of my pieces are fired several times so actually finishing a piece takes about two months when you factor in drying and firing.

AH:  Could you talk about your latest series of sculptures and what you are trying to achieve with them.  

CZ:  My latest body of work explores and attempts to commemorate the female psyche.  The work is essentially a series of busts that have psychological dramas playing out on symbolic settings that are materializing out of the figures’ heads and hair.  These dramas are metaphors for conflicting thoughts, feelings and emotions that I and other women experience everyday.  Colorful mosaic chips which represent the fragments that make up the self also reference ceramic tradition and history, become features such as eyes, and clothing. 

AH:  Where do you find your subject matter?  

CZ:  My latest body of work is extremely introspective.  Most of the pieces are exploring psychological issues that I have personally faced or that close family or friends have experience.  I think it is extremely hard to make engaging art about subject matter that you are not intimately aquatinted with.  I think that is why it seems like many artists make work about themselves or are self-absorbed.  I don’t really think this is the case, I just think that it is hard to capture the essence of something and then make it compelling visually when you are just trying to understand it yourself.  I just have to look within to find subject matter, but oftentimes I see these same issues and tendencies reflected in others.

AH:  Lastly, any words of advice for aspiring designers/artists? 

CZ:  You have to put in the work.  Even if it comes naturally, creative critical thinking is a serious pursuit and you should take yourself and your work seriously.  It is more important than ever in our society that we foster and value creativity.  Make with your head, your heart and your hands.

Visit Cristin's website at


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