Needham artists set to open their doors for weekend event
By Jonathan Dame
Posted May. 1, 2015 at 7:00 AM
For both Gretchen Nash and Liz Gribin, art has been a lifelong calling.
Nash started ceramics in high school. Gribin began painting even earlier, when just entering grade school.
They’re two of the more than 45 Needham artists whose work will be on display at the annual Needham Open Studios this weekend, May 2 and 3.
“It’s not so much reproducing what I see,” Gribin said, explaining her painting style. “It’s the body language or the gesture of the model that I’m trying to capture.”
Most of her work – in a style she calls classical modernism – features figures based on real life models. But they’re not portraits; they’re interpretations.
“It’s kind of like, certain body language can be very stimulating, and then I get such pleasure from capturing it,” she said.
Gribin grew up in New York City and spent many years living in the Hamptons, where she feels she produced some of her best work. The lighting was different there, she said, inspiring her to incorporate brighter colors.
Her pictures aren’t realistic – and that’s the point, she said. Figures sit next to a green sky or a red sea, often near oddly sized windows or bed frames, the edges of their bodies punctured by rectangular, darkly colored shapes.
“And I think it gets harder as you do more,” Gribin said. “You get older, and you want more from it.”
“You want to be more unusual, something people haven’t seen before,” she added. “That, to me, is the epitome of what I’m looking for.”
For Nash, crafting different types of decorative and utilitarian pieces allows her to find a balance in her work.
She enjoys that people will use her bowls, mugs and the like in their homes, but they’re made in a very controlled environment with a digitized electric kiln.
To remain in touch with a more raw form of her craft, she makes Raku-style decorative pieces in the backyard of Gorse Mill Studios, where both she and Gribin work.
Once an object is dried and hardened, she glazes it in an open-flame kiln before burying it in a bucket of leaves, sawdust, pine needles or other flammable materials. The result is a smoky black piece splashed with varying degrees of color.
“I kind of got doing clay and never looked back,” Nash said.
She began making pottery in high school and then after college started working in the Potters Shop and School at Gorse Mill, where she taught classes for kids and adults. After a while she moved on to different professional careers to make a living, but never stopped teaching at the shop, recently returning to its staff.
“I love teaching and I love making pots so I’m trying to figure out a way to make it all work,” she said.
Needham Open Studios will take place May 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and May 3 from 12 to 4 p.m., at 10 locations throughout town. For more information, visit www.needhamopenstudios.com.