Sculptor Fritts will offer some ‘Head Talk’ this weekend
March 15, 2016
Debra Fritts, a former art teacher who is now known nationally for her ceramic sculptures, fell in love with art at a young age and knew it was what she wanted to do with her life.
"I just felt like I had to go into visual arts," Fritts said during a telephone call to The Park Record from her studio in Abiquiú, New Mexico. "There was something in me that knew I wouldn’t be happy unless I was creating."
Fritts will share that love with Park City when she presents her "Head Talk" workshop at Clayhouse Studios, at 1241 Center Dr. #L180, at Kimball Junction, on Saturday, March 19, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday, March 20, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
The sessions will feature the artist demonstrating her technique of creating ceramic heads.
"The figures will be more life sized from the shoulders up or from the neck up," Fritts said. "I will talk about proportion and do some demonstrations of how I like to do facial features."
She hopes afterwards the workshop participants will have some time to experiment and create head sculptures of their own.
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"The big concern is that the clay can slump if you put too much on it," Fritts said. "Ideally you should wait until some of it dries before you start adding more on to it, but during workshops, you usually have to work really fast, faster than you would in your own studios. So you have to be careful.
"So, I’ve created a technique that works well when you work quickly, but still keeps the stability," she said. "The heads don’t collapse or come out as, what I like to say, watermelon heads."
In addition, Fritts will talk about adding a spiritual touch to these sculptures.
"My work is not religious, but there is an interior connection," she said. "So, after we build the head and get the facial features done, I will talk with the class about tapping into their own lives or thinking into the piece.
"We’ll discuss symbolism or ways to attach some of these ideas onto the work," Fritts said. "That means the completed pieces will be more contemporary studies. They won’t be too tight or too realistic."
The evening before the workshops start, Clayhouse Studios will host an artist reception from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. and Fritts is scheduled to give an art talk.
"The talk will be mainly on the inspiration or what triggers the thinking in my work," she said. "I think it’s easy for many artists to become repetitive. So, I want to show how important it is to tap into your own life to find new ways to create.
"For example, I recently moved to New Mexico from Atlanta, Georgia, and the new area, the land and animals have started coming out in my work," Fritts said. "The talk will be about what I’m seeing daily and how that might influence my work."
Fritts’ interest in visual arts was fueled by her mother.
"I was fortunate that she was very creative," Fritts said. "She wasn’t an artist, but always making and doing different things, so I started drawing and painting and when I went to school, I was mainly a painter."
During her senior year, Fritts’ father asked what she was going to do with her life.
"That’s when I went into art education," she said with a laugh. "I did teach in the public school system for 13 years, but after that, I felt it was time for me to go into the studio to seriously do my own work."
Throughout her years as a solo artist, Fritts was able to develop that spiritual connection with her craft.
"That’s when I felt I could really connect with myself," she said. "Even now, I’m connecting even more. There has been a call for me to be with nature and I’ve always lived in the city. So, I’m excited to be living out here in New Mexico."
The change of scenery has influenced her more recent works.
"Instead of living in a subdivision, I live on acreage in an open space that is 50 miles north of Santa Fe," Fritts said. "When you strip yourself away from all of the other forces that keep you from thinking, you can’t help but think. Taking long walks on mesas in the desert opens you up so you can connect with yourself."
The move, which she made more than four years ago, has also forced Fritts to change the way she works.
"Living in Atlanta, you have high humidity and I would start on four to five pieces and work on them continuously for weeks because the clay wouldn’t dry," she said. "Here, I can only sometimes work on one because of the dry air and the water is different and that affects some of my glazes."
Speaking of finishes, Fritts has found herself working with more earthy tones.
"That’s because that’s what I’m seeing," she said. "I’m using more of the regional animals — the raven, the coyote and the owl — in some of my works as well."
Clayhouse Studios, 1241 Center Dr. #l180 at Kimball Junction, will present visual artist Debra Fritts who will give her "Head Talk" workshop on March 19 and March 20. Fritts will also give an art talk on March 18. The cost for the workshop is $325 for the public and $250 for Clayhouse Studio members. The workshop is open to 20 participants. For more information or to register, visit http://www.clayhousestudios.com/summerworkshops.