In the entryway of Floasis Pottery Studio, visitor Kirsten Snobeck’s eyes grew wide as she held up a mug ornamented with mushrooms.
Floasis Studio was Snobeck’s sixth or seventh stop of the day in her self-guided tour of Santa Cruz Open Studios on Sunday, Oct. 9. She has been going every year since 2018, when, on one of her first days living in Santa Cruz, the notorious green Open Studios signs drew her into the vast artistic community that exists across the county.
The mug Snobeck held was made by Anna Cummings — a sophomore at UC Santa Cruz, who perched on a stool in the sunlit atrium with an array of mushroom-adorned ceramics to her left.
Open Studios is a bi-annual three weekend event hosted by Arts Council Santa Cruz. Artists are chosen from across Santa Cruz County to open their studio doors to the public, whether it be their garage, a backyard greenhouse, or a repurposed grain silo across town.
“It’s really uplifting to be in this space that inspires their creativity,” Snobeck said. “I love this. You’re in it, and you just want to create.”
Floasis Studios, Temple of the Arts was founded by Travis Adams — otherwise known as a claying mantis. He is a man of humor, community and laughter.
Travis Adams is celebrating 10 years of participation in Open Studios, and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. He floats around the large studio he founded in 2016, unphased by the amount of artists and patrons who crowd around tables and nibble on crackers and cheese.
“[Studio] is as loose a term as art is,” Adams said. “If art can be anything then a studio can be anything.”
The snacks were diligently replenished by Maddie Mitchell, who creates in the studio during her spare time. Mitchell, Adams’ partner, welcomed guests and passionately celebrated the artists and their work.
“I think it is the most important weekend for artists of the year,” said Mitchell. “It’s super important to contribute and explore and support local artists here. This is how they pay rent and how they are able to keep creating.”
Floasis member Lauren McCarthy grinned brightly and stood, arms crossed, as she leaned against her display. McCarthy radiated confidence — you would never guess this was her first open studio. She explained that she feels relatively new at pottery, or at least at working consistently, but that preparing to exhibit work gave her the motivation she needed to spend time making art daily.
McCarthy’s most memorable experience was finally selling a piece that she had previously refused to let go of due to the emotional attachment she had to its conception.
“It had three legs that were made out of corn, and they were wearing crocs,” McCarthy said, laughing.
She painted it pink, or rather “Palm Springs red,” a color she and an ex-lover made up while camping in Joshua Tree years ago. “It’s red that’s faded in the sunlight.”
McCarthy and the other Floasis artists have their communal studio nestled behind homes in the quiet Twin Lakes neighborhood, however, many of the studios featured over these three weekends are on the artist’s property or in rented units.
Donald Bruce Wright
“In the life cycle of buildings, the last step before demolishing it, is when they put the artists in,” Wright said. Wright didn’t register for Open Studios this year, but a prior year’s sign was left up and the door was open for visitors to wander through.
We found Donald Bruce Wright sitting at his studio desk, surrounded by an amalgamation of playful abstract and realistic paintings alike. Wright explained the importance of people seeing his work in person.
“It registers with much more intensity in person,” said Wright. “You get feedback from the public. You get to see what they like – what they are attracted to, and what they are ignoring.”
Wright said that he wants the pieces to bring out feelings of fun and excitement. The color of his pieces bounced off each other and were amplified by the sterile white walls of the upstairs room.
Marsha Blaker and Paul DeSomma
In the unit next door, partners in work and life Marsha Blaker and Paul DeSomma discuss their careers as glass artists and preparing for open studios. Marsha’s first open studio was in 1986, and Paul joined her in the yearly tradition soon after. While they acknowledged that open studios can be a huge source of income and exposure, they also stressed that the endeavor requires an immense amount of time and energy.
“Don’t let me apply again!” DeSomma chuckled, admitting to texting a friend during this year’s open studio rush.
DeSomma is inspired by the material of his medium and likes to experiment with clear glass. When he works with glass, he tries to interfere as little as possible to see the natural forms the material takes on.
“Glass has the ability to do anything, look like anything,” Paul noted.
The final weekend of Open Studios is the 15th and 16th of October, with open studios in all of Santa Cruz County, from Watsonville up to Bonny Doon. More information is available here.