News


Palo Alto Festival of the Arts features functional, beautiful pieces for the home

Unique decorations, furniture among pieces to be displayed on University Avenue

Bay Area glass artist Sylvia Chesson calls it the "double look." Most festival visitors have had this experience at one time or another, when a special piece catches the eye. "It's when the person walks by, looks in (the booth) and turns around and comes back," Chesson said.

The Palo Alto Festival of the Arts, taking place this Saturday and Sunday in downtown Palo Alto, features the creations of 300 artists from around the country — including plenty of beautiful, unique home decor items, housewares and furniture ... which add up to many opportunities for that "double look" and a chance to learn more about the inspiration or technique that went into creating that eye-catching piece. That especially makes sense for those shopping for pieces to decorate with or use at home — something to live with and enjoy every day.

This will be the first time Chesson has shown her work at the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts, though she has shown at other Peninsula festivals. She's been working in glass for about 30 years, after previously working in biotech.

When someone stops in Chesson's booth, she said, "I'll let them have their time and just start talking to them a little bit about what made me do whatever it is that they are looking at. I think they appreciate the story, the raison d'etre. What's the reason for it being?"

Chesson's platters and plates, vessels and sculptures are made of kiln-formed glass, a versatile approach that gives her the ability to create layers of depth and pattern in her pieces.

"Working with a kiln allows for a variety of techniques," Chesson said. "You can cast, you can slump (fuse glass over a mold), you can comb hot glass, you can pull hot glass out of a kiln to make strings and swoop-di-swoops."

In addition to such techniques, Chesson "paints" with powdered glass, sifting it over a stencil or silkscreen onto a solid glass background to create images and patterns, including pieces that reference local landmarks.

Southern California potter Eri Sugimoto is returning to the festival to show her functional pottery.

Sugimoto creates delicate, asymmetrical patterns for her vases, pots and other vessels with stencils made from cut paper. It's known as a "paper resist" or "paper stencil" technique.

"I cut the pattern by hand for each piece and use it only one time, so all of my work is one of a kind," she said. "I lay out the pattern on the ceramic body, apply the slip, and peel off the pattern. After that, I carefully clean up the piece several times, and fire it twice."

Sugimoto's background was as an industrial designer, but she got into ceramics after taking a class with a friend. The hands-on, 3D quality of working with ceramics intrigued her. A native of Japan, she credits the influence of medieval Japanese art, which she studied as an art history student, in inspiring asymmetrical composition of her works.

Also returning to the festival are Nevada woodworkers Robert and Tor Erickson. The father-and-son team uses primarily California walnut to create sleek, gracefully curved chairs, tables and other furniture, including many custom pieces. "California walnut has a tremendous diversity in terms of the figure of the wood, so you get these really wild, diverse patterns that appear naturally in the grain — swirls and ripples and stripes," Tor Erickson said. "It also has a really broad range of colors."

The natural beauty of the wood can help determine what it will become in the Erickson woodshop.

"If you have a set design, if you know what (the piece) looks like, then as you're selecting wood to build that piece of furniture, you're looking very closely for pieces of wood that will accentuate the curves and shape of the design you already have," Erickson said, noting that an especially beautiful or unusual piece of wood might inspire a new design — a unique, one-off piece — rather than using it in an existing design.

Erickson grew up learning woodworking from his father, Robert, and in designing pieces, he said the family dynamic helps them work as a creative team.

Furniture obviously must be functional first, Erickson said. With a chair, "you're sitting on it, so the shape of the seat, it matters. You're not looking at it most of the time," he said.

But at the same time, aesthetics also matter.

"When you're looking at it, or you're touching it, you're experiencing it more as a piece of artwork. In this case, I just hope it's beautiful. I don't think it's more complicated than that," Erickson said. "It's a chance to bring a beautiful object into your home and hopefully that will make your life a little bit better."

The festival will block University Avenue between High Street and Webster Street from the early morning hours on Saturday through about 11 p.m. Sunday, according to a traffic advisory from Palo Alto police. Access will also be blocked on streets that run north and south between Hamilton Avenue and Lytton Avenue during the same time frame; Cowper Street and Emerson Street will be open to traffic during the overnight hours from late Saturday night through early Sunday morning.

The Palo Alto Festival of the Arts will take place on University Avenue, between Webster and High streets, in downtown Palo Alto from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, and Sunday, Aug. 25. For more information, mlaproductions.com/PaloAlto.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 23, 2019 at 12:37 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I thought the work of the artist on the postcard is racist and sexist and sent him a note saying such, plus to the Chamber of Commerce and a couple others. I mean I likes me a couple squaw maidens topless and on her knees as much as the next white american frat bro but I wouldn't advertise such in bronze.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Su Hong Palo Alto's last day of business will be Sept. 29
By Elena Kadvany | 19 comments | 5,665 views

Premarital, Women Over 50 Do Get Married
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,765 views

Electric Buses: A case study
By Sherry Listgarten | 2 comments | 1,600 views

Natural Wines?
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 1,589 views

Firing Judge Persky as a tennis coach was a big mistake
By Diana Diamond | 6 comments | 598 views

 

Register now!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

More Info