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Beth Shook

Author: Shawndrea Corbin
Issue: February, 2013, Page 30
Photos by Garrett Cook

Beth Shook begins her process by sketching the images she will later etch into clay.

Artist Beth Shook finds her narrative multimedia work in a category entirely of its own

I like a challenge,” Beth Shook admits while perched on a stool in her Gilbert studio. “I love clay because if you push your finger into it, the mark stays there.”

Originally from El Paso, Texas, and self-described as “one of those kids of the Southwest,” Shook has been working as an artist since she was 19 years old. She majored in ceramics, minored in drawing and painting, and earned her Master of Fine Arts degree at Arizona State University.

Shook originally had little interest in ceramics, preferring sculpture. But a course of life events kept her from taking a sculpture class and instead pushed her through the door of her first ceramics course. “I had a really good professor,” she notes. Trained by acclaimed potter Warren MacKenzie, her professor challenged his students, who in turn, challenged each other to create simple, beautiful pieces.

Taking to the medium naturally, it wasn’t long before the artist was able to pay for most of her education by creating and selling ceramic dinner sets. “I like the end, when it’s not mine anymore,” she says with a laugh. “It’s meant to be used, not observed.” Although Shook still makes dinnerware on commission and recalls that she spent the majority of last year filling store orders and personal requests, her desire to draw on clay surfaces eventually shifted her work more toward the abstract.

The artist’s recent work is a series of clay drawings. She begins with a photograph, often of her children, which she sketches and grids for dimensions. Next, she draws the image onto a clay slab, which she then fires, applies glaze to and then fires again.

“I went from creating a drawn environment that people would stand in front of and observe, to creating a story people could share,” Shook elaborates. “I just think of my work as stories or essays, instead of images. I have this thing with relationships and people.”

A series of rejections from various art shows—both in drawing and ceramics categories—due to her indefinable medium, has not deterred the artist.

“I don’t fit into a category and that’s all right,” she says with a dismissive wave. “Someone once called me a ‘documenter.’ I put down stories and I document life. I want it to be intimate.”
Titled Sometimes I’m Chicken Little, this clay drawing by Shook is framed by her own combination of reclaimed objects and materials.

Shook’s unique dinnerware also showcases her signature hand-drawn designs.
Her work is sold by various stores and by special order.

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