Angels on Her Shoulder
Kristen Cameron doesn't want to sound "mushy," she says, "But I've been on a spiritual journey for the last six years. I wanted to produce something that was spiritual, but do something with a whimsical flair."
Her husband Ron, with whom she runs Copper Star Antiques in Silver City, elaborates: "As in, 'Amen, dude.'"
The result of Kristen Cameron's spiritual journey intersecting with her innate whimsy is a series of ceramic figures like those on this issue's cover. They're suggestive of angels but their beatific faces more resemble roly-poly monks who've gotten into the communion wine.
All the figures are hand-sculpted, then impressed with antique lace or adorned with embellishments like colorful stones or little ceramic bowls. "Each piece is an individual unto itself," says Ron. "Even the same figure in a series will be different."
She's been making figures since 1983, and originally studied pottery in college. "But I phased out of throwing on a wheel because everybody was doing it," Kristen says. "I wanted to do something unique, something that was my own expression, and I couldn't do that with pottery. So I took a lump of clay one day and thought, 'OK, I'll make something that's me. That's when my little figures started to come out. I don't quite know what to call them.
"Hand-building ceramics is something you can't really predict. It's very tactile," she adds. "Everything turns out differently than you expect. It's like most artists say—it just kind of creates itself. I might start with an initial idea, but the clay gets to mandate what comes through."
Among her first figures were Santa characters, initially in an "old-time" style. Subsequent years brought Russian-looking Santas and even, when the Camerons owned a shop in Montana, cowboy Santas—"tall, lean Santas with cowboy hats, red duster coats, cowboy boots."
One customer in Montana became so enamored of Kristen's creations that she got rid of all her other collections, clearing the mantle and all her shelves to collect only Kristen's work.
But 14 months ago the Camerons abandoned Montana for Silver City to open Copper Star Antiques, where her ceramics are shown along with the antique pieces. "We wanted to get out of the cold," Ron says, "and we picked here because of the Chamber of Commerce Web site—we liked the sound of 'four gentle seasons,' and wanted an artistic community. After three years in Montana at 32 below, well. . . ."
The current cherubic characters coming from Kristen's hands represent a fresh twist on her artwork, new since coming to New Mexico. She's also returned to an artform from earlier in her career, a sophisticated decorative painting. A painted door she did on the spur of the moment for October's Weekend at the Galleries sold to a Tucson gallery owner, who then commissioned several more such pieces to feature at the gallery. (The original door, however, the gallery owner kept for herself.)
"My love of the whimsical comes out in my decorative painting, too," Kristen says. "Someone said it's a sort of contemporary surrealistic style. I love to do angels and fairies."
She smiles, as if realizing she's again verging on "mushy." It doesn't seem to bother the beatifically smiling ceramic figures, who just keep smiling, too, as if glowing with a secret they're not quite ready to share.