3 Marin Artists Who Are Redefining Creativity in a Post-Pandemic World
Making Craft Cool Again
Obsessed with the Tibetan Plateau since she was a teenager, Britt-Marie Alm says the “slingshot weaving technique” she learned from nomad women during many years spent living and studying in the remote region is a tangible symbol of their culture. It’s also one she feels passionate about preserving.
“I’ve taken this wonderful, very utilitarian object that farmers and nomads use to herd and protect their animals and supersized it into this visually fascinating structure that works as a stand-alone art piece or when incorporated into furniture,” she says. With an aesthetic informed by her part-Scandinavian heritage, Alm’s “earthy Northern Californian home” also serves as inspiration for her eye-catchingly executed designs.”
Originally from Chicago, she settled in San Francisco’s Sunset neighborhood with her husband and toddler daughter, although the dream was to move to Marin. “It’s just so beautiful up there. I love the curvature of the hills and the way the mountains meet the ocean,” she says, adding that the valleys and peaks of Tibet make their way into her designs a lot, too.
Alm’s favorite piece to date? A custom 8-foot-wide commission called “Bringing The Mountains to the Sea” that she created for a private client in Colorado. The founder of Love Fest Fibers, a soft goods company that sources yak, alpaca and organic cotton-based yarns from artisan communities and women-owned businesses in Tibet, Nepal and here on the West Coast, Alm sees her art as an opportunity to create connections and share stories while learning from others.
“I’m fascinated by the process and stories behind my materials, the incredible women making these hand-felted yarns or living a nomad life on the plateau, and hope these are the kind of conversations looking at my work might start, too.” Around San Francisco, her tapestries grace the walls at Nordic cafe Kantine in the Upper Market/Castro neighborhood and The Mill, an Alamo Square bakery. Fiber art fans can admire more custom pieces by Alm, shop the Love Fest Fibers yarn collection or take a weaving class at her first brick-and-mortar storefront and studio, which opens this month in the Outer Sunset at 3300 Judah Street. —Keri Bridgwater
The King of Collage
“The busy graphic characteristics of retro print media plays an important role balancing out the simplified approach that I take in my illustration style,” says Patrick Nelson. “It’s the sweet spot to my aesthetic, my secret sauce.” Drawn to “dated typefaces, old illustration styles and funky layouts,” the Marin-based artist scours thrift, antique and military surplus stores to keep his vintage newspaper archives fully stocked.
He says crossing over from a decade-long career in the branding and advertising world felt like his “Karate Kid moment” — years spent bringing old graphics to life in new ways inherently guided his style and chosen medium when he was making the move to fine art.
“My career as a graphic designer honed my creative process and taught me about problem-solving, layout and countless other design principles I’ve been able to use as an artist,” he says. “I took the leap of faith and made this a full-time career in 2020. It was a story of the pandemic doing good by pushing me to turn my passion into a profession.”
Currently exploring illustration styles and collage techniques more than focusing on specific subject matter, his work features casual beach scenes inspired by California summers and growing up around Marin as recurring themes.
“There’s a sense of comfort from the land here that I channel in my imagery. My family rented up a storm and I’ve lived all over the county, but am particularly partial to the stretch of coastline between Mill Valley and Sausalito.”
Surrounded by fellow artists and crafters a stone’s throw from the water, Nelson calls a live-work studio in Marinship home and says while his often color-dyed newspaper clips convey a sense of history frozen in time, they allow viewers to unplug, too.
“In our modern, often complex lives, unfolding a newspaper and reading it is one of the most analog things we can do. My work aims to help balance some of this overstimulation we’re all dealing with.” Select pieces by Nelson are on display at AERENA Galleries & Gardens in St. Helena. View more online, including engaging behind-the-scenes process videos, at www.tricksf.com. —Keri Bridgwater
Vibrant Ceramics for All
Like any good artist, Carol Myers can see what’s in front of her; she can also see what’s missing. This was the case when she noticed a lack of unique dinnerware for the food photography sessions she attended as a photo agency owner in New York City. So, she took a pottery class and made a few pieces herself. “It was love at first throw,” says Myers, an artist who began exploring her abilities at age 5. She started bringing her handcrafted goods to photo shoots, but she didn’t stop there.
Myers now creates and sells her beautiful dinnerware as Swampgirl Pottery, a name that hearkens back to her Louisiana roots. Her handmade work includes ceramic place settings, pasta and serving bowls, serving platters and appetizer plates. Myers found the pottery-making process to be meditative, a stark contrast from the frenetic energy of Manhattan, where she was living at the time. Eventually, New York’s harsh winters led her to relocate to California, where she now draws inspiration from Marin’s lush greenery, the incomparable views from Tiburon Trail Peak and the simple but striking designs of Eichler homes.
“Pottery is the first functional artwork I’ve done,” says Myers. “I think incorporating it into everyday life really brings beauty to moments you wouldn’t necessarily think about.” Studio visits can be scheduled with Myers to view her entire line, but pieces can be purchased at Summer House in Mill Valley, Ground in Tiburon and Maker & Moss in San Francisco. If you have eaten at the Michelin-starred Madcap in San Anselmo or the Avery in San Francisco then you have also eaten off of Myers’ dinnerware.
And while Myers’ pieces are functional, there is no question that they’re also art — you can find them on display at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art and the de Young Museum in S.F. “Art is not relegated only to museums and galleries, but rather it lives in the everyday small moments,” says Myers. “It is in these small moments that I feel my art breaks mundane boundaries by elevating awareness in our daily small rituals.” —Caitlin Hamer