Briefly describe the work you do.
I am a visual artist who works primarily with glass and on paper. I enjoy layering images and text on pieces. Text is an important component of my artwork. I often say that I live under the tyranny of title. A phrase will get stuck in my head, such as “We Buy Houses” and I wrestle with it until an artwork is created. Thus, many of my pieces have titles before I ever make a schematic drawing, much less cut a piece of glass or reach for a sheet of handmade paper.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I am originally from Washington, DC and worked for many years in community development. Observations of current events, politics, and urban landscapes are often my entry into the art I create. I initially learned glass in 2002 at the Washington Glass School, a wonderful studio run by artists Tim Tate, Erwin Timmers and Michael Janis. At Tate’s encouragement, the next year I went to the Penland School of Crafts to study with another artist originally from Washington, DC, the great Therman Statom. This early exposure to and training from artists who work narratively with the medium were a positive influence on my work and I continue to work as a visual storyteller.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice is split between my live/work loft and my off-site art studio (work only). I make art from research, so I can get all my computer work done in the loft. I find historical images online or size my own photos that I plan to use in artworks. I also make storyboards for more complex pieces or series. I go to my art studio a few times a week. I tend to work in 3-hour blocks of time. Examples of activities are cutting glass for a project; cleaning glass for a project and setting up my print station; printing on glass, and printing on paper. Each these activities work well in 3-hour blocks. Some days I go into the studio for 3 hours. Other days I go for 3 hours, get a snack/lunch and work for another 3 hours.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I did not realize how many roles I would have to play when I first started making art. The business of art requires a good deal of time. Accounting, marketing, applying for grants and residencies, stocking the studio with supplies, teaching—these are the important players in my practice in addition to making art.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I make art any and all of the time. My art studio is in a convenient location, so I can work whenever I want or need to – very helpful when getting ready for shows. I also keep a list of art projects on the “Notes” app on my IPhone. Whenever a phrase comes to me I write it down, as I know that it may turn into the title of my next piece or series.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has definitely changed over the past five years. I moved from Washington, DC to Oakland, CA in 2011. Since arriving in Oakland, I studied with Carrie Iverson. Carrie created an image transfer technique that applies the printmaking principles of lithography to glass. Using this technique has allowed me to layer imagery into my glasswork in new and exciting ways. I also studied with Matthew Day Perez at Arrowmont. Matthew expanded my view of casting and professional practice. Whenever possible, I try to take a master class every couple of years to push my technique and broaden my vision. I still work narratively and with text, so that is how my work has stayed the same.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My art studio is located in American Steel Studios. American Steel houses close to 200 artists and a number of the large-scale metal sculptures created for the annual Burning Man event in Nevada are made there. I sublease from a metal artist, Stephen Bruce. I enjoy seeing how his work evolves from the beauty of nature. My art studio environment pushes me to make bigger, bolder work. I love to hear artists who have enjoyed long art careers talk about their work. These talks influence how I present my own work to the public. Some talks that immediately come to mind are Therman Statom (Littleton Lecture) and Mildred Howard (Wilson Lecture), both at the Glass Arts Society Conference (2015); Carrie Mae Weems at Stanford University (2013) and Karen LaMonte at the Smithsonian (2010).
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I write nonfiction and I am the author of the book Being the Grown-Up, Taking Care of Someone with a Terminal Illness. I enjoy writing and I am looking forward to finishing a second book. Then next book is about managing life changes and I plan to complete it as time permits over the next year or two. At some point, I am sure that I will write about art and artists.
Cheryl Patrice Derricotte lives and makes art in Oakland, CA. She holds the Master of Fine Arts, (MFA), from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) (2015), a Master of Regional Planning (MRP) from the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Cornell University (1989) and a BA in Urban Affairs from Barnard College, Columbia University (1987).
Derricotte has received numerous awards and fellowships. She recently received the Penland School of Crafts’ Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass Scholarship (2015). She was awarded an Integral Teaching Fellowship from CIIS and a Creative Capacity Fund grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation (both in 2014). Originally from Washington, DC, she was the recipient of a D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities/ National Endowment for the Arts Artist Fellowship grant (2005). Cheryl Patrice Derricotte’s sculptural work has been exhibited widely. Select shows include “HOME,” a joint exhibition of the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) and the Vietnamese Arts and Letters Association (VAALA); “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History; “Terrestrial Forces,” at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, and “Contemporary Glass” at the San Francisco Airport Museum.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.