Inside the Studio With Ceramicist Lisa Neimeth

Lisa Neimeth’s studio, a converted chicken coop in the back of her 1886 dairy farmhouse (in the middle of San Francisco!), houses an array of artifacts she has collected over the years. The warm, earthy tones of the clay complement the distressed, pale yellow walls perfectly. Her beautifully crafted ceramic pieces are hung up around the walls, where the remaining empty spaces are decorated with images that currently inspire her. There isn’t a single item that isn’t stained with clay. “My studio is like one big dusty 5 and 10-cent shop,” says Neimeth.

“I have always been a collector- flea markets, the beach, the woods, the street, secondhand shops, the desert,” Neimeth says in her online biography. “Basically, I am always on alert to pick up an object anywhere.” This habit of collecting is what kick-started her desire to create; she initially began making sculpted clay pieces that incorporated her found trinkets. One day when she was dining at a restaurant, she noticed that the food was being served on beautiful handmade plates and decided to shift her energy into creating usable art. “I felt motivated to move my work to a more functional place.”

The tableware is made of slab, rich California clays using high and low fired glaze finishes. Neimath’s emblematic “etching” and impressed objects the plates contain make each piece truly unique. She presses the items that currently inspire her into the clay to capture that object’s shape and form. “The vintage objects I use a lot include broken off pieces from old tourist toys that one may have purchased early in the 20th century in Mexico- an old plaster bird or just an arm from a doll.”

After attending workshops in New Mexico with Native American potters, traveling to and absorbing different cultures became a huge influence on her work and life. “Travel heightens your observation skills and offers opportunities to experience things in a new way,” she says. “I have traveled extensively to Mexico, Central and South America, all of which have infused my vision with the collecting of folk art, perusing ancient indigenous sites, and wonderful age old traditions of pottery.”

Even though Neimeth’s work has been featured extensively throughout the country, including a 2009 issue of California Home + Design, it’s Lisa who we should really be paying tribute to. There is an enthralling characteristic about Lisa, one that humbles you to rediscover the simple beauty to life. “I love the notion of high-end craft and taking time to carefully make everyday items,” she says. “It is the way things used to be made- by hand and with great care and craft. It encourages an appreciation of the everyday.”

Neimeth’s creations have truly captured artists’ hearts as the world continues to capture hers. “I like to think about my plates as little tableaus to capture these recorded and observed images I collect,” she says. It’s a nice thought; when you buy a plate from Lisa, you are ultimately keeping a precious memory from her mesmerizing life with you.