PamelaWeir-Quiton is an influential Los Angeles based woodworker who has been making finely crafted sculptural works since 1965.
Her work has appeared in multiple publications over the years, including the cover of LA Home Magazine, and has been exhibited and collected nationally since the 1960s. She is considered an important part of the West Coast studio movement, and she is one of only a few veteran female artists working with wood. A lover of fashion,she originally planned to be a fashion designer. She has become a ‘
Known for her stylized functional doll forms and life-sized ‘rocking animals,’ Weir-Quiton is currently celebrating her 50th studio year. Championed by
Weir-Quiton’s work is a part of the fabric and history of the LA Design scene. Earlier this fall, a retrospective of her work was held to much acclaim at the Craft in America Center in Hollywood. A recent visit to her West Adams studio revealed how the artist is currently thinking about her work and her legacy.
KN: Your work has largely focused on animal and human figures made of wood. How
PWQ: You know being in a military family, I would talk to my cats. And later, to my dogs. Being here, working alone in the studio and basically being an outsider, my dogs are more than muses. They are almost human to me.
When I was very young, my father was in the Air Force. My mother and I moved to Indiana to be closer to
I have always believed in fairy tales. So my fairy tale is like a kind of Hansel and Gretel, only with a good witch. So in my version of the story, we would gather nuts and things and we would go back to the good witch’s cottage where she just happens to have a wood shop, and a drill press. And you drill holes in everything you have found and you string it together!
KN: Is that a view of the creative process as a kind of magic, as alchemy?
PWQ: It is that, I’m not doing it. And, that anyone can tap into this channel!
All that I can say, is that it is intuitive. And now, more so than ever for me. It’s really has become crystal clear by thinking about the law of attraction. By asking, how does this make me feel? I’ve always been able to capture the frame, and hold it, and sketch it. In the new studio (West Adams), I feel even more connections. I’m seeing piles of sacred scrap from older projects, and I’masking “what can I do with this?”
The materials and the tools, nothing else matters. That’s who I am. We don’t travel. There is nothing else that I want to do. Once I discovered woodworking at the wood shop at Cal State Northridge, there was no turning back, it was100% commitment. It’s like an obsession that grabs you by the throat. It’s like Colin Kaepernick, the “take a knee guy” – find something you love and if you have to – risk everything. That’show that am.
KN: If you were to go back and tell your 23-year old self something, what would it be?
PWQ: (Laughs) I guess I would tell myself that it always worked out!
You can only have one thought at a time, and the trick is to be able to shift it and focus. That’s what coming in, and turning on the lights in the woodshop, does for me.
I know who I am. It’s not an ego thing. I’m not afraid to put myself out there, because I don’t feel like I’m pushing myself. It’s “come and play with me
Katie Nartonis is an Art + Design writer, curator and auction specialist based out of Los Angeles, California and sometimes Taos, New Mexico. Earlier this year she curated “Nature: Human Nature” an art +design show at Loft at Liz’s gallery in Los Angeles. She is currently finishing co-writing and publishing a book on the late San Diego designer/maker, “JackRogers Hopkins: California Maverick”(with Co -Writer/Editor Jeffrey Head). Sheis the founder of The Nartonis Project and is Art + Design Editor of SoCalMagazine. www.thenartonisproject.com
Known for his high level of craftsmanship, John Nyquist worked in exotic woods and created pieces that were impeccably made. He created spindle-back rockers, upholstered lounge chairs, credenza, music stands, free-edge coffee tables, jewelry boxes and dining tables among many other forms. His careful design choices, and his religious attention to the finishing (the polishing, sanding and fine upholstery and leathers) created lusciously tactile pieces that yearned to be touched, and used.
John Nyquist influenced generations with his teaching and his life-long studio practice. He taught at CSLULB and Cerritos College as well as at the Anderson Ranch in Colorado during the Summer. Gerard O’Brien of Los Angeles’ Reform Gallery/The Landing handles Nyquists work. O’Brien notes:
“Like many of the makers in the post WW2 era, John will be remembered for mentoring many a woodworker as an educator, and inspiration for making ones way as a craftsman. He was also an incredible draftsman, his line drawings were a work of art in and of themselves.”
John Nyquist was born in 1936 in South Dakota and raised in the Black Hills. His father was a physician in the C.C.C. (Civilian Construction Corps). The artist remembered his very cold early years living under the shadow of Mt. Rushmore:
“..we lived in a one room log cabin during that time. No running water and no electricity. The cabin was only a short distance from Mt. Rushmore, which was being constructed while we lived there. As a young child I remember the actual carving of the monument. After WWII, my father returned from the war and we moved to California.”
Nyquist met his lovely wife Shirley in Long Beach, when they were both in High School. They were married in 1957 and together they raised 6 beautiful children.
Over the last decade, Nyquist enjoyed a resurgence of interest in the hand-made studio movement of the 20th Century, and John’s work has been included nationally for sale in both fine 20th Century Design auctions and high-end design galleries on both coasts. In 2009, Nyquist was honored at Bonhams + Butterfields Auction Company as part of their ongoing Bonhams’ Design Lecture Series. Gerard O’Brien of Reform Gallery notes:
‘I had the good fortune to handle a number of John’s finest commissioned pieces over the years, a true highlight was having his arm chair from CA Design, inspired by Mexican furniture he had seen. John’s form and line were his own.’
John Nyquist represents a generation of artists and craftsmen who rejected a 9-5 desk job in order to live a more self-directed and fulfilling life in the arts. In 1976’ publication “Craftsman Lifestyle: A Gentle Revolution”, Nyquist noted:
“I take sincere pride in my work and confine it to one geographical area. I want to work directly with my clients, and stand behind my work, even after it has left the shop. I think if the individual takes personal responsibility for the attitudes and actions that represent him, he has a more meaningful life.”
John simply loved to work and he would get lost in his studio, working for hours and hours in his creative “groove.” In 1976 John described his studio time:
“One of the satisfactions of being a craftsman is the sensory pleasure you get from your materials and tools. I guess, when you get down to it, we craftsmen get to a point where there’s nothing we want to do as much as our work and then we find it hard to explain.”
His family notes that he had no clock or wristwatch in his studio.
“When it’s dark, I go home” – John Nyquist
John was laid to rest on Saturday, September 8th at a packed service at St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church in Long Beach. The Nyquist family and close friends gathered at the family home after the funeral for a lively and celebratory reception. There, John’s widow Shirley was surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Stories told by his students, children and colleagues remembered him as a dedicated, thoughtful, generous man and a skilled artisan and teacher.
John Nyquist will be missed.
Acknowledged influences on his own work are Shaker furniture, Scandinavian Design of the 1950’s and the organic shapes of nature.
A selection of John Nyquist’s work offered at Bonhams Auction Co. (Photo: Shirley Nyquist)
Nyquist’s work was shown consistently during his lifetime in major exhibitions and shows including the seminal “California Design” exhibitions (1964-1976) at the Pasadena Museum of Art. John maintained a studio practice, and a bevy of faithful private clients who commissioned his work for their homes and offices for over 60 years. In the last decades of his life, he enjoyed a national reputation as part of a small number of noted makers who led the West Coast studio-craft movement.
Katie Nartonis is an Art + Design writer, curator and auction specialist based out of Los Angeles, California and Taos, New Mexico. She is currently co-authoring a book on the seminal San Diego designer/maker, “Jack Rogers Hopkins: California Maverick”(with Co-Writer/Editor Jeffrey Head). She is the founder of The Nartonis Project and is Art + Design Editor of SoCal Magazine. www.thenartonisproject.com
A selection of John Nyquist’s work offered at Bonhams Auction Co. (Photo: Shirley Nyquist)
Read the Randyland story here
“History, context, one’s particular experience with a material, all play a tremendous role in the connection made between an artist and their viewer.”
Rebecca Niederlander is a sculptor and installation artist interested in revealing cosmic truth. Through contemplation, and a thoughtful manipulation of materials, Niederlander perceives clues to the subtle mapping of a larger order. The artist uses these hard-won insights to construct a new way of communicating – a new visual language.
A St. Louis native, and graduate of both UCLA and CCA (California College for the Arts), Niederlander works out of her Eagle Rock, California studio. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including a group show of Los Angeles artists at the 2015 Venice Biennale.
KN: Have you always thought of yourself as an artist? When did you first start making/creating?RN: Yes, I have always thought of myself as an artist. It is in the way I approach the world, and the way I communicate within it. When I was seven years old I won a coloring contest and received a seven foot tall stocking filled with toys. I have always been a maker. I realized early that my way of seeing the world was actually different than many people. That has been a good thing, and a hard thing as well. Being a creative professional involves finding ways to communicate in the internal language one has. Community is created through communication, and having spent my entire life sorting out the best ways to do such.
KN: I discovered in an artist statement about your work that you speak of “interrogating the materials lovingly.” How does this thoughtful interrogation lead to an artistic breakthrough?
RN: I consider myself a materialist in the truest sense of the word. I look at materials as a significant part of conveying whatever the specific message is for a given work. Certain materials, like paper, give a very intentional read to a work, while steel, obviously, will lend itself to wildly different reads. History, context, one’s particular experience with a material, all play a tremendous role in the connection made between an artist and their viewer. I take that connection to heart in the initial stages of developing a project by working a material and putting it through its paces. I’ve had projects that I think will work really well in a particular medium, only to discover through exploration that something else is significantly superior.
KN: Your newest series incorporates the use of salvaged wood pieces adopted from wood workers’ shop refuse piles. As part of the works, you interview the maker about their process, and explore how the intent of the work is imbued – even absorbed – into the cast-off material. Can you describe this series a bit more?
RN: The current series involves making pilgrimages to wood-workers shops, and interviewing them about their spiritual practice, after which I take their scraps and combine them to make new sculptural works. I also have a degree in journalism, and have extensive experience with interviewing and human-interest stories. My interviews are off the record, and completely about honoring the particular experiences of the wood workers. Anyone involved with a particular medium, and I’ll go out on a limb here to give a special shout-out to those in the designated craft mediums, has a particular fondness of their medium which has a lover’s-type relationship to it. They have grown with it, and understand it in the way an old couple does. As someone who varies their medium over my own decades as an artist, I wanted to find a specific path to exploring the ways these creative professionals might have a spiritual connection to their material.
I am deeply committed to the idea that we are all in community with each other, and to finding the connection that creates the ability to be an empathetic person and a part of any community. By honoring these people and the soul/ghosts of their work, and then honoring their scraps/trash/discards, and then creating new communities through the assembling of cast-offs into new and exciting works, I am visually describing what is possible for each of us when we connect with another. Each of the sculptures in the series is totally unique. They are connected by the materials, and my manipulation, but part of the rubric is that I can not alter the wood. No cutting is allowed. Thus each element becomes a part of an unknown puzzle that must be solved in my studio. I see interacting with other people in the same way. Each connection is a puzzle to work out.
Katie Nartonis is an art historian who specializes in West Coast Art + Design. As writer, curator, designer and film-maker Nartonis endeavors to tell untold stories of the artists and makers whose work contributes to the fabric of the larger California art scene. She serves as Art + Design Editor for SoCal Magazine.