You may have seen them as you drove past Ohmega Salvage on San Pablo. They’ve been there a few months, these bright and joyful seven-foot ceramic women.
You may have seen them somewhere else. Probably not, but there is a slight chance. These photos are from the Marin Independent Journal.
The photos – and sculpture – are from Danielle Steel’s “House on Hope Street” in Stinson Beach. Steel sold the house in 2014, and the statues went to auction. They found their way to Ohmega and so they stand, still happy, still bright, although a little beat up and worse for the wear. San Pablo Avenue is a world away from Stinson Beach, but their joy is undiminished.
They are the work of Leslie Safarik. We won her back from Los Angeles a few years ago, where she had lived and worked for 20-ish years after studying ceramics under Viola Frey, the matriarch of modern ceramic art, at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland from 1978 until 1984.
In 2003, the DT News In LA reported: “Her biggest patron is romance novelist Danielle Steel, who received a Safarik ceramic a few years ago as a gift and then started collecting. When Steel opened her San Francisco gallery in October, called Steel, Safarik was the first artist signed (the author calls her ‘the firstborn’). Safarik’s ceramics appeared in the gallery’s inaugural group show last year.”
Safarik shows in four galleries, but most of her work is done on commission, contacted through her website. None of the galleries are near here. Palm Desert is a shlep. As is Cambria. Dang! So can we find more of her work near here?
There may be more, but I know of two more in Berkeley. Well, sort of, kind of, close-enough-for-me in Berkeley. A Berkeley zip code. Definitely close enough for me.
You will notice the accessories. They change almost daily. I find this to be profoundly quirky and profoundly wonderful.
The pieces belong to Arlene Mayerson and Allan Tinker. She is the directing attorney at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. She is a fierce and longtime advocate for disability rights. Tinker is a poet. They are an only-in-Berkeley combination of civil rights and art and a quirky sensibility.
The two Safarik women are in good company here, with two lovely Quirky Berkeley A-list companions.
A Mark Olivier shoe! I have a photo of it in Mark’s Colusa Avenue front yard.
And an Izzy Sher rocking chair.
Having established the presence of five Safarik pieces in Berkeley (and no need to argue about Berkeley zip codes vs. Berkeley taxes), it really doesn’t matter that her studio is in Oakland, does it? I don’t think so, but if you think it matters, just skip the next wonderful photos and don’t ruin it for the rest of us
Her home and studio are filled with her work. Not just people, but cats and dogs.
And many more people.
They keep each other company outside her studio.
Stepping inside the studio, on voit (pretentious!) Safarik’s work in progress, as well as some of her graphic material. It all knocks me. It sends me. It rocks me. It rocks. It kicks. Wow!
I have a ludicrously large collection of painted clay santons, “little saints” from Provence. A Provencal creche is not limited to the traditional Biblical cast of characters. An entire 19th century village comes to see the Christ child, not just the shepherds and Magi.
Among the village characters is the femme ravi (“happy woman”). I must ask Safarik if she has seen her.
The larger pieces take months. She doesn’t sketch – she just imagines and visualizes and gets to work. She doesn’t use a clay extruder, but instead the pinch and coil method, a few inches a day. And then come the glazes and the firing. Leslie Safarik is all about her glazes. She fires each piece eight to ten times – different temperatures for different colors.
Not all of her pieces are giant. Here is a small couple from Danielle Steel’s home:
And a similar piece in Safarik’s backyard.
I left these photos with my friend for a few minutes and went to make a pot of Red Rose tea, his current favorite. When I came back, he had two images out next to my Safarik photos.
It doesn’t take much to get my friend down a rabbit hole, and Popeye is an easy target. He spent untold hours as a boy watching Popeye cartoons. At one time he had a large Gabby-assisted Popeye collection.
He dispersed the collection years ago, but held on to one piece.
In any event, he was anxious to compare Safarik’s women with Olive Oyl. (And don’t get him started on her brother Castor Oyl, mother Nan Oyl, father Cole Oyl, Castro’s wife Cylinda Oyl, her nieces Diesel Oyl and Violet Oyl, her uncles Otto Oyl and Lybry Ken Oyl, her cousin Sultra Oyl, and her distant relative Standard Oyl). Fine, we can go down that path. But what about Leslie Safarik’s joyous women?
Wonderful Tom, You’ve done it again, she is a great find.
Yea! Happy to see more of Leslie’s work, and so glad I bought one of her “Bright Women” makes me happy to look at her………..:) Leslie, call me, 650 391 9943
Where do you live? I’d love to include more.