12 Rising Creators to Know Right Now

From muralists and ceramicists, to fiber artists and furniture makers, these 12 creatives speak out about what drives their work—and how they've made a name for themselves.
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The world of art can be grueling, lonesome, and unforgiving—and persevering through it calls for a zealous level of passion and dedication. That's what unites the following artists: though their mediums differ, they share a unyielding clarity and focus on their work.  

Another common denominator is their presence on Wescover, a new platform that allows you to look up the story behind great designs you encounter in the day-to-day, whether it be the bar stools at your favorite cocktail haven, or the mural you pass by on the way to work. Below, they speak frankly about what sets their work apart, what challenges they face, and how tools like Wescover help them gain exposure and do what they love.

Clé Tile (Sausalito, CA)

Always on the hunt for long-lasting, visually arresting finishes, Clé Tile collaborates with individual artists and artisans the world over, taking at least a year—and sometimes longer—to bring a new line to market. Clé was among the first promote Moroccan tile, or zellige, in the U.S. despite the initial pushback against its imperfections.

"I started this company just over five years ago," says Deborah Osburn, "and though we are pretty well-known in the Bay Area amongst designers and architects, having Wescover feature us enables us to appeal to a wider audience. It’s a great juxtaposition for showcasing our products. We just spotted macrame artist’s Sally England’s work hanging on the wall at Malibu Farm with Clé tile on the floor."

Clé aims to change the way people view tile by forging an emotional connection to the materials used. Take, for example, its Eastern earthenware line made by a sixth-generation, Vietnamese tile maker. "The tiles are wood-fired, which means that there is a lot of variation in the color and texture for each batch," says Osburn. "No one tile is identical to another, but is rather a medley of hues. When clients get it, they are completely enamored and willing to think of tile not just as a uniform, monochrome surface, but to consider it more as a piece of art."

Diana Greenberg (Austin, TX)

Painter Diana Greenberg works with oil and mixed media on canvas or paper, creating uplifting narratives through color and composition.

"Time is always something I struggle with—there are not enough hours in the day!" says Greenberg. "Wescover's ability to highlight artists and creators in their city is a great asset to bring people one step closer to identifying the person behind a painting or installation that they have admired."

"The paintings are an intuitive process," says Greenberg, "usually starting from nature and then morphing into an exploration in color. The creative process is definitely moved and affected by music, and oftentimes the names of songs listened to during the making of the work will end up in the title."

Pascale Girardin (Montreal, Canada)

Founded by Pascale Girardin, the eponymous design company works in creating sculptural installations, decor, and tableware for high-end hospitality venues.

"I like elegant, somewhat restrained statements that emphasize the materials that I work with—clay and glaze—as well as the subtle trace of the hand without actually showing this," says Girardin. "I hope to celebrate a certain refinement that comes from the many years I have been honing my craft." 

As the private sector begins to invest in public art and Girardin's business expands, she relishes the process of passing on her craft and practice to her staff. Says Girardin, "Teaching hand-building skills is very much like a choreographer leading a dancer to perform the right movements—and to develop awareness of their surroundings, material response, and a keen sense of observation."

Lookout and Wonderland (Los Angeles, CA)

Artist Niki Livingston has spent the past 15 years traveling and studying traditional, natural dyeing techniques, combining a fine art practice with a design process. Using locally sourced materials whenever possible, she tests the rules set by historic customs and recipes in a modern context.

"One of the biggest challenges of working in L.A. is the sudden, massive influx of people moving here and the astronomical rise of rent on commercial spaces," says Livingston. "Many of the traditional spaces where artists have been working are now being turned into high-end, commercial spaces and lofts.

Wescover helps by creating a functional map of public works on view to bring fresh eyes on local artist and creators, thereby increasing interest in sustaining the creation of additional public work in the future."  

Livingston creates color wavelengths and frequencies based on visible and ultraviolet spectroscopy, and her fiber art is based in the concept of medicinal dyeing, which offers subtle healing properties. She describes, "My work is brought to life through the manipulation of botanical substances to create active color wavelengths that excite the mind and body to a specific, energetic frequency. The use of  invisible installation techniques generate the illusion of the works floating in space in an effort to further displace reality."

Heather Levine (Los Angeles, CA)

Ceramicist Heather Levine crafts playful, perforated lamps that cast patterns of light in their environments—and uses the cutouts to create minimal wall hangings.

"My biggest challenge is the notion that clay is craft, and should be an inexpensive object that is purchased more like one would buy a trinket," says Levine. "My work is very labor intensive and complicated to produce, so I do not feel like it should have the stigma that craft sometimes can carry. Showing public installations of my work, similar to the pieces shown in Wescover, elevates the work towards design, which I really appreciate."

Working with the composition of shapes in space, Levine never uses sketches or renderings. She says, "I have to have the pendant in front of me to decide on the scale and spacing of the cutouts. For the wall hangings, I lay all the parts out on a work table before I string them together. Once suspended, they often take on a different look and feel, and I often edit the way they hang and balance."

Fyrn (San Francisco, CA)

A fourth-generation craftsman, founder Ros Broughton had a deep knowledge of the challenges of furniture production, distribution, and repair. Without a formal education in design, however, it was through a sheer passion for craft and a rigorous, iterative process that he developed the Stemn series—a "system of hardware, parts, and pieces that use the strength of metal while maintaining the warmth of wood and upholstery."

"It was incredibly challenging and took years to design and create our system of furniture in San Francisco because it’s one of the most expensive cities in America, but it also happens to be where we live," says Broughton. "Once complete, we had to figure out how to shine a light on our chairs and stools to build awareness for a young brand with limited resources. Wescover has a knack for finding unique creators and giving them a platform to be seen far beyond the bars, restaurants, or homes where the art and furniture resides."

The high-quality furniture ships flat, shortening lead times and reducing the carbon footprint. "We started Fyrn to inspire a move away from disposable culture," says Broughton. "We want to create furniture that forces people to slow down and inspires a curiosity about how the object was made, what materials were used, and who were the people involved. We believe that if you know the story of a chair’s origin and you live with it for decades, then it begins to hold a value that is greater than the chair itself, and that’s something that can be passed on and shared with future generations."

Cindy Hsu Zell (Los Angeles, CA)

Artist Cindy Hsu Zell works with wood, fiber, and metals in a labor-intensive process to create minimal wall sculptures that explore gravity's influence on material.

"Community is my favorite part about creating things!" says Zell. "Meeting other artists and discovering new works is so rewarding. However, it can be hard in a city like Los Angeles to find specific people and places to visit, and Wescover curates an amazing selection of art I never would have found on my own."

Zell encourages interaction—many of her pieces include a brush to promote touch and engagement, which connects clients with the production process. "I hand-dye and spin my rope out of hundreds and thousands of feet of sustainably sourced thread," she says. "I love the process of turning a spool of thread into rope, and working with these materials, adding that touch of hand to every detail, is always the most fun aspect!"

Akiko (Seattle, WA) 

Originally from Hokkaido, Japan, Akiko Graham creates simple, distinctive, sought-after pieces of stoneware pottery that honor her Japanese heritage.

"It’s important for me to be stay mindful of not getting too wrapped up in my work; for me that means not staying up too late or getting stressed out," says Graham. "Wescover has been a great connection for me into the creative community."

Graham, who credits a glass of wine as the instigator of many a productive night in her studio, says, "I hope that my pottery can be a part of the lives of the people who own it. Ideally, it becomes an effortless but essential aspect of their lives, just like the air they breathe."

Heather Day (San Francisco, CA)

Artist Heather Day's work ranges from large-scale paintings and murals to small works on paper. Inspired by travel in both natural and urban environments, Day draws a parallel between the world and the act of painting, narrating her experiences through energy, movement, and intermingling textures.

"I want my paintings to take people on a journey, but I need to capture their attention first," says Day. "Luckily with platforms like Wescover, I can get my art in front of many different audiences. Wescover makes that accessible."

For Day, painting is a hugely physical endeavor, and her mediums include acrylic paint, pastels, charcoal, spray paint, and graphite. "I'll pick up the canvas and let gravity push the water around," says Day, who typically works on about 20 paintings at a time. "I’m constantly walking, stretching, and pouring medium in the studio. Paint and water get everywhere, and cleanup requires a mop and rag. Each work is an experiment in manipulation. I take what I learn from one and move to the next piece. Nothing is ever planned or premeditated."

Ronel Jordaan (Cape Town, South Africa)

Textile designer-turned-furniture maker Ronel Jordaan trains women to become master felters who produce bespoke pieces out of high-quality merino wool. The forms echo nature, imparting a sense of calm.

"I want the viewer to be in awe, inspired, and to feel joy," says Jordaan. "Hopefully, they will encounter wonderment at the method and possibilities of using, and living with, a handmade product."

"I love the whole felting process—it is very therapeutic, with rhythms and movement," says Jordaan. "One's whole body is involved in the process. With the felting technique, one can create three-dimensional objects, and you can let your creativity flow. Every product we create has the memory and energy of the creator."

Erik Otto (Brooklyn, NY)

Mixed media artist Erik Otto began as an abstract painter before moving onto sculpture and site-specific installations, creating large-scale murals that have an impact on people's perceptions of place.

After living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 12 years, Otto recently relocated to New York. "The east coast has proven to be a whole new frontier," he says. "It can seem a little intimidating at times, and the biggest challenge is surviving long enough to buy the time to both develop my craft and build the network needed to properly establish myself. Platforms like Wescover help accelerate my research on what's being done where, and by whom, to quickly get a sense of the differences in the market, while providing another means to connect to the people that have yet to discover my work."

While Otto's creative process begins with research, reflection, and sometimes renderings, he shies away from being too methodical. "As an avid risk taker, I firmly believe in the element of chance," he says. "Quite often, my process includes careful planning followed by total improvisation, leaving room for new possibilities to come along, producing an end result that is much more genuine."

MMClay (San Francisco, CA)

Ceramicist Mary Mar Keenan offers three lines of tableware, supplying over 30 restaurants and hundreds of private residences throughout the U.S. Wheel-thrown and slab-built products—made entirely by hand in her studio—introduce novel shapes to each series; a selection of seven different glazes offers variety and customizability. 

"Making pottery is time intensive," says Keenan. "From wedging, throwing, trimming, applying texture, glazing, firing, sanding and even shipping, the time spent on each individual piece is considerable. To stay here in San Francisco, where costs of labor and overhead are highest in the country, it requires us to maintain a very high rate of production and sales. The Wescover platform has increased awareness of MMClay and connected me to new markets and a discerning client base. These are my ideal customers: those that tend to care not only about the product, but also about the artist and the creative process."

Keenan sees her work as a way to intimately connect with the diner, and the overall experience. "Plating food can be an art form, and my tableware is meant to be the canvas," she says. "The weight and feel of handmade tableware lends substance to the experience of a meal. By drinking from a handmade cup or eating from a handmade plate, there is an unspoken, deep understanding and compassion around the pottery and its maker. It is this quiet conversation that drives me to continue making work while continuing to honor one of the oldest and purest industries to ever exist."


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