Tuesday, May 20, 2014

All Dolls Are Art Conference

I am going to be teaching at ADAA for the first time this year. I have never taught at or even been to a conference that specialized strictly in dolls.  I am not quite sure what to expect but I am excited about the opportunity.  Besides its being held in a Austin where the motto is “Keep Austin Weird”… I want to start a campaign called “ Make Ferndale Weird” but not in the creepy weird way it may lean some days.


Amy of ADAA just published a  faculty profile about me that includes some great pictures and some interview questions I am going to share here.

Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Hi Clarissa, tell me about the dolls you create.

Clarissa: I create assemblage dolls from recycled and found objects. I enjoy giving discarded objects a new life. I am drawn to the rust, patina, and evidence of life on found objects.


Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Where did you start your artistic journey?  Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

Clarissa:  I knew I wanted to be an artist in 3rd grade, and then I got distracted with horses and math for most of my school career. I went to college on a drama scholarship and, in a moment of being frustrated with the lack of creative input I had in theater, I wandered into the art department and never left. Making art, talking about art, learning about artists fed me in a way I hadn’t found before that. I have been both fortunate and tenacious enough to make a living as an artist since I was 22.

Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  So you are a full time artist!  How long have you been able to focus on your art?

Clarissa:  Yes full time for 20 years.. Eek that makes me feel old!


Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  I’m coming up on my 20th anniversary with my day job too, but I’m not a full time artist!  Where do you find artistic inspiration? Do you keep an art journal?

Clarissa:  I am currently addicted to Pinterest and justify my hours on the computer as “artistic research”. I am inspired by other artists of all medium both famous and unknown. My studio walls are a giant collage of art images, postcards, quotes, old work of mine, rusty objects, and general chaos. Those visuals become some kind of non linear source of inspiration. I also keep little scratched out ideas on random piece of papers that no one can decipher including myself.

Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  I have recently discovered video’s on Pinterest and have been sucked in!  Describe your process for starting a new piece.  Do you know exactly how your pieces will turn out before you start sculpting/painting or do you allow your creation to develop as you work?

Clarissa:  All my work is greatly inspired by the objects I have on hand. I start with a porcelain doll that has been discarded to the Goodwill or a yard sale because its owner has out grown it. Those dolls have a certain prissy kind of quality to them and my first order of business is to do some creative deconstruction. I am not a traditionally trained doll maker, and I am starting with a partially constructed figure so a lot of my process is about altering that original doll and combining with found objects to create a completely new art piece. I use a lot of alternative techniques to achieve the look I am going for including but not limited to taking a butane torch to my dolls. I might have a mood or a feeling about the direction a doll is going but for the most part I try to stay out of the way and let the process and the materials create the work.


Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Do you believe you have a muse?  If so, how does your muse express his/herself?

Clarissa:  I believe creativity is the essence of our life force. I don’t have a “muse” per say but I believe there are things I don’t cognitively understand that allow and nurture creativity to flow through me and into physical works of art.

Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  What a beautiful way of articulating creativity!  Please describe a day in your studio.

Clarissa:  That greatly depends on what kind of deadline I am working on. I try to do some kind of social media update or promo to start the day and then the sky is the limit. I might be torching a whole group of dolls and splashing paint and stain around or I may be spending quiet hours capturing that elusive look in the details of a painted face. I enjoy the alone time in my studio and listen to audio books while I work.


Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Describe an idea that you have that is yet to be born.  What is keeping you from starting?

Clarissa:  I want to create large life sized doll as part of a larger gallery instillation. Also dolls that are more abstract and even further away from traditional forms.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Teaching in Seattle in Oct

I will be teaching at the new Create retreat in Seattle Oct 22-26th.  I have several students that have inquired about when I will be teaching in Seattle. Well now is you chance! 

create logo

I will be teaching


Wednesday, October 22 • 9am-4pm
$152 class
$25 materials fee

ccallesen wishkeeper 2

Skill Level: All Levels
Technique: Collage & Assemblage

You will leave with... a unique piece of art to protect and nourish your dreams.

Description: We all have wishes and dreams, come join me in constructing a special Art doll to protect and watch over them. Using dyes and paint we will create lush papers to turn into wish scrolls wrapped in string and lace. I will share with you simple but dramatic ways to alter wood in the process of changing a mass produced object into a unique piece of art. We will use sculpting and painting to animate the face of our Wish Keeper. I will be covering easy and effective construction and attachment techniques. Then we will pull the whole piece together with found objects, lace, beads, charms, and of course your wishes and dreams scrolls. That will be safely tucked into the birdcage skirt of your Wish Keeper. This is both a project and technique based class which you will leave with a unique piece of art as well as skills useful not just to art dolls but to other mixed media work as well.



Date & Time
Thursday, October 23 • 9am-4pm

Price $152
Materials Fee $15

ccallesenheart 2.5ccallesenheart1

Skill Level: All Levels
Technique: Collage & Assemblage

You will leave with... a unique piece of art as well as skills useful for many different projects.

Description: Each and every one of us has a heart that is sacred. A heart that loves, cherishes, protects, and hurts. Join me in creating an assemblage shrine to our beautiful and perfectly flawed hearts. We will be covering lots of techniques to alter and age new wood. We will cover the myriad of different ways to connect objects for assemblages. Through sculpting, painting, and distressing you will take everyday objects and turn them into a beautiful reliquary to your heart. I believe in embracing the grunge and cherishing the haphazard. This is both a project and technique based class which you will leave with a unique piece of art as well as skills useful for many different projects.


Date & Time

Thursday, October 23 • 6-9pm

Price  $89
Materials Fee $30


Skill Level: All Levels
Technique: Collage & Assemblage

You will leave with... a whole bunch of new techniques to easily distress paper, wood, metal, fabric, plastic, mirror, and clay and lots of unique components to use in future art projects.

Description: We all love those amazing vintage treasures found while hunting through musty antique stores. Sometimes we don't want to leave our studio or we can't find the right item, or if you find the perfect object it can be out of your budget. Let me teach you how to take readily available inexpensive items and turn that new shine and cheap plastic into "vintage" treasures. This class will focus on techniques for aging and distressing wood, paper, metal, plastic, fabric, and more. We will take those big box craft store rejects and dollar store treasures and sand, pound, paint, and patina them into unique art items. You will leave this low stress, fun class with new techniques and unique components for dozens of art projects.

Students Should Bring: Just themselves

Monday, May 12, 2014

Art and Soul Student Work

I had the best students at Art and Soul Portland 2014!  So much fun, laughs, and really good work done.  I love my Art and Soul family! Classes are up for Art and Soul Portland 2015 with early registration discounts!


Bricologe Class

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Wish Keeper Class


Friday, May 9, 2014

The Beautiful Ugly

I LOVE the look of peeling paint and worn out objects. One of my artistic objectives is to find the beauty amid the ugly.   Real life is not airbrushed models and perfectly photographed art studios with styled “chaos”.  Life is zits on your 40 something face and liquid nails oozing all over your filthy work table.

But if I take the time to look again, I can see the joy in my eyes and character created by those lines around my eyes telling a story of a life of laughter and joy. 

Amid the liquid nails, scraps of paper, and yesterday’s tea cup there is the beginnings of a meaningful assemblage, the perfect hat for my next art doll, and the chaotic soul of making a living as an artist.


Tulip petals fallen in the mud. Skagit Valley WA


I started trying to capture this concept through photography while travelling in India recently. ( lots more pictures to come)

India is the land of BEAUTIFUL UGLY. I loved it! Of course “ugly” and “beautiful” are incredibly subjective words that are greatly influenced by our cultural  norms and personal prejudices and  they do not leave room for the eye to truly see the subtle complexity of life.


The Ganges is so loved and worshiped you can’t help but feel the sacredness of it waters, but in it’s waters float the flower remnants of important rituals right next to the garbage of everyday life.



Do you still see the beauty of the tulip petal when it’s fallen into the mud?

Do you feel the magic of a sacred ceremony even when its remnants lie next to someone’s lunch bag?



Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Special Commission

Sometimes commission work is the bane of the working artist’s existence, But this time I got to make a dream mixed media assemblage as a commission.  I remember the days of being a functional potter and doing commission or custom pieces.  Every pot in the kiln would look beautiful except for the one commission piece which enviably would warp or run or just look like shit! 

This piece was made for a two people that I have never met, but through the process of creating this piece and working with their stories and personal object I became deeply close to them.  Jess and Heather discovered my work at Burning Man and were touched and and intrigued by my large mural piece “What do you Believe” and then contacted me after we all returned to the “normal” world post Burning Man.




This piece was a surprise present for Jess. Heather sent me objects that were special to Jess and her, each one bundled carefully with a story about the significance of each object.  As you know if you follow my work one of the reasons I work with found objects is because of the history and energy behind them. The unknown stories and symbolism that more often than not I have to imagine and create in my head. So this was a dream come true to actually work with objects that I knew the stories behind. I was so honored to be entrusted with these precious symbols.



The Unicorn Virgin Mary was born out of precious and quintessential story about an experience of meeting a special soul at Burning Man.  I got to take that story and interrupt and expand upon it to create a shrine about love and the strange magic that is created in “that week in the desert” called Burning Man


The email received from Heather after opening the piece made me cry and feel  like THIS IS THE WORK I AM SUPPOSE TO BE DOING IN THIS LIFE.  I have permission to share it with you…

Clarissa!! Wow! I cannot even begin to express the feelings we felt when opening Our Lady Me! Our minds were totally blown! Still completely in awe! You are exceptionally gifted. You truly captured our hearts with your work. We cried and cried and examined every little detail of it. She's absolutely perfect! Again, wow! We are so honored to have her. It's hard to express, because she is so powerful! Breathtaking. We spent countless hours in front of her, adoring her on New Years Day! And you!! You are brilliant! We can't wrap our heads around it. What you wrote too! Thank you!! It couldn't have been more special. Jess is going to frame it and put it up next to "Me". That piece is beyond a piece to us. It represents our love... our past, present, and future journeys. Our Lady Me will never go a day without appreciation and love. We "believe" there is a life to your art. It is flawless! What you did with my things!??? How!? The details, the clean lines, placement, the symmetry, and the coloring! Where do I begin? We can never thank you enough! Hopefully, someday, we will have an opportunity to meet you and express our gratitude in person. Thank you thank you thank you. I will write you again soon. Jess too, because I know she wants to. We love and respect you so much and would like to continue to support you for many years to come!
Wishing you joy and happiness in 2014!!
Love, Heather :)

I look forward to putting more of this kind of work out there into our world… Do you have special items and stories you want to honor? Contact me lets create magic together…

Friday, April 25, 2014

Grey Sky and Colorful Tulips

A grey cold day in the Pacific NW brightened by the unbelievable colors of the tulips in full bloom.  I have lived in this area for a long time and seeing the Skagit valley tulips is a very touristy thing to do.  There for I had never done it. Somehow thinking it wouldn’t be “worth it” I mean I have seen hundreds of photos of them.  Isn’t that the same thing?   uuummmm   NO!



This is probably my favorite picture because of the contrast between the grey cloudy sky and the brilliant red of the tulips.  As we were driving along and everything was kind of grey and drab looking and then we turned a corner and it was if someone had painted the fields with the most vivid colors.  I was reminded of The Wizard of Oz or Pleasantville where things start out in black and white and then suddenly start to change to full color.



This photo reminds me of an abstract painting…


I enjoy taking pictures as an artist but without someplace to share them, without someone to see them they get lost among the hundreds of files on my computer.  Thank you for taking the time to look.


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