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Episode 46: In Conversation with Eliza Fernand


Eliza Fernand is a project-based artist working in sculpture, installation, video and sound. She works as a teaching artist and makes functional quilts and pots under the names Bright Shroud and e.f. ceramics. Marlee and Eliza tell their origin story about Marlee attending her first residency at Eliza’s program, Shared Space Studio in 2012, and Eliza being the first Have Company resident artist in 2013. They met through mutual friends that run the Cabin Time roaming residency and Eliza admits that Have Company and Cabin Time inspired her move from Oakland, California two years ago to Grand Rapids, where she is now a proud home owner.

Marlee and Eliza had way too many things to talk about- they hit on having a million projects, shifting identities, the struggle of calling oneself an artist, the sadness of not making, unfinished rugs, organization through deadlines and exhibitions, making spaces for work and rest, letting go of expectations, being anti-routine, the magic of slowing down and tending to plants, and the therapy of making. Eliza tells the story of how she started Shared Space Studio with her mother in 2011 after finishing her touring project, Quilt Stories. She ran the visiting artist program there for five years, with the help of collaborator Mary Rothlisberger, and the two curated a group retrospective at The Fed Galleries of KCAD this past summer. Having attended over a dozen artist residencies, Eliza reflects on her first residency experience as an art teacher at a summer camp, and gives some advice on how to research and choose which residencies to apply to. She discusses solitary residencies versus communal ones, and the DIY spirit of domestic residencies.

Words of wisdom:

"When you do a lot of things, you can’t do everything you want to do."

"I have to put my work somewhere, because I can’t stop making it."

"Everything takes longer than you think it will. So don’t be too hard on yourself when you don’t get something finished."

Things to be excited about:

  • Making things! For yourself and for the world. Eliza says, “My practice is therapeutic. And if I can open up other people to having a creative practice that can be therapeutic to them, then I am doing good work.”
  • The Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park! They have an amazing library of art books and so so many great sculptures and plants.
  • Making pots as a business! Eliza is working on finding more outlets to sell her ceramics, and finding more joy in making what she is excited about, rather than what might sell.
  • Maria Bamford! A genius comic who has a new Netflix show, Lady Dynamite.
  • Pop-Up Shop! Eliza sells regularly at Have Company, and will be collaborating with terrarium maker Bird and Feather on a special pop-up shop here, open only during the three weeks of ArtPrize (September 21st - October 9th).
  • Bird sounds in the morning! Eliza likes what she hears when she is sleeping late in her comfy bed.


p.s. - Eliza writes the notes for this podcast, and had to write about herself in third person for this post. As an end note, if you are looking into artist residencies, she recommends res artis, the Alliance of Artists Communities, and WOOLOO as helpful databases to search on.

marlee cook-parrott