Building Block

Building Block

Julia Haft-Candell

Photography by Ye Rin Mok

Julia Haft-Candell is an artist, sculptor, and friend working in Los Angeles. In the way that LA holds its secrets, her studio is tucked in an alley behind a parking lot on a dead-end street somewhere near Atwater Village and Glassell Park. Over the years we've gotten to know Julia as someone well-acquainted with the concepts of time and process in her working medium: clay.

Julia's work ranges in scale and is connected by a vocabulary of forms that symbolize ambiguous truths (see her Glossary of Terms and Symbols for reference). After having just opened her solo show at Parrasch Heijnen gallery this month, Julia is gearing up to leave for a residency in Berlin. In the meantime, she sits with us to talk about expectations while busily carving at a small pointed finger at the end of a narrow terracotta arm (the piece is for an upcoming show called "Jews" and is a Yad—a pointer for reading the Torah that prevents its pages from being touched.) Elsewhere in Julia's studio lies a large slab resembling a hand lying palm up, with relaxed fingers curling upwards as if waiting to catch what she has to say next...

Could you tell us how and when your relationship in working with clay began?

I was at UC Davis for college and was primarily drawing and painting. All of my paintings had thick goopy surfaces; I was trying to create more volume than the material seemed capable of. I took a ceramics class as an elective and was seduced by the way I could use clay to create three dimensional paintings. The ceramics program at Davis was unique in that there were no pottery classes, and it focused on large-scale sculptural work. While there I learned to make my own clay and glazes, and how to fire kilns. I liked being responsible for all aspects of the work from start to finish. Since then I’ve used other materials besides clay in my sculptures, but always find the most satisfaction through working in ceramics.

What draws you to the medium you work with?

Its versatility, immediacy, tactility, permanence and history

How does your bag play into your everyday routine?

I like that it makes me feel a little fancy even when I'm covered with clay dust, and it keeps looking better the more I spill on it.

What about your life now, would be most unexpected to your younger self?

I never imagined myself as an artist, but over the years making art has been the only consistent thing that’s made me happy. So, I think my younger self would be surprised at how serious I am about making art, and how I’ve built my life around my work. I also think my younger self would be surprised that I like living in LA. I’m from the Bay Area and always thought LA sucked.

Where do you find inspiration, specifically within Los Angeles?

Inspiration often comes from very ordinary things, like swimming laps, hanging out with my cat, or observing a pile of things on my table. All the classic inspirational things also work, like the ocean or going on a hike. I love going to LACMA to see wide ranges in types and times of art, and recently have been very inspired by going to see dance performances.

Your work ranges in scale, from large site-specific installations to tabletop ceramics. Do you begin your creative process with a defined idea of size and scale, or does that develop as you work on a piece?

I usually have a sense of a piece’s scale before I start working on it. However, I work on several at one time, and working on one piece will inform the scale of another piece and so forth throughout the production of a series.

What's your favorite thing about being your age right now?

I trust my intuition.

Julia owns a Beltpack in Vegetable Tanned leather.
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