The Desert Aquarium

Multi-Coloured Ceramic Sea Creatures Fired in a Desert Studio

It may seem a little strange for an artist based in the middle of the Mojave Desert in the Southern US to have such a predisposition for creating creatures from the briny deep, what with it being so metaphorically far from the ocean. But then, nothing about Lorien Stern is particularly ordinary.

After graduating from California College of the Arts she opted to move to the small desert town of Inyokern, where she now has a studio in a shipping container that was once military control room. Oh, and she has two pet ducks.

Her work resembles something of a crazy menagerie, mostly populated by lurid-coloured sharks, other sea creatures and the odd land animal thrown in for good measure. “I enjoy making land animals too, but my fascination with the ocean is probably routed in my feelings on how the ocean is like an alien planet,” explains Lorien. “Maybe I make so many sea creatures as a way to disarm my fear, honour the ocean, and do my own version of exploration.”

Despite her reverence for the sea, her works are disarmingly playful. Her sharks jut out from the wall with beaming grins belying their fierce reputation. In fact, Lorien’s ceramics almost resemble 3 dimensional cartoon characters.

We couldn’t wait to find out more about Lorien’s work and lifestyle:

The Plus: What do you like about working with ceramics?
Lorien Stern:
I love creating 3D canvases and discovering new glazes. Ceramics are temperamental so every time I pull something out of the kiln after a firing it’s like Christmas because I never know what I’m going to get!

TP: Can you briefly describe your process?
I work in my studio on average from 11 am until 11pm every day of the week unless I am doing other work related things or I’m out of town. I usually have a podcast or some movies on in the background while I’m in the studio. Sometimes one of the ducks will be in there with me or one of my dog friends.

TP: What’s it like to live in the desert?
I love living in the desert. The sunsets, stars, summer nights and lightning storms are my favourite parts. The property that I live on has belonged to my mom’s first husband since 1990. Since then he has accumulated a lot of stuff from government liquidation auctions, yard sales, friends, etc. It’s kind of living in your own private junk yard with endless resources. With the help of friends and family, my boyfriend and I were able to renovate an old single wide trailer that is now our home

TP: Colour is clearly a large part of your work. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I think colour can affect how someone feels and I try to choose colours that compliment the character and make people feel happy.

TP: What are your long-term hopes?
Well I’m currently living my dream, but I would love to design and build my own house one day with indoor slides and astroturf floors.

Photography by Suzanne Richardson.