ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ceramic artists Sandra and Michael Kadisak have created sculptural images of many kinds of creatures – squirrels, beavers, otters, elk, butterflies, dragonflies. If it crawls, flies, swims or scampers, chances are the Kadisaks have captured it in clay.

“If something keeps showing up, that is something we will put into our images,” Sandra said. “It might be a raven flying over and talking to us. Or if we take a paddle up river and see owls, they will inspire us.”

Cochiti Lake ceramic artists Michael and Sandra Kadisak collaborate in the making of works such as this colorful piece with an owl motif. (Courtesy of Placitas Fine Arts & Crafts Sale)

“It is about our relationship with the natural world, the way that natural world touches us,” Michael said.

Right now the Kadisaks are working on a prairie dog sculpture, which prompted an interviewer to ask if they had been in touch with those critters recently.


“Oh yeah,” Michael said, laughing as he responded. “But not in a bad way.”

Featured artists

The Kadisaks live in Cochiti Lake in Sandoval County, about 30 miles southwest of Santa Fe and in the foothills of the Jemez Mountains, close always to the nature that feeds their creativity.

This year they are the featured artists at the 38th annual Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale, a juried show that draws artists and crafts people from throughout New Mexico and from outside of the state as well. The show, which takes place Saturday, Nov. 23, and Sunday Nov. 24, in the village of Placitas, includes paintings, clay and glass works, woodwork, sculpture, silk paintings, photographs, jewelry, metalwork and gourd art.

Inspired by nature, ceramic artists Sandra and Michael Kadisak have created sculptural images of many kinds of animals, including this handsome rabbit. (Courtesy of Placitas Fine Arts &Amp; Crafts Sale)

Works will be displayed at three different sites in Placitas. The Kadisaks’ earthenware sculpture of animals and little people and their stoneware pottery will be in the gym at Placitas Elementary School, 5 Calle de Carbon.

“We are going to bring as many pieces as we can fit in our old van that runs on duct tape, prayers and hammers,” Michael said.

The Kadisaks have been taking part in the Placitas holiday sale since the mid-1990s.

“We have never missed a show since we started,” Sandra said. “Just the ride getting there feels good. The people who put the show together are like family, and we love seeing friends and people who appreciate art.”


Back and forth

Michael, 60, and Sandra, 54, are from different Chicago suburbs. They met while studying art at Northern Illinois University.

“We got married and Michael said, ‘I think we should take a trip out West,’ ” Sandra said. “We did and we never left.”

They live now in Cochiti Lake with their 13-year-old son, Cody.

Separately, Michael does drawing and Sandra does fiber work. But they produce their ceramics as a team.

Michael Kadisak says the “Little People” sculptures created by him and his wife, Sandra, are intended to be “a projection of the joy of life.” (Courtesy of Placitas Fine Arts & Crafts Sale)

“We started collaborating as an experiment,” Michael said. “Her sensibilities and my sensibilities are so different, but we started meshing when we worked in clay. We’ve done that without even thinking about it.”

Sandra said their ceramics work is a process of back and forth.

“We decide we are going to do a sculpture of a new animal,” she said. “I look up the visuals. He does sketches. I rough out the image as a sculpture. He takes it and refines it. And then he passes it back to me and I mix the glazes. I do all the detail when it comes to the color and the (glazing).


“For our stoneware pottery, we both make the vase forms. I do all the throwing on the wheel for the cups and bowls and Michael does all the flatware with the rolling pin.”

Pushing clay

This year, for the first time, Sandra will bring some of her larger hand-coiled contemporary vessels to the Placitas sale.

She said these pieces, some a foot and a half wide and two to three feet high, are carefully built over months, working a little bit every day.

“What I observe when she does these pieces is that it is like a dialogue between her and the clay,” Michael said. “It follows a more intuitive kind of impression.”

Sandra said her large pieces, like everything else she and Michael do, are inspired by nature.

“They may be inspired by a canyon walk or a stream that is running,” she said. “A piece may have an outside that is shining like a wet rock.

“Michael and I work at clay every day. All the work we do is constantly being touched and moved forward. We are finding each work’s expression by just pushing the clay.”

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