Kim & Karen 2 Soul Sisters

Kim & Karen 2 Soul Sisters

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fred Babb...Good Art Won't Match Your Sofa

We have blogged on Fred Babb before see here below:
Visit Fred Babb's Webpage Here:


About Fred Babb (from the website listed above)

On a Hot, Sticky day in August, 1947, Fred Babb was born in Aitkin, a small town in rural Minnesota. He eventually became one of eight siblings positioned somewhere in the middle of the family constellation. In 1952 his family piled into their sleek Hudson and moved to California. One year later, Fred remembers picking up a drawing pencil for the first time, and, instantly he heard a VOICE from above say "Put down that pencil and do your chores." It was, of course, his dad - but he prefers to think of it as his first almost religious experience.

When Fred was a young boy, elementary school age, his mother would send him off to school with lunch money and he would return home with art supplies. Paper was in short supply in his large family, so he would use grocery bags as his canvas. During the formative years, his major influences included MAD Magazine and Soupy Sales, and later on the Kinks and Bob Dylan. He had a few bad influences, too, but we won't go into that.

In high school, Fred met the teacher that changed his life as an artist. This teacher, Larry "Mac" Macaray, recognized Fred's creative talent and his obvious skill. He challenged Fred to make art outside the boundaries of skill. He encouraged him to go places with his imagination and without the restriction of creating what he thought he should create, something he believed would be acceptable. 
Through this teacher's guidance, Fred was given the gift of freedom to create outside the standards of "acceptable" art and within the limitless boundaries of his own imagination. This single experience began the foundation of all his future creation process. For years afterward, Fred would experiment with a variety of styles and techniques, all of them self-discovered. Fred did not pursue art education, but rather education through his art. During what would be college years, and young adult years, he took a couple of art classes, but found his direction as an artist coming from within himself, rather than through instruction, so he left the school system and began to make a way of his own.

Fred learned early on that although art was real fun, being broke was not, so in 1982, after 22 different occupations since 1962, we find him quickly burning out as a painter / furniture refinisher in Boston, MA. Fed up with the job and his boss, Fred convinced his lovely and supportive wife, Julia, that there was GOLD--scratch that--ART out west in California to be mined - so the family: Fred, Julia, Amy, and Christopher moved to Folsom, CA - just outside of Sacramento where he began creating work to be shown in galleries. The work was well received, yet not widely received.

After 9 years of House Husbanding while Julia worked - which by the way was the eye-opening experience of his life, for it was here that he realized how men have "got it made" going off to work, hanging with their friends, and bringing home the Bacon - in 1984, Fred bought a Kiln and began making small ceramic sculptures with faces in them. Fred was selected to show one of his ceramic sculptures in a group competition at the Crocker Art Museum, in Sacramento. Before the opening of the show, while making a sculpture of 6 small heads, which he intended to call "The 6 Fizzicists", an explosion occurred and one of the heads broke off and was sent off into a spiraling orbit, ending at the bottom of the kiln. The sculpture was renamed "The 5 Fizzicists," and he made the stray face into a necklace for his wife, Julia. She wore it to the art opening where some friends and even many strangers commented on it, recognizing the artwork from the SINGLE sculpture Fred had in the show. Someone suggested it should have earrings to match, and so Fred made his first pair of Ear Heads, though they were yet to have that name. A friend recommended he design more, which she offered to sell to local art galleries and upper end stores. Fred agreed, creating several one of a kind pieces. They sold quickly and Fred and Julia together developed a line of ceramic jewelry, which they called Ear Heads, because that's what they were: Earrings and Pins that were faces.

Among all of his other wonderful features, Fred was also extremely innovative, and this was evident in the process he designed to create his Ear Heads: There are machines that can roll out a thin slab of clay for you; however, those machines can be very costly, and the Babb family just didn't have the cash at the time. Fred was searching for something that would absorb moisture upon which he could roll out his clay to create slabs. See, the clay needs water on it to remain malleable. If the clay dries out, it is no longer workable, and if it dries too quickly, it often loses its shape and/or cracks. If the clay remains wet there can be a multitude of other problems. So Fred needed something that would absorb the water, but not too quickly. He experimented with a number of different things, but it wasn't until a remodel of the Babb home that he discovered exactly what he needed: a sheet of drywall. With the drywall as a surface and some paint stirring sticks glued flat to it as borders and levels, he would use a rolling pin to roll his clay out perfectly flat between the stir sticks to give the jewelry a uniform shape. At first, he simply used an Xacto knife to cut the shapes out of the clay, but when this proved too inefficient to keep up with the demand, he fashioned his own Ear-Head-shaped "cookie cutters" out of a piece of sheet metal and 2-ton epoxy. Simply put, Fred literally could do anything he put his mind to, including invent his own personal one-man Ear Head factory. This is the process he used for years until the demand for the jewelry got so high that he had to hand the job over to his close friend and fellow artist Tony Natsoulas to create the "blanks."

Within a couple of years there were stores and galleries across the United States selling Fred's work. Fred's initial products were limited to images. One day he designed a pair of earrings which said "Do it" on one and "Don't Do It" on the other. That began his venture into the world of words. From that time forward Fred has used words as a means to encourage people to think for and believe in themselves. As the popularity of his jewelry line grew, stores requested other products, and the line grew to include other products such as T-Shirts, Clocks, Cards, Magnets and Mugs. These, too, were a success, and posters and framed prints were added. They have, over the years, acquired a somewhat irreverent bent, poking fun at human behavior and how it relates to art. In 1988, a wholesale outlet and retail store were opened in Cambria, California, and in 1991, the name of the business was changed to "What Iz Art."

This went on until 1996, when both Fred and Julia tired of the production and quit the business. Several of Fred's designs continued in the marketplace through a process of licensing to other manufacturers who produced t-shirts, tote bags, hats, cards, a calendar and poster book. In the year 2000, Julia took the business back into her own hands under the name of "Babb Studios," where it remained until their son, Chris, made the decision to revitalize the business in 2012, renaming it yet again, to Fred Babb Art.

Fred experienced art through the process of creating. He did not begin with ideas, he allowed them to present themselves as he worked. He rested in his work rather than laboring to bring something to fruition. As a result, he was extremely prolific. Fred Babb died May, 2006. We miss him terribly, but his words and works will live forever in the hearts of those who have enjoyed them through the years. We thank you.

Fabulous Artist to study with super results! Enjoy, 1969

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