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3 things that inspire me about Ruth Asawa

Happy Makers Monday!

Today, I am thrilled to share with you the story of an American sculptor whose life and work have profoundly influenced me. Her remarkable contributions to the world of art and her tireless dedication to enhancing arts education in San Francisco have left an indelible mark. This legacy is honored with a permanent installation at the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco—a testament to her enduring impact.

- Scroll to the bottom for her Bakers Clay recipe and other resources. -

#1 Dedication to her Craft

Ruth Asawa's commitment to her craft was unparalleled. Constantly creating, her hands were always in motion, seamlessly weaving art into every aspect of her day. Even while caring for her six children, she intentionally ensured the continuation of her work. Aiko, her daughter, fondly remembers, “We always saw her making art, it was part of her everyday existence. I never thought of her making art as a separate activity. To us, she wasn’t working. We didn’t have to be quiet so she could concentrate. Her artmaking space was always in our house…” 

#2 Finding Beauty in Cast-off Materials

Asawa possessed a unique ability to discover value and beauty in materials that others discarded. A true scavenger, she repurposed cast-off items as art supplies, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Her studio became a community center, a space for friends and neighbors to gather. As Asawa eloquently put it, "An artist is an ordinary person who can take ordinary things and make them special."

#3 Advocating for Arts Education

“I think that I’m primarily interested in making it possible for people to become as independent and self-sufficient as possible. That has nothing really to do with art, except that through the arts you can learn many, many skills that you cannot learn through books and problem-solving in the abstract.” -Asawa 

Her advocacy for integrating arts programs into public schools was unwavering. She believed that exposure to the arts was crucial for fostering creativity and critical thinking skills. Notably, she played a pivotal role in establishing the San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA) in 1982, now known as the Ruth Asawa School. Additionally, her active involvement in the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts allowed her to contribute to shaping policies supporting arts education at both state and national levels.

Beyond formal education, Asawa conducted numerous public workshops and outreach programs, encouraging individuals of all ages to explore their creativity through art. Her mission was simple yet profound: "Learn something. Apply it. Pass it on so it is not forgotten." - Ruth Asawa

P.S. Here is an easy and nostalgic way to get your hands making and creativity flowing.

Ruth Asawa’s Baker’s Clay Recipe

The following recipe will make one batch of dough which is ample for 6-8 students.

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 ½ cups water

Find the full directions at ruthasawa.com/resources/bakers-clay-recipe

I hope the these brief tidbits about Ruth Asawa's life and work kick your week off a little boost of inspiration! Discover more about Ruth Asawa through the resources

Video's about Ruth Asawa's life and work. 

Book: Everything She Touched: The Life of Ruth Asawa by Marilyn Chase

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