December 17, 2009 in Washington Voices

Bejjani finds art, beauty everywhere

Jennifer Larue
Jesse Tinsley photo

Artist Collista Bejjani stands in the Ruby Slipper in the Garland district, where some of her work in on display. She recently bought a large kiln and creates unique ceramic art, both useful and whimsical.
(Full-size photo)

Art quote of the week

 “In every human society of which we know – prehistoric, ancient or modern, whether hunter-gatherer, pastoral, agricultural or industrial – at least some form of art is displayed, and not only displayed, but highly regarded and willingly engaged in.”

– Ellen Dissanayake, a scholar whose work focuses on the anthropological exploration of art and culture.


 For more information on Collista Bejjani’s show at the Ruby Slipper, call (509) 325-1500.

Collista Bejjani sees art wherever she goes.

“The woman in the yellow dress sitting on the red bench at the bus stop, the white tree next to the white church, the way the weeds grow behind the barn. I see art and beauty in most places, even where there is disarray, and this has always been the case with me. I have an eye for potential,” she said.

Bejjani, 46, has a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Indiana University, and she was a nurse for years. She took pottery classes on the side, rescued a discarded kiln to use and began teaching neighbors the art of pottery. She also was what she called a “clay slave” at ceramic studios, all the while learning and producing her own work.

“I also enjoy working with kids,” she said. “I was volunteering at a school in Texas, showing children how to make clay turkeys for Thanksgiving. The teacher kept noting that ‘turkeys are brown.’ Now whenever I volunteer with kids, I make sure the teachers know that turkeys don’t have to be brown in the world of art.” She volunteers at Midway Elementary, and the turkeys they recently made are multicolored.

Since moving to the Mead area eight years ago from Texas, Bejjani has dedicated herself to her two boys and to art. She turned a barn into a studio, where she has a raku kiln and an electric one, and got a business license for Jupiter Clay Works. She began taking classes at Spokane Falls Community College and has added painting to her repertoire. Recently Bejjani purchased an 18-cubic-foot gas kiln.

Bejjani described creating art as a beast she must feed. As a child, she drew and made things to give away as gifts. As an adult, she does the same, creating unique and heartfelt presents, wrapping them in dish towels rather than paper to give away. “I think that artists are the myth-tellers of our society. They take our world, and by crystallizing it into an art piece they change the dimension and tell our stories of society. We pull people out of the hustle and bustle and take life to another level,” she said.

The “myths” that Bejjani writes within her sculptures and paintings are about figures riding crocodiles, penguins gazing into the sky, smiling moons, angels frolicking in small bowls or drinking coffee, and cats and dogs exuding wisdom. She often adds humor to pieces, like the coffee mugs with a swear word on them for those “bad days,” and her “pot heads” – rounded pots with lids that have heads on them. You can light a match by striking it across the rough, dark textured pot.

Bejjani has shown her work at 1900, a design studio in downtown Spokane, at Goodworks Gallery, at the Tinman on Garland Avenue and in the Little Spokane art tour. She is showing work at the Ruby Slipper, 809 W. Garland Ave., through December. Her show, “Secret Friends & Guardian Angels” includes mono-prints, ceramic moons and guardian angel bowls.

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