Arts & Life

Artist Emily Rose Casares shapes her inner self into clay

When walking into the Long Beach State ceramics department, visitors witness the tall stacks of student projects and the large kilns that line the walls. Then, they approach Emily Rose Casares’ ceramics studio, filled with her unique and detailed projects.

Bright colored pieces stand out from the white walls and demand the attention of onlookers. All eyes are immediately drawn to the hand-painted details of Casares’ works and the stories that have been carved out into the clay.

Emily Rose Casares posing with new and old ceramic works in her studio in the ceramics department at Cal State Long Beach.
Emily Rose Casares posing with new and old ceramic works in her studio in the ceramics department at Cal State Long Beach. Photo credit: Julissa Villalobos

“She’s well beyond producing, what you might call, assignment driven work. At this point she is really pursuing an individual trajectory and vision as an artist,” said Christopher Miles, professor and program head of ceramics. “I and her other teachers are there to offer her advice to help her maximize a vision that is very much her own.”

Casares’s pieces weren’t always this large. Like most artists, Casares started small and then worked herself up to create work that is now life-sized.

“This past semester during COVID when everything was shut down and everything was so limited, I realized that this was my time to really work and to really try and do something before I have to leave this school,” Casares said. “I really wanted to start and do something huge and that’s where these pieces came from.”

What started as an interest in all mediums of art and originally studying to be a painter in community college, Casares discovered ceramics. For Casares, ceramics combined so many art forms. She has enjoyed being able to paint and really get completely immersed in working with her hands.

Casares said she draws the most inspiration from elements of nature and also from within herself.

“I do have a main theme in my art, which is myself and addressing my own insecurities, addressing them and healing from them through my work,” Casares said. “A lot of my pieces I made because I wanted to heal from my past hurt.”

Casares’ work first manifests in her sketchbook and then she works hours to turn clay into her life-sized work. Her larger pieces can take an entire semester to sculpt and build, and she can then spend a whole other semester glazing and painting.

Emily Rose Casares shows the preliminary sketches of her works in progress.
Emily Rose Casares shows the preliminary sketches of her works in progress with some of her earlier ideas. Photo credit: Julissa Villalobos

“She doesn’t tell people how hard she works but she works her ass off for her artwork,” Casares’ best friend Devon Pyne said. “I feel like she’s really blossomed since she’s found ceramics, so I want everyone to recognize her art. Her art really is a peek into her and how her brain works. If you were to maybe run into her on the street I don’t think you’d ever expect her art to be as amazing as it is.”

Between the bright colors and the dark themes of Casares’ work lies her truth. When she puts her pieces on display, it is as if she were putting her innermost feelings and experiences on display. She no longer feels embarrassed or uneasy about this. Instead, she gains strength from it.

“I just make art for me because I love it,” Casares said. “It’s not for anyone else but me, truly.”

Casares’ exhibition, titled Manifest, will be on display at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, from Saturday, Nov. 6 to Sunday, Nov. 28.

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