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Our dog Waco (after the Texas town) is a rescued Australian Shepherd. She is blind in one eye; the result of a murky recessive gene pool, provoked by the desire of some breeders and consumers to own a dog with a beautiful merle coat. Unfortunately a considerable percentage of those litters are not as intended. Instead, they are some variation of mostly white, smooth coat, blind and deaf.

Though visually disadvantaged, Waco hears well (its her superpower) and carries a glimpse of her recessive merle coloring on her hindquarters. Waco’s sight deficiency limits her peripheral vision and depth perception. She approaches people/things/environments differently and so understands them uniquely. For instance, she never ventures upstairs because the stairs flatten into stripes; making that first step a doozy! Fetch is out of the question (disastrous) Paper is just confusing. But, television. Television is an exciting reality.

I share that to say: this year will be the first time I won’t be juggling teaching and studio work. I’ve stepped away from the classroom after thirty years, taking the opportunity to just make. I’m not sure what that will look like. It will certainly be a shift in approach (and less talking…except to myself) I confess that all those years in the classroom have left my heart pocked from the shrapnel of cynics (to be sure, some were self-inflicted)

Nonetheless, I want to intentionally approach the world with a different attitude; a unique understanding. My desire is to communicate God’s love where faith and art intersect, where talent and purpose overlap, where skill and intent connect. Perhaps a lofty aspiration. Perhaps. I understand that first step is a doozy.

What’s in a name?


We’ve named each of our dogs after towns in Texas (its a thing) Our first dog, Odessa is the namesake of dessadog studio. She was (unbeknownst to us) a very sick rescue. Odessa was a mix of Australian Shepherd and something that came along in the desert (yep) The. Smartest. Dog.

Then came Fabens, named after a sleepy little farming community outside of El Paso. She was a quirky Border Collie we adopted from a no-kill shelter. That dog was clever. She had a remarkable talent for opening doors (though closing doors seemed to escape her)





Waco keeps us on our toes these days. I affectionately refer to her as wiggle-butt. She just loves her people. Waco spends her time chasing birds and feral cats that she’ll never catch because, spatially she’s at a loss.



Mark your Calendars!

17th Annual Ceramic Studio Tour
February 24 & 25, 2018
Saturday & Sunday from 10am-5pm

My studio will be on the tour again. Sam Hodges, Sarah Brodie and Genie Swanstrom will be returning with me this year. We look forward to seeing everyone.

Instagram @dessadogtoo

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In my neighborhood, there’s a house where the Disney princesses live. Not figuratively speaking. I’ve seen them. I saw Princess Aurora in the front yard (full disclosure: had to Google. not really up on my princesses. as if…) Cinderella was seen driving an SUV (full of all things princess-y, no doubt) And then, I witnessed Belle and Elsa walking into the house. A house in my neighborhood.

My first thought was, how disappointing to learn that the princesses don’t live at The Happiest Place on Earth! Nope. They live a a stucco tract home in Gilbert, Arizona. That rubs a whole lot of the magic away (the SUV was a real kick in the teeth)

Seems this princess fairy tale is more fable than previously considered. That pinkish frame and stucco, 4 bedroom, 2 and a half bath is quite a step back from the castle scenario with stables, servants and a Prince Charming to boot. Disappointing.

It’s like the deflating excitement you feel when opening the kiln and not seeing what you intended. Instead of the energy you were going for, there’s an ugly step-sister. Disappointing.

True to first impressions, you might need more time. Another introduction. Consider that your intent might have been closer to fairy tale than reality in terms of ability and execution (and then there’s the whole ‘set it on fire’ thing) With time, one might begin to see the ugly step sister more as a quiet wallflower (perspective) Quiet is it’s own dynamic. It’s rather exciting.

After several weeks of princess spotting, I’m struck by how cool it would be to be of influential-princess-age and discover a house full of Disney princesses. The house down the street! The fairy tale becomes your street, your neighborhood. The Magic Kingdom includes a 2,125 square foot tract home with a 3 car garage in Gilbert, Arizona. Exciting!

Don’t miss this!

Five15 to the Power of 5

July 7 – August 18, 2017


Phoenix Center for the Arts
1202 N. 3rd St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004


Upcoming: Mark your calendars!

The 3rd Occasional Cup and Mug Sale

October 20 & 21, 2017

This year our sale benefits Pursue Life Ministry – a ministry of Arizona Baptist  Children’s Services.

Learn more: abcs.org 


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say something

Failure’s such a creative gift. When the ability to fail is taken away, it fuels a lot of fear.

~Matt Bronleewe, Jars of Clay


If you hop into the carpool lane traveling west on U.S. 60, it’ll plop you smack into Central Phoenix. That’s 25 miles of freeway driving without the need to merge into the suicide mission we refer to as traffic around these parts. Glorious!

However, there’s this narrow overpass bounded by guidance pylons just before the transition onto Interstate 10 West (guidance is such a congenial word. it’s a trap!)

Suddenly, you have The Fast and The Furious! Pylons to your right; embellished with vestigial paint and a smattering of headlight plastic within the gore point. On the left, concrete barriers with layers of cursive tire scuffs. If you’re claustrophobic, it’s certainly tight. And, if this isn’t the lane you really wanted to be in…too late. Even if you are in the correct lane, the visual history of panic coupled with speed is a little scary. It’s pretty messy in there.

~ Vin Diesel (source: screenrant.com, Universal Studios)

That overpass reminds me of the process of creating art. It’s pretty messy in there (truth: it parallels so much of life – pick an allegory)

Lately, I’ve read several articles that speak to what the authors believe art really is (Joe Q. Public has been asking that question for a long time – there’s a whole other conversation) Each writer concludes that the process of creating is the art. They state that there is a beauty in the process of creating which then constituted the creation as art.

Um…no. I disagree. These are the muddy waters that wash over the claim that a thing is art simply because I made it (those are participation awards, folks)

Art happens in the communication. There is a certain struggle – as there is in any attempt to communicate our passions. No one invites failures but, they happen. It’s messy. The beauty is on the other end of the struggle; after the panic and pylon slalom, after the white-knuckle turns and skid marks when you’ve traveled oh-so-many miles without compromising your work.

In the end, I just want to communicate well. There’s the art. Glorious!

go see art!

The Evidence of Hope

~an exhibition of ceramic drawings by Beth Shook~

~detail: The Evidence of Hope 13/33

That sparrows continue to sing despite the brokenness of man is a testament to hope.

The Evidence of Hope is a field painting made up of 33 individual compositions; a flock of sparrows on a field of lilies (see what I did there) with a few outlying observers.

June 1-30, 2017

Practical Art
5070 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85012


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~detail: Undone In the Pursuit of Wild Hares

~detail: Undone In the Pursuit of Wild Hares

When I was a kid I was a huge fan of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. There’s some pretty sophisticated humor coming from those Fractured Fairy Tales. Between shorts, Bullwinkle would occasionally try to pull a rabbit out of his hat. In every attempt, Bullwinkle fails. He pulls a lion, tiger, rhino, bear and once even Rocky. But, no rabbit. Bullwinkle isn’t prepared to pull a rabbit from his hat because he’s always got the wrong hat (there’s a life lesson there).

~detail: Rabbit Sketch

~detail: Rabbit Sketch

This week, just shy of mid-semester, I introduced my beginning students to the potter’s wheel. They have been chompin’ at the bit to get to throw. But, silly me…I insist they start with hand building. I really think hand building allows for a less intimidating introduction to clay. It’s slow. It provides students the opportunity to pay attention and build a foundation in the clay process. While the wheel tends to mesmerize the students and they abandon the details in their struggle to throttle the spinning clay.

When giving a throwing demo I’ll hear comments about how easy the process looks…it’s like magic. I remind them that I’ve been doing this longer than some of them have been alive (seems every year my students, my doctors and the IT guy at Best Buy get younger, but I never feel a day over 35).

~detail: Rough Draft #17

~detail: Rough Draft #17

Here’s a truth they won’t recognize until they’ve gone through a sufficient struggle, it’s only easy…it only looks like magic because of preparation; having what I need to pull the rabbit out of my hat.

During yesterday’s demo, I explained that they needed to pay attention to the details in the preparation. First, wedge your clay! So many student man-handle their clay; not wedging it properly and actually introducing air into the clay (that’s never helpful). Then, there’s this idea that the centering of the clay isn’t all that big a deal – it’s just a hoop to jump through to get to the real magic of creating a pot. I needed to clear that up!

So then, I gave another demo with the clay ever so slightly off center (the wrong hat). As the process continued, I directed their attention to the increasing asymmetry of the piece as I worked against the out-of-center clay. My years of throwing allowed me to get pretty far in the process. Still, the lack of symmetry predestined the piece to fail…and it failed spectacularly!

Nope. No rabbits. Not one.

Get out and look at art folks!

Draw With Everything
Phoenix Sky Harbor
Terminal 4, Level 3, eight display cases
on exhibit now through February 28, 2016

Exhibiting artists: Beth Shook*, Monica Aissa Martinez, Mark McDowell, Jerry Jacobson, Rebecca Davis, Mary Shindell, and Carolyn Lavendar.

*my work is located at the A Gates (American and US Airways)

Make plans to attend!

Empty Bowls
Chandler-Gilbert Community College
Pecos Campus, Student Pavilion

October 20, 2015
10:30am – 6pm

Donations benefit the Chandler Christian Community Center to support their efforts to feed those in the local community who might otherwise go without food.


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~detail: Sparrow Three

~detail: Sparrow Three

It’s been a busy summer exhibition season. I’m really looking forward to a more hermit-like studio schedule. To just create without a deadline hanging over my head…at least until classes start up again. I have plenty of work to keep myself squirreled away for awhile.

With a full exhibition season comes lots of openings. Openings generally require more social meandering than my reclusive self is comfortable with. I try. I really do. As I understand it, the objective of an opening is to connect with the gallery goers more than the fellow exhibiting artists or hiding out under the safety of your posse.

Connecting with the opening attendees means a lot of talking; lots of telling about the work, the process, the images, the stories. During a recent exhibition one of the docents pulled me aside to ask about my work. She is a student of classical works and was drawn to my pieces. We talked less about process and more about the compositional elements and their connection to the images and stories.

As I shared the story of Why Do You Make So Much of Me?, she began to cry a little. We connected.

Why Do You Make So Much of Me? clay, wood, found objects, 2015

Why Do You Make So Much of Me?
clay, wood, found objects, 2015

I always…always, field questions about how the tiled images are ‘framed’. I don’t really think of them as framed – more like boxed or confined. Frames are often afterthoughts – add on’s – dismissed as not part of an artwork. I treat the confines of the work as part of the composition.

~detail: Sistine Chapel The Ancestors of Christ: Jesse

~detail: Sistine Chapel
The Ancestors of Christ: Jesse

Let’s back up a bit. I’m always asked about the confines of the images. Because I consider the frames/boxes/confines as an extension of the story, I play with balance and composition in relation to the image.

The visual inspiration for the structures comes from fresco paintings within architectural elements. All those saints squeezed between the ribs of a barrel vault (perhaps a requirement for martyrdom…could they look anymore uncomfortable?)

So yeah…looking forward to spending some time with the clay, where the only questions are the ones I’m asking myself.

To fill out your cultural schedule this summer, my work can be seen here:


Udinotti Museum of Figurative Art
March 15-August 15, 2015

All Art Arizona 2015

Art Intersection
June 2 – July 18, 2015


Tempe Center for the Arts
June 19 – September 19, 2015

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