Meet the Maker: Ianna Nova Frisby

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Ianna Nova Frisby found artistic inspiration in the unlikeliest of objects: the rectangular, rounded-bottom Styrofoam trays in which grocery stores package raw meat. The Sacramento-based artist has created porcelain renditions of the trays, translating the form into a utilitarian item that is both witty and unexpectedly refined. Frisby, 46, teaches ceramics and other art courses at Sierra College and Sacramento City College.

Packaging as art

Why meat trays? “I’m interested in consumable goods and packaging and things that are ubiquitous in our culture,” explains Frisby, a self-described conceptual pop artist. “I’ve been looking at packaging for a long time and thinking about the disposability of it and also about how to translate that into something more permanent and beautiful.” As for the actual Styrofoam trays, Frisby sees elegance in their utility. “They look so simple, but a lot of editing went into that design.”

Try, try again

“I like working with molds and using them in interesting ways,” says Frisby, who spent a decade perfecting the process of fabricating the trays. “I started making my own molds and found out it’s very tricky. It was a little like playing whack-a-mole for 10 years.” 

Artistic pursuits

Although ceramics are Frisby’s first love, her work spans a broad spectrum of media, from embroidery to tongue-in-cheek works featuring Darth Vader. She honed her craft in graduate school (she earned a master’s from the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, a breeding ground for outstanding American design) but maintains the humor in her work is the product of West Coast living.

Where to Buy

Frisby’s ceramic trays can be purchased for $35 at her studio at Verge Center for the Arts (625 S St.), Delta Workshop (2598 21st St.) and select craft fairs.