As with most artists, Frances has always been! Of course, in childhood, there was coloring (still enjoys), drawing, scrapbooking, and mud pies (which must be why she enjoys clay sculpting). In her twenties, she studied drawing and painting at the Maryland Institute of Art. From these studies came her love of pen and ink. Frances’ thirties brought clay into her artwork when she moved to Colorado in 1978 and joined Tom Ware’s clay sculpting group in 1982. Frances’ interest in stone carving happened in her late forties when her husband, Erik, gifted her a hammer, chisels, and a stone. She said, “I started chipping away not having any idea of how or what I was doing”. That sculpture, Moon Struck, sold! After that, she became a stoner. She chuckles stating she does not smoke or chew…Frances carves rocks – redefining the term “stoner”! This led Frances, then in her fifties, to attend many MARBLE/marble Symposiums in Marble CO. Thus, her craving for carving CO Yule Marble. Now in her late seventies, Frances is still a stoner! She states, “It is exuberant!”. However, she still enjoys working with clay and painting.
Meet Frances Listou
1. Tell us a little about your work and artistic practice?
The rough stone is purchased from a supply house or directly from a quarry. I prefer to use a 60-gallon air compressor to run the tools and for the ability to use water to tame the dust. All the grinders, drill bits, and sanding/polishing pads (from 50 to 3500 grit) are embedded with industrial diamonds, this girl’s best friend! Inspiration for each sculpture can take a moment to years or even decades to transpire. Sometimes it comes from a mishap! When I feel the sculpture is ready, I take it to The Base Shop in Loveland for a custom-made base and mounting. Afterward, the sculpture goes to a professional photographer. Because stone carving is an outdoor fair-weather endeavor, cold and rainy days take me into my cozy rustic mountain cabin studio to sculpt in clay (sometimes cast in bronze) and acrylic painting or whatever creative project I am working on.
2. How has your creative process been impacted or evolved during the pandemic?
COVID brought bittersweet, unexpected changes to my art life. The first days (and years) of the pandemic closed my Evergreen business of 38 years. That was bitterness. The sweetness came when I delightfully realized I can create art every day! My mind started to fill with creativity and not “tending to business”. Ironically, I soon found out that art is also a business. Out of this period came a new clay sculpture describing my bittersweetness. And since there is more time for art, my creativity has expanded to learn more about acrylic painting and paper clay.
3. Where do you find inspiration?
My Evergreen rustic cabin studio sits on the edge of a wild-flowered, tall grassed, forested mountain park. As I carve stone, play with clay, or paint, I watch herds of deer and elk, a few(?) bunnies and chippers, birds, and sometimes a lynx strolling or a coyote chasing a wild turkey among the tall pine and Aspen trees. This is where I am filled with inspiration and joy. I am struck by the power of tools allowing me to change the Creator’s creations into my own creation. I see a form in nature and contemplate how I could shape it into a stone or clay sculpture. Carving stone or pushing clay into an image for people to enjoy touching and gazing upon is my life’s pleasure and purpose. My heart fills when the visually impaired or a child playfully traces the lines of my sculptures.
4. Do you have a favorite piece of art that someone else has created?
My Favorite piece of art? This reminds me of when children ask Santa which cookies he likes best! Just as each cookie is made with love and imagination, so too is every piece of art. When I look at a piece of art by someone else, I look within the art to imagine what emotions led them to create that one piece. The artist in me wonders how they created the piece. My favorite piece of art, how can I choose one from the other? I love art from the old masters and emerging artists alike. As Santa always tells a child, every cookie is his favorite because it was made by a child, so too every piece of art is my favorite because it was made with the love and imagination of an artist.
5. Tell us about one of YOUR pieces that you have been the proudest of?
I suppose that would be Carrera Wave. The rough stone, and a few others, were toted home in 1999 from Italy in a suitcase. It was a trip to honor mom’s wish to see the Pope. Naturally, a visit to the Carrera quarry had to happen. I did not receive the inspiration to carve this precious rock until almost three decades later. Yes, I say precious, not only because of its quality but for the sweet memories of mom’s tears seeing the Pope up close.
6. Who are your biggest influences?
Well, that is easy, first my husband! He was the one to give me a hammer, chisels, and a stone for my birthday even though I never thought of or wanted to carve stone. I have to say that Madeline Wiener’s MARBLE/marble Symposiums were a confirmation of my love of stone sculpting. Oh, and Tom Ware for accepting me in his group so long ago. Other big influences are the artists I meet and get to know, the staff of galleries, and the jurors that honor my work for shows. Recently I participated in two online acrylic painting classes: Nicholas Wilton’s Art2Life and Louise Fletcher’s Find Your Joy. Both artists’ instructions and encouragement gave me the excitement to continue learning more about abstract painting.
See Frances' Work
6 x 6 x 4 – 8 lbs.
carrera gold marble
12 x 12
12 x 7 x 7 – 7 lbs.