The Tenderloin: Crispi shines a spotlight on the soiled land in this San Francisco district. Images courtesy of Ramon's Tailor and Ilana Crispi.
On a mission to
transform perceptions of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, an area famed for
its crime, homeless population and vacant buildings, local artist Ilana Crispi has
made a selection of eating and drinking vessels incorporating an oft overlooked
native material. Her substance of choice? Soil that she’d dug up from a
neighbourhood park, littered with abandoned bottles and the remnants of illicit
The project began
when – with permission from the local council – Crispi sourced some soil from Boeddeker Park, a
one-acre city-owned park in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district that is
undergoing a major renovation. Three months of experimentation led her to discover
that at certain temperatures the soil turns into self-glazing clay. With this in
mind Crispi set about creating a ceramic bench and a selection of tableware.
Her work caught the
eye of staff at Ramon’s Tailor, a small art storefront that showcases visual
arts in San Francisco. The subsequent exhibition, Tenderloin Dirt Harvest: Please be seated on the ground., challenges local
taboos. This is especially true with the dishes made from porcelain, a material that was once as
valuable as gold, and glazed with soil – a substance still often associated with the great
At the opening
event in late October, guests were invited to drink and eat directly
from the vessels, bringing to their lips a material that many normally wouldn’t
deem worthy of the soles of their shoes. In this way Crispi’s work builds upon
the ideas explored in our Soil and Dirt micro trend.
Dirty dishes: one of a number of tableware items that was coated with soil before firing. Images courtesy of Ramon's Tailor and Ilana Crispi.
Made with tender loving dirt: Tenderloin Dirt glazed ceramics. Images courtesy of Ramon's Tailor and Ilana Crispi.
Served with a side of dirt: Crispi's fired ceramic cups are glazed with Tenderloin soil. Images courtesy of Ramon's Tailor and Ilana Crispi.