Sur­rounded by fame and good for­tune

Los Angeles Times - - Home & Design - By Emily Young home@latimes.com

Dora De Lar­ios has led a charmed life, one filled with fa­mous peo­ple and only-in-L.A. ex­pe­ri­ences. De Lar­ios, born to Mex­i­can im­mi­grants in 1933, de­cided to be­come an artist at age 6, when her fam­ily vis­ited a Mex­ico City mu­seum and she gazed on a spec­tac­u­lar Aztec stone cal­en­dar.

After study­ing art in col­lege, De Lar­ios mar­ried ar­chi­tect Bernard Judge (they di­vorced in 1989) and shared a stu­dio with sev­eral artists, in­clud­ing ac­tor Gil­bert Roland’s wife, Guiller­mina “Gia” Roland. “Through Gia, I met Nina Si­mone, Car­men McRae, Odetta, Alvin Ailey,” De Lar­ios says. “I had no idea how im­por­tant they were, so I was not over­whelmed by their fame.”

In 1959, De Lar­ios was com­mis­sioned to make a ce­ramic piece for a Case Study House. The piece was too large to fit in her kiln, so pi­o­neer­ing ce­ramist Peter Voulkos fired it for her at his Glen­dale stu­dio.

Her big break came the same year when her styl­ized pots and sculp­tures sold out in a show at Gump’s in San Francisco. “Then I started send­ing them stuff on con­sign­ment,” she says. “The re­ceipts showed pieces had been shipped to Fin­land, Swe­den and Ja­pan.”

When she was 30, De Lar­ios and Judge re­turned from a 13-month trip around the world, look­ing for a place to live. They wound up at the Schindler House, with ar­chi­tect Ru­dolph Schindler’s widow, Pauline, as their land­lord. “Even then, peo­ple came from all over to see the house,” De Lar­ios says. “I’d wake up, and peo­ple were press­ing their noses against our win­dows. One day an ar­chi­tect from Eng­land walked in while I was sit­ting on the toi­let!”

At the sug­ges­tion of Susan Peter­son, one of De Lar­ios’ for­mer teach­ers, ceram­ics man­u­fac­turer In­ter­pace hired her to de­sign ar­chi­tec­tural tile. She su­per­vised tile col­ors, tex­tures and glazes for land­mark mu­rals such as the 90-foot-tall in­stal­la­tion at Dis­ney World Con­tem­po­rary Re­sort.

In the early 1970s, Mar­lon Brando called on Judge to build a run­way on the ac­tor’s pri­vate is­land, so De Lar­ios and daugh­ter Sab­rina headed to Tahiti. “Brando met us when we ar­rived and asked if he could get us any­thing to eat or drink,” De Lar­ios says. “I was hold­ing a copy of Time mag­a­zine with him on the cover. It was surreal.”

Dur­ing Jimmy Carter’s pres­i­dency, she was one of 14 Amer­i­can pot­ters se­lected to de­sign din­ner­ware for the White House. She also made a mu­ral that L.A. pre­sented as a gift to its sis­ter city, Nagoya, Ja­pan. In 2011, De Lar­ios’ work was part of “Art Along the Hyphen: The Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can Gen­er­a­tion” at the Autry Na­tional Cen­ter, “Common Ground” at the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Ce­ramic Art and two of the Getty’s “Pa­cific Stan­dard Time” exhibition­s on L.A. art from 1945 to 1980.

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