MFA student Sarah Garcia braids, unbraids the past with clay

SDSU student talks about her journey with how sculpture and clay is an entrance into investigating patterns of past generations
Ceramics artist and MFA student, Sarah Garcia, is pictured in her studio where she works on future projects
Ceramics artist and MFA student, Sarah Garcia, is pictured in her studio where she works on future projects
Michelle Armas

“Do-un-do” is the name of a clay sculpture showcased in the student art gallery in the upper level of Art North at San Diego State University.

On a white platform, there are four clay hands clasping thickly woven braids. The plaque underneath reads the name of the piece and the name of the artist, Sarah Garcia. There is no description. 

Garcia is a Master of Fine Arts student, ceramics artist and mother of a daughter named Frida, who is 13 years old. 

She wears a braid that cascades down her back which resembles the sculptures that brim her studio. One can’t help but wonder what it all means.

Garcia shared that her sculptures are all part of a series she has been working on for the past year.

Sarah Garcia’s sculpture, “do-un-do,” showcased at SDSU. (Michelle Armas)

“I’ve really been focusing on the women in my family — my mother, my grandmothers… different people I know stories about, but have never met,” she said.

Her clay practice is an investigation of the patterns that were inherited through her family experiences, approaches and understandings. 

“I’m interested in hair, braids and weaving… (it’s) sort of how we sometimes protect ourselves, how we present ourselves and how we connect and relate to others,” she said.  

Garcia is also a member of the Chahta tribe. While she didn’t grow up living on a reservation, she said a family connection still exists. 

“It does play a part in looking back into the past,” Garcia said. “Do-un-do is sort of that process of thinking about these patterns and inheritances. It’s the process of undoing things in order to understand how something is made.” 

Her journey through motherhood has also been an influence on this series and her art.

“I’ve been thinking about my experience as a mother as well and what sort of things I want to pass on to my daughter,” Garcia said. “Part of understanding these patterns is making sure I can protect patterns that are important, that are vital, that require some custodianship… and it’s also understanding the patterns that are ready to be reworked or altered.” 

Garcia usually begins her process with pencil and paper sketching. 

“Sometimes it comes from a visual idea, but sometimes it comes from a conceptual place… I think about how I can solve something in a physical way,” she said.

While studying for her undergraduate education, Garcia was interested in art therapy. She noted how the process of art therapy helped her workshop her ideas and feelings.

After becoming inclined in that form of art, Garcia would then earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Shortly after, Garcia gave birth to her daughter, Frida, prompting her to take some time off from work. 

There, she began her personal art practice.

“I started mostly painting at the time or doing things I could quickly put away or get out while she was asleep,” Garcia said. 

Sarah Garcia’s sculpture, “Past in the Front, Future Behind” (Photo Courtesy of Sarah Garcia)

After Garcia became interested in sculpture and ceramics, she worked as a tech at San Diego City College for six years. After that, she then began the master’s program at SDSU.


Her favorite aspect about clay is the memory it holds, and how it records the force it comes in contact with.

“I’ve pushed it and pulled it and asked it to be in this place, so there’s all this intentional force, but it also records all the unintentional force,” Garcia said. “Even if you can correct that, these memories will express themselves.” 

In the past, Garcia said she has tried to create flawless vessels, but the material will still express itself. Nevertheless, she wants to give space for that. 

Since the work she does is personal, she doesn’t want to have a specific message, but instead just create an opening for a thought or conversation. Her intention is to lay a foundation for work that interested in doing later on.

The next show Garcia has scheduled is the temporary exhibition at the airport: Espacios & Lines in January through December 2024. For a further look into her work, visit her website here.

About the Contributor
Michelle Armas
Michelle Armas, Staff Writer
Michelle Armas is a Journalism major with a love for storytelling. She was born in Los Angeles, California, but moved to San Diego when she was 10. She is a News, Arts & Culture, and Opinions writer for The Daily Aztec and enjoys every moment of debuting as a journalist. She is part of the Society of Professional Journalists and serves as the secretary of The National Association of Hispanic Journalists on campus. In the academic year of 2022/23, she co-hosted a radio talk show with two other students where they talked about current events and played their favorite music. With her deep curiosity for the world, Michelle hopes to combine different forms of media to share obscure stories of the world creatively.