“The ideas come out of ongoing conversations between Ingūna and myself and are actually based on the breakdown between our collective understandings. In other words, we are fascinated by the difficulty in truly understanding one another’s ideas and the point where we witness the vast distances created through miscommunication. Some of our most successful pieces are rooted in the space between understanding and misunderstanding”
We work together on every aspect of the pieces and sometimes its impossible even for us to identify, which one of us did what because of the constant overlaps happening during the different stages of building the pieces. The ideas grow from our conversations and life, when talking about an idea we end up sharing drawings in order to better understand what each of us sees– often drawing over each others’ work to fully realize the idea before beginning to physically make the piece.
We work in series from themes in order to explore issues we are facing or realities that are affecting us more deeply, it is a process of mutual self-reflecting and intensive research into specific subjects, in order to come to a greater understanding, about our selves and the world. We often embrace the darker side of humanity; working through fear, frustration, anger, and hatred until the feelings produced by the subjects being explored, naturally reduce down into a relaxed understanding based on love and compassion. The process of working in this way is akin to a cathartic cathexis.
— Skuja Braden
Ingūna Skuja, b. 1965 in Akniste, Latvia
Melissa D. Braden, b. 1968 in Roseville, California
Skuja Braden’s collaboration began in 1999 and the two of them have worked together continuously since that time, signing every piece with their combined last names. Together the two, have more than 20 years combined University education in the arts under their collective belts. Skuja recently took up the first “real monthly paid job” of her career, and since 2016 has been teaching at the local art school in Aizkraukle, where she earns enough to cover their electric bills.
Skuja Braden together hold an extensive exhibition history, working in series they have managed to create works for over 40 solo exhibitions in galleries and museums throughout Europe and the USA. Additionally; the two have also participated in over 100 International & National juried, and curated group exhibitions, as well as, art fairs, such as SOFA Chicago, Start Art Fair, Saatchis Gallery in London, Berlin Art Week, and Art Copenhagen. In 2014 their works were selected to represent Latvia in the European Ceramic Context, in Bornholm, Denmark.
In addition to having their works published in dozens of books, catalogues and magazines including: Contemporary Studio Porcelain 2nd ed. by Peter Lane, A Human Impulse, by Peter Held, 500 Bowls, 500 Cups, 500 Tiles, 500 Animal in Clay, 500 Handmade Dolls, 500 Plates, Pitchers, and Platters, and Making and Installing Handmade Tiles, they also have been included in L’Officiel, Makslas Plus, Ceramics Monthly, and Neue Keramike Magazines.
Their works are also held in many public and private collections all over the world including, four public walls permanently installed at the White Memorial Medical Center, in L.A. California, the Museum of Contemporary Ceramics in Santo Domingo, the European Presidents Collection, the AirBaltic Corporate Collection, Latvian National Museum, Daugavpils Mark Rothko Museum, World Ceramic Center in Icheon, Korea, the Changchun Ceramic Art Center, ASU Art Museum, and the Westerwald Keramike museum.
In 2016 Ingūna Skuja and Melissa Braden received the GODIS Pilsonis Award from the city of Aizkraukle in Latvia. This award is a lifetime achievement medal and the highest honor, a Latvian city can bestow upon a person. Skuja Braden’s award set a new precedent in Latvia since it is the first time this honor has been given to a team, and even more unusual that Braden was included because she is not Latvian, but a fifth generation native of Sacramento, California.