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BOC Spotlight Artist for September-Tracy Isley

Our BOC Spotlight Artist for September is Tracy Isley. Tracy usually refers to herself as a jewelry designer. She has never felt like her work was good enough, after all she says, "I think most of society has the perception that an artist is an individual who creates within the context of fine arts or high culture such as painting, sculpture, or drawing. An individual with formal training, a master,
not a self taught individual like myself."

She does go on to say, "After considering my answer to this question and reading the definition of an artist. I can now say that I am an artist. A person who creates original works using imagination and inspiration to express themselves through their chosen medium. Hi , my name is Tracy Isley, a jewelry and ceramic bead ARTIST."

Tracy has been working in clay since 2005. She uses medium range Porcelain and Stoneware and fires a large old Duncan electric kiln. She bisques to cone 04 and glaze fires to cone 6. Tracy's studio space is in her home, she converted the kids playroom into a studio and yes she waited until they out grew it. It is actually the fourth bedroom of our home. It is 12’ x 14’ room with a great walk in closet used to house glazes and shipping materials. Her kiln is in the garage down two flights of stairs. Someday, she hopes to have everything in one place and a larger space without carpeted floors.  Tracy works alone on her projects.

Tracy listed the steps she takes in making her ware:

1. I wedge up the clay. It is like kneading bread dough
2. I roll out the clay and texture it usually with Angel free stamps.
3. I cut out the various shapes
4. I smooth edges with a small damp makeup sponge made from a sea
5. I use a bead reamer to make the larger holes. I have found that
it is the right size for the nichrome rods of my beading rack.
6. I hang each piece on the beading rack to dry. If I wait until they
have dried to place them on the rods, the holes will have shrunk too
much and will not fit.
7. I bisque fire to cone 04
8. I sand each piece with 150 grit sand paper
9. I wax any areas that will touch the nichrome rods or kiln shelving.
10. I glaze each piece with lead free glaze -at least three
brushed coats
11. I fire at cone 6
12. Each pottery piece that is used for my finished jewelry
will be combined with semi-precious stones and sterling silver
 Tracy's favorite glazes: she uses Laguna, Coyote, Amaco, and Georgies. She has favorite colors from each manufacturer.

Tracy gets her inspiration for her designs from anywhere. She says she really has never discovered one specific direction. Sometimes she will see a ladies blouse and use the color combinations- other times she will see other works of jewelry and wonder if she could make that out of clay. She
has noticed over the years that she tends to love the movement created with swirls and will use that a lot in her work.

The ceramic artists that she admires:  Marsha Neal, Jennifer Heynen, Joan Miller, Chris Campbell and Jennie Lorette Keatts.

Tracy sells her finished jewelry primarily at juried art shows and a couple of wholesale customers. Her ceramic components sell through her etsy storefront. She also has a newly redesigned website that she has high hopes for.

Tracy has the following advice for newbies: "Forget the rules of pottery. I have found that by not knowing the “rules” I have been able to create things that marvel the traditional potters that I have met. The idea pops in my head and I just figure a way to create it. Just go for it and sometimes let necessity be the mother of invention."

Tracy shares a secret with us.. "My favorite piece of equipment is freezer paper. It is inexpensive and easily accessible. What in the world do you do with freezer paper, you may be wondering. Well, I tape it to my work surface, roll out my clay and like magic I have the smoothest backside to my pieces."

Web site: www.tgldesigns.com
Blog : www.tracyisley.blogspot.com

Another piece of exciting news about Tracy is that she will have two pieces in the October issue of Bead Trends magazine published by Northridge publishing. One is an original jewelry design using crystals and another is an original design using her pottery beads. Congratulations !!!

Tracy Isley

TGL Designs
P.O Box 28
Colfax, NC 27235

Thanks Tracy for the wealth of information.
Joan Tucker, Off Center Productions


  1. Love your statement about the "rules." Working at the scale we do alot of them just don't apply :)

  2. Great interview. I am so happy to get to know Tracy better. Congrats on being published Tracy. Well deserved.

  3. Awesome interview. But, seriously? Is that a CLAY studio???? lol It is WAY to clean and organized!

  4. I really love how you view an artist. You do not need a piece of paper to tell you that you are one. And your rules! My rule is there are no rules. Do what feels right, what comes naturally. Play. Feel good about what you are creating. You are definitely doing just that Tracy. Kudos!
    Enjoy the day!

  5. Fun interview and it's great to get to know Tracy better, too. Love the wax paper idea. It's perfect, but I've never thought about using it before.

  6. Folks than ks for leaving comments, if you want to be featured in Spotlight let me know Joan Tucker

  7. Thank you all for the great comments


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