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December BOC Spotlight - Marsha Neal Studio

Marsha Neal Studio, LLC is the name of my business.
Before I was married, I was Marsha Neal. But on paper, that person no longer exists. 
I go by Marsha Minutella these days (also answer to: Marsh, mom, mommy, mmmmommmm - that is Riley trying to say mom or "more" not sure yet).
The actual clay & jewelry studio is located in the basement of our home in Hockessin, DE. It is currently undergoing a major overhaul and re-organization.

A recent photograph of Marsha (self portrait).
When someone asks what it is that I do, I usually say that I am a bead maker.
I make porcelain beads for people to use in jewelry designs…

Then usually show them my earrings or pendant that I am wearing - that is, if I happen to have remembered to put something on before running out the door.
Some days remembering to put shoes on instead of slippers is hard enough to do.

Marsha Neal Studio Clay Twirls as Earrings
I am interested in jewelry design and making jewelry…
I think the cycle of making beads then making jewelry with them allows one to refocus and better design beads for the next batch and oh boy - does it get the creative juices flowing…
Or on the other side of it - the pure frustration of not having anything come out as you wanted can change your focus and make you do some more research (books, magazines, blogs, etc) to get some better ideas and figure out what works for you and your sense of design.
Marsha with her husband Dave, and their two little ones: Chloe & Riley
Right now in my life I have so many things to focus on that I am trying to find the time to make sure that I am not driving myself crazy and getting overwhelmed (Dave pulls me back into focus constantly - which is such a good thing). 
I find that if I can limit my time doing something, by setting a timer on my iPhone in half hour to two hour increments, I actually get more things done in a day because I don't fall into my "production cycle". 
Marsha's Original Spiraling Tree Drawing on Porcelain Pendants
I have been working in clay since 1997 when I took a beginning ceramics class at the University of Delaware during my undergraduate studies in Entomology. I fell in love with throwing on the kick wheel and would spend as much time in the studio as possible. Eventually I went on to receive an MA in Ceramics through Univ. of DE in 2001. I kept a small studio in the basement of our house and focused on making tiles. Sometime in late 2002 I had a few people asking me to put a hole in my tile so they could wear it… Ever since, I have been creating my porcelain pendants.
The clay and glazing area of Marsha's studio.
Pictured above is my North Star Slab Roller. This is my favorite piece of studio equipment EVER! It does so much more than just roll out slabs. I work on it every day, I have poured plaster molds onto it (with soap of course), and it serves as a great place for Peeves (the cat) to get her kitty love.

My primary clay is Cone 6-10 Loafer's Glory from Highwater Clay in Ashville, NC. I also use Standard Clay Cone 4-6 Chocolate Clay. A couple years ago I asked Marla from Bisque Bead Supply to make me some porcelain pieces that matched the sizes of my textured pendant line, which is what I now use for my porcelain decal pieces. With two little ones running around, and not a lot of time for me to spend actually being creative, this was my solution to not have to sit and make a bunch of plain pendants. Her pieces are fantastic! I fire to either cone 5 or 6 in one of my three electric kilns.
Before and after Cone 5 glaze firing in small Olympic Doll Kiln.
I use a variety of commercial glazes and do a monthly blog post here on BOC every third Friday of the month testing out some different techniques and combinations of Cone 6 commercial glazes. It is hard for me to say what a favorite glaze - but I would have to say the reactive glazes (glazes that puddle and pool in a different color - reacting with the textures) have been a favorite for quite some time, but as of late, I am quite smitten on Coyote's Franks Colored Celadons. Lots of potentials with those!

I do work alone in my studio, but have frequent visits from my 2 cats Peeves & Stinker when I manage to get some time in the studio. I miss greatly the studio environment of working with other clay artists. Chloe has just started to come into the studio with me and use some underglazes to paint on some pendants. She is a natural talent - she has great concentration and very steady hands for someone so young. Her artwork from school often has things lined up and symmetrical. I can't wait to see how her talents emerge...
Chloe painting with underglazes.
For now I get out randomly for a "beading" night with friends which has helped me jump start my interest in making jewelry again… Which will hopefully lead to new clay bead making projects.

Domed cabs (these actually were joined to create lentil beads).
I usually work with textured clay slabs - cutting and shaping them into form, then finishing the edges and holes so they are just right. I glaze my work on both sides unless it is a cabochon or button.

Marsha's Inspirational Photos...
I am inspired by nature, architecture, patterns, colors, textures…
I have the best intentions to go through my stacks of magazines and cut out all the designs that inspire me so I can just flip through them (in a very organized manner - like a scrap book of sorts). Maybe I will actually get to that this winter. I've been ripping pages for years, sorting into boxes, then the stacks started becoming towers… Mostly Garden magazines, jewelry magazines, and home decor magazines.

If I had to pick one ceramic artist that has inspired my work most, it would be Lana Wilson.
I took a workshop with her in late September 2001 (right after 9/11) and her use of clay stamps to texture slabs then create vessels with them really moved me. I then began to turn my doodles and drawings from years of school notebooks into clay stamps and would texture slabs then create tiles.

My website: MarshaNealStudio.com has been under renovation since last year, but as long as we don't hit any more major technology innovations (being married to a computer geeky perfectionist is good - but dang!) that will make things "so much better" it should be up by January 2011. Oh, wait - I'm the one with all the requirements, he is just finding out how to do it all… Love him for dealing with that all!

I also have an Etsy shop online.
Also, my friend Darlene of D7Studio sells my work at her bead show tables. A bunch of bead stores that carry my work are all listed on my website. Be aware though - there are knockoff pieces out there. If you do not see my name or price on it, it is most likely not mine. Don't be fooled!

My advise to people wanting to give clay bead making a try: learn techniques and make some stuff. Experiment until you can make something your own. Not everything has to be put into a kiln - you can recycle the pre-fired clay and make something better next time.
Oh, and from a jewelry maker's point of view: make your holes consistent sizes and clean them out of any excess glaze. Nothing is more annoying then sitting down for a good jewelry making session with a new clay bead and then realizing the hole is too small or full of sharp edges. I use a battery powered electric bead reamer and a bucket of water - safety first - work smart because electricity and water don't play well if you are working with something plugged in and drop it.

New for 2011 Marsha Neal Studio Specials Blog.

Marsha Neal Studio Links:
Website: MarshaNealStudio.com
Etsy: MarshaNealStudio.Etsy.com
Etsy: MyMomPattie.Etsy.com
Blog: MarshaNealStudio.Blogspot.com
Blog: MarshasGardenBlog.Blogspot.com
Blog: MarshaNealStudioSpecials.Blogspot.com

Thanks, Marsha for a great interview, Joan Tucker


  1. I just adore Miss Marsha! She is a delightful person with a heart of gold. I love all her wares, and her glazes really make the pieces SING! I am proud to own some of her work (I just hope I can part with them and not hoard them obsessively as I am wont to do!) Thanks for that engaging read!
    Enjoy the day!

  2. I have enjoyed so much reading this wonderful post about you and that amazing little lady with two brushes is a true delight. Wish you even more joy in the upcoming years of your lives.
    Lots of love from

  3. Marsha, Happy Birthday to Chloe and also kudos to you for being a great mom and also doing your lovely work.
    Joan (and Lana)

  4. Joan and Marsha what a wonderful interview. I have such admiration for Marsha and her work. This interview brings all her wonderful qualities as an artist and person to life. A delight to read.

  5. Thanks you guys!!! I'm blushing… Thanks Joan for picking me for this month! I really enjoy being part of our community (extended family really) of bead & jewelry makers!


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