October 2011 BOC Spotlight Artist
I just realized that this will be my 12th year making pendants and beads and my 28th year of loving and working with clay (and yes, I am counting my teen years! My parents and grandparents were all creative from poetry to silver jewelry to painting. My grandmother Betty was a professional artist who would let me watch her at work and always took time to show me her techniques, so whenever I visit an artist at their studio it's like having a flashback to her studio! She was my hero! Grandma never got to see my jewelry or beads but I think she would have really enjoyed them. My mom and I have always shared a love of jewelry, so I can safely blame that addiction on mom! Now she is making some beaded jewelry when she has time and we swap beads occasionally and take trips to the bead and gem shows. My name is the greek goddess of mother earth, which I find more than appropriate for a person who likes to play with clay. How did mom know?
Tell us about yourself
As an art major in college, I had an open period and beginning ceramics was the only class that fit at the time I needed. It was taught by Lynn Creighton, who is a sculptor and artist. She takes her classes very seriously and where some of the other teachers treated the time like a free-for-all she had us studying slides and taking notes and really getting into the art form as a whole, not just vessels but all techniques and forms. She would take us on field trips in the evenings to art openings and galleries and really got us interested in art as a whole from creation to exhibit. She moved on to teach other classes and I was spoiled by her love of art and her generosity with information. Even though she wasn't teaching ceramics anymore, it was too late to worry about who was at the front of the room! I was addicted! And at the time there was a limit to how many classes you could take. I seem to recall intentionally failing that final class so I could take it over again. Addicted! So, when one of the teachers told us about a class outside the collage we jumped on it! My husband and I spent a few years at that studio having such a great time! It was at that time that I began to make molds and decorate my pots and forms with "jewelry". Years later I was looking for a way to make a bit of holiday money. The first pieces for jewelry were molded from sculpey and painted with acrylic. My husband, always the thinker, pointed out that we owned a kiln and I could be making the small pieces for my jewelry from clay. In 1998 I started to experiment with fired pieces and we just had such a good time playing with clays and glazes. They were all a bit rough but had a lot of heart. In 2000 full time art director job was looking like it would become part time and at that time I was pregnant with my son. When he was born in 2001 my job let me work from home but the company was going through some hard times and I could see layoffs coming. My fear of leaving my infant son led me to look for other work that would let me be at home. In 2002 I started with my jewelry part time at home I did what ever it took to not have to take my son to daycare. When I went into bead shops for supplies the shop owner would sometimes ask where my pendants and beads came from and I was always pleased to say "ME"! I knocked on a lot of doors and met with shop owners that were not always fun to deal with. Calling ahead for an appointment I would show up with my toddler in tow and boxes of beads and I remember one guy in the telling me "Your little tikki pieces are too much! I will pay you $1 each!" Um, Not so much. Most shop owners had children and were very understanding.
What got you started in clay?
my full time gig! I am so happy to say! Sadly my house work is suffering for it! My poor dirty dishes cry themselves to sleep at night. I'm thinking about dragging the clothes and dishes out into the yard for the next rain! I am glad that I get to make every pick up and drop off for school for my kids. There is never a missed birthday party or play date because my work will travel with me.
Is Clay your full time gig?
For years I resisted etsy until I realized that sometimes people don't want to wait the sometimes 2-3 weeks for an order. Many will wait because they want what they want. Etsy has become my friend. With young children I don't get to do many of the shows that other artist do. The travel sounds fun and meeting people but I keep close to home for now. Local events here in are about as much as I can do! Luckily websites can be viewed around the world and I get a kick sending packages off to , , , !
Do you sell online? Do shows?
Everyday things inspire me. Mostly nature (if you hadn't guessed), the ocean, fairytales! My kids are great inspiration. I think they could be in charge of the inspiration department! And they both like to make jewelry! I reward my daughter with strands of beads when she cleans her room or gets all her homework done.
What inspires you?
I have a huge list of artists that make me swoon! And they are all over the map. Salvador Dali has been a long time favorite. Alexander Calder who our son is named after. Artist friends like Andrice http://www.hi-horse.com/aa/portfolio.html), Tina Frugoli (http://www.tinafrugoli.com/) and Gerry Zucca (http://www.gerryzucca.com/). (
Artists you admire?
My studio is in my home and we are in such a dusty rural area that I've given up on having a clean space! Work actually happens where ever the kids are and mostly at the kitchen table. When the kids were little I would put a tray together and sit with they by the bath tub or out in the yard while they played. Even the beach has seen some bead action!
Where is your working space/studio?
When someone asks how they can start making clay beads, the first thing I advise is to take ceramic classes at a local collage or studio, particularly one that stresses health and safety. There are so many ways to damage yourself that you wouldn't think about. Clay dust and glaze dust can ruin your lungs as well as be toxic if not handled properly. So health and safety first. The it's just about discovering yourself in the clay and having fun!
Advise to new clay artists?
Thanks Gaea for a great interview!
You can find out more about Gaea and her work here: