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UFO Sighting Marsha Neal Studio

~~~~UFO Sighting~~~~
UFO for us means.....Unique Fabulous Originals!

Every Monday, we will sneak into our Professional Artisan Team members stores and snap a picture of some of their Awesome pieces of Art, ask them some questions about their work, then we will bring it back here for all to see. 

Today's UFO sighting and Artist interview comes from:
Marsha Neal Studio
Marsha of Marsha Neal Studio, LLC
Where is your Studio located?
I work from my home studio here in Delaware, USA.
We are in the mid-Atlantic region of the US where we get to experience all 4 seasons. I have lived here my whole life.
My studio is in the basement of the house (it has taken over the full basement!).

What do you call yourself?
Artist? Hobbyist? Professional Ceramicist?
When someone asks me what I "do", I tell them that I make beads.
Automatically most people assume that I make jewelry and ask where I sell my jewelry.
I have to explain that I consider myself a bead manufacturer and that I make beads that other people use to make jewelry with. 
And that even though I do dabble with jewelry making, but I prefer to be in my ceramics studio making components for people to use.

I think of my bead work mainly as production work and is my Zen time.
When I allow the creative juices to flow and have a new direction and idea in mind for work that expresses an idea that I have, that would be more art.
I would love to spend more time tapping into that creative art side...

Right now I am focusing not only on myself and a new body of work, but also on how my life as a mom and artist will affect my two little ones. 
So I also consider myself a teacher and really enjoy any time with them in the studio where I can let them explore their creative voice without a lot of boundaries. I keep them safe from harm and from those annoying limits that come from voices in my brain that I heard throughout my life. I am teaching them as well as myself...

How long have you been working in clay and making ceramic clay bead related items?
I took my first ever clay class in 1997 at the University of Delaware while I was receiving my BS degree in Entomology (concentrating in Wildlife Conservation).
I was hooked! My clay instructor encouraged me to take the next class, and so I did. I went on to get a MA in Ceramics.
I started making and selling my beads between 2002 and 2004, quitting my "regular job" in 2004 to make and sell beads full time.
Marsha Neal Studio Nature Pendant
What inspires your work?
I am inspired by color, patterns, textures in nature, architecture and fabric design.
I love to draw and doodle. Those drawings are carved into clay, which becomes my texture plates to make designs on porcelain that can become my finished work.
Marsha Neal Studio Textured Pendant Set (O-Series in Fern Glaze)
What is your process?
I usually work with porcelain and chocolate clay.
Slab work to make pendants and lentil bead components.
Coils that are cut and textured to make beads.
Make. Fire. Glaze. Fire. Finish.

What is your favorite type of clay?
I like working with clays with little to no grog.
It has to have plasticity. Not short and not too dry.
I will often work my clay by breaking it down and spritzing it with water in plastic bags for a few days before I know I'm going to use it.
Give me any color! I'll test and see what I can do with it and my Cone 6 glazes!
Peeves, my cat, likes her role as quality control expert. If there is a weak spot in any of the work I have created, she is bound to find it and send it to the recycle bin!

What are your favorite glazes?
I use commercial Cone 4-6 glazes for my work (over 2230 degrees F).
My favorite glaze totally depends on the piece I am working on.
I really have a thing for oxides under a translucent glaze right now, and rustic matte glazes. But I'll try just about anything and see how it works on my clay.

What are your favorite themes or design inspirations?
I really enjoy nature themes.
Not just the obvious ones, but the patterns found in nature.
Looking at things close up and seeing the beauty in the crevices and small areas that can easily be overlooked.
And Color. Give me color!!!
Marsha Neal Studio Textured Disc Beads
Who do you admire in your field and why?
In the bead world, I will always be thankful to Joan Miller and Melanie Brooks for showing me the ropes with being a ceramic bead maker and trying to make a living through selling beads through bead shows (before this thing called the internet!).
They both let me "help" them in their booths at various shows and would explain the way they did their business to me.
That and their talent as professional bead makers - just amazes me.
And to a man that worked at Canadian book publishing booth at my very first bead show (Bead Fest Philly) that was kind enough to critique my booth and give me a ton of pointers on how to improve my set up and sell my work.
I wish I knew his name.

What are your favorite tools and equipment?
I love my North Star Slab roller. I love my kilns. My bead trees. My Kemper Wire. My glazes and my brushes. I have a ton of tools for doing all kinds of things in my studio - so my favorite really depends on what I am working on at the time. 
Hands down - my slab roller though. Love it!!! 

Any advice for newbies?
Be inspired. Be sharing. Be inspiring. Be observing.
Be thoughtful of others work. Find your own voice. Keep your hands in clay.
Be a supportive part of our handmade clay bead community.
Don't get discouraged. Think things through. Experiment. Take notes.
Don't think you are the first to do anything in clay.
People have been making clay beads way longer than any of us.
Enjoy your work. Fire things that are worth firing. Recycle the rest.
Love your work. Treasure your friends.
And remember practice Safety in your studio.
Take classes and learn all that you can before jumping into clay.
Remember that raw clay and glazes contain colorants and materials that can effect you physically (silica dust, colorants that can cause cancer, etc). 
Fumes from various firings can be toxic.
There is a lot more to it than just reading a label (see below for an example).
Getting down off my soap box about safety now...

Here is where you can find Marsha's work:


  1. Wonderful post - thanks for letting us into your world, Marsha!

  2. What an amazing post!!!! I fell in love with your work online when I was first introduced to clay then I had the priviledge of seeing it at Beadfest and snagging my a couple of pieces. I can't even descrobe how much I love it!!! And meeting you inperson was icing I will treasure forever!!!

    1. Thanks Kristen! It was great to meet you at Bead Fest too! I think I spent the entire time talking to people and not shopping - lol...

  3. Great post. I love Marsha's beads & pendants and have some on my work table right now! I especially enjoy having a "behind the scenes" peek at clay bead making, since I am not a ceramic artist myself.

    1. Thanks Linda! I love having the opportunity to see my work become so much more once it gets into the hands of talented jewelry designers such as yourself :)

  4. Absolutely a great post! You and your beads are inspiring!

    1. Thanks Marti! It's great being in this group with you and seeing your work grown and change and your artistic side and life passion really start to shine through your work :)

  5. Very enjoyable to learn more about your work process Marsha. That's awesome your kids have a place to create in your studio. Loved the Advice for Newbies. Good reminders for all of us.

    1. Aw - Thanks Lisa! I love having them down there with me. Although I don't get much of my work done as if I were alone, it's great to be able to see the value in investing my time into them (I think the world will get a better return on having kids like them in the world). I cannot wait to see who they grow up to be & look forward to soaking in as much as possible along the way :)

  6. Loved learning more about your creative process Marsha! Your work is really fantastic and it is fun to learn about the process behind it.

    1. Thanks Kathleen! It has been great getting to know you a little more as we have communicated online! It's wonderful that we can all feed each others creativity isn't it??? :)

  7. Marsha what a wonderful interview. You have been such an inspiring influence for the ceramic bead community. It is great to get this look into your process and philosophy. Love all your advice for newbies and oldies,as well. Your beads and colors are gorgeous.

    1. Aw. Thanks Mary. You make me blush (I love being part of such a supportive positive clay community - which includes people like you :)... There is always room to grow and learn - and do it again... Look forward to continuing to work along side you with all these clay ventures from our distance apart :)

  8. Awesome post! And I just got some of those O-patterned pieces the other day!

    1. Thanks Lori! I love that you really liked the piece and look forward to seeing what you create with it (I am trying to be better with blog commenting - and still have to hit up a ton of posts from the last bead soup ~ how did it get to be the end of November already???) :)

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  10. loved getting a peak into your studio !

    1. Thanks!!! I LOVE seeing your creative area too (such a different set up and physical environment, but working with clay ties us all together in so many ways...) :)


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