Becoming an Artist

Finding My Calling

As an artist, I've explored a wide variety of mediums as I've searched for the perfect vehicle to share my passion for animals and nature. I finally found my "calling" in clay!

Born in Scotland to an architect dad and an artistic social researcher mum, I grew up in a household busy with projects. 

Our family followed my dad’s career as he designed new towns, and moved southward to outer London, via Coventry and Nottingham. It was there that my love of bird watching began, as I adored watching the woodpeckers, and little birds pecking at the ball of suet and bacon rinds hung on the branches.

I discovered my first little cluster of mini pots while nosing through antique shops, looking for treasures near Hampton Court, by the Thames.

Then came our move to the States — intended only for a year in the mid '60s — and we are still here!

We initially lived in Maryland, outside DC, where I was really disappointed not to find the Wild West that I had been expecting. 

It was a visit to Williamsburg which finally connected with me. I felt completely at home in the company of crafts people and artisans. The straightforward machinery, the leatherwork, the clothing, the candles dipped in wax provided by a bee colony, the baskets woven from strips of local birch, the clay vessels — all produced by hand, focused on utility, each piece carrying the maker’s fingerprint.

It was during early high school that I developed a blood disease, being studied at NIH.  I became part of the study, and stayed a couple of months in the hospital, where I discovered the occupational therapy room.  I zoned in on the leather area, where I learned how to tool western-style, producing belts, and wallets, and coasters.  Heaven!    

In 1969 I visited San Francisco, and found another haven of artisans. Wearing one of my own shirt designs, I was offered money for it! 

In school, I seemed to gravitate towards science, and later went on to earn a zoology degree from UCLA

I won a summer scholarship to work at the National Zoo pathology lab, and I continued there after school and through the next summer, spending my lunch breaks watching the gibbons, the gnus, the tourists, and the birds, of course.

Looking back, it seems perfectly obvious that it was the aesthetic element of science that attracted me.   The sciences are endlessly intriguing, from the micro to the macro and the juxtaposition of the two. My early struggles with chemistry paid off as a foundation for working with clay and glazes, and field courses provided a good balance for the pulls in my interests. 

Several years later, in the early 80s, I "retired" from working at the the university (growing heart cells and illustrating publications on the side) to follow my own heart, starting with a trip across country, camping, canoeing and visiting Shaker centers.  There I happened upon an artisan weekend at the Round Stone Shaker barn in Massachusetts.  I returned to California to make reproductions of traditional Shaker designs, and to start a business building furniture and landscape structures. 

During this time, I discovered the El Camino College ceramics department, and my love of clay blossomed during evening courses. The rest, as they say, is history!

Making and Teaching

Today, I live in the Santa Monica Mountains, creating art and teaching clay classes, on the land that my former husband and I developed over 20 years ago using passive solar guidelines. Working with friends and a divining rod to locate water, we settled into the chaparral.

Our kids grew up familiar with the local creatures and plants, and respecting the strength of the nature around us. Coyotes still bed down in the brush nearby and torment our dogs, as they reach high into the fruit trees at night for the just-ripening apricots, peaches, apples. They leave behind "evidence" that they also raid the prickly pear cactus, spines and all!  Always with an eye on the chicken coop, they make the most of unlatched gates — wily creatures!

A favorite bobcat visits every so often, quite calmly ambling along its path, sitting under a sycamore, seeming to gaze at the view. A road runner, horny toad, quail, skink, phoebe reveal themselves in their own ways, providing inspiration for clay doodles and masterpieces alike.

It's this beautiful natural environment that I incorporate into my work, and my classes.

Looking Forward

I find new materials and inspiration everywhere I look, collecting odds/ends for future use, including abandoned nests, corks, keys, pods, shavings, wool, feathers, rocks, bones and skulls and the many treasures that animals and plants leave for me.

Although I never attended an art school, I recognize the value of my evolution as an artist extracted from the university of life. In the pottery studio, science and art live happily side by side as they morph mysteriously into pieces emerging from the kiln. 


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