One of the things I love the most about handmade objects and art is how they can make you feel. There’s a feeling of awe I get when I’m looking at something so beautiful, so intricate, or so powerful…and I marvel at the talent and skill that goes into it. But some of my favorite handmade pieces are things that make you smile…and yes sometimes makes you laugh.
Ceramic artist Julie Turner of Suburban Cowgirl Clay creates lots of smiles with her colorful and often whimsical work. From colorful ceramic bowls, plates, magnets and other objects, she injects humor and her own childhood memories into the pieces she creates. I caught up with her to learn more about her artistic journey.
1. How did you get started with your art?
Well, according to my mama, I was born with a paintbrush in my hand 😉 — but seriously, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t craft. I have tried many different mediums but fell in love with clay many years ago. I live in a part of the country where there is a lot of pottery – mostly wheel thrown work & while I like that, when I decided to start selling my work I wanted to do something different. Something I didn’t see over & over in dozens of booths at every art/craft fair I attended. My love of words combined with a southwestern vibe is where the clay took me. Many of my pieces are stamped with words that I heard many times in my childhood & that I hope resonate with others.
2. Tell us about a typical day in your studio.
My studio is in my home so the commute is pretty easy! I really don’t have a set schedule as to which days are the clay side or the glaze side & some days are both depending on what I am working on. Today, for instance, I loaded a bisque kiln & then finished up the next batch that will be bisque fired in a day or so. Now I am getting ready to start the decoration/glaze part of the pieces I bisque fired last week. I have a fairly large wholesale order in the works so it’s a pretty quick pace this week.
3. What most inspires your work?
Humor. Colorful surroundings. Family. Love of words. Black & white motifs. I love listening to the hum of conversation – you never know what little gem you might pick up. The speech patterns in the south always inspire & amuse me. I find myself saying all the same things my mama said that I swore would never come out of my mouth!
4. You’ve posted quite a few custom orders on your Instagram profile. Which custom job have been the most memorable?
I am always happy to put whatever words someone wants on a piece; sometimes it’s funny, sometimes sentimental, sometimes naughty! But I have been honored to be a part of many birthdays, weddings, new homes, Christmases, anything celebrated. There are so many but one sticks with me: I had a young woman who contacted me wanting something special for her Grandmother. It was going to be the first Christmas since her Grandfather had passed & she wanted a bowl that said ‘pennies from heaven’ because each time her Grandma found a penny she was convinced it was her late husband sending her a little love. When she left feedback she said her Grandma ‘already had a bowl full of love’. :’)
5. One of the most interesting things on your Instagram feed are photos of your works in progress. What’s your favorite aspect of your creative process?
I have found that showing a work in progress gives the non-crafter an idea of how it comes to be. Because there’s someone asking if I can make this or that & oh by the way can I have it tomorrow? It’s a process that not everyone understands & there is a lot of time involved in making each piece. I love the rolling out of the slab of clay…it just holds so much promise. Bowl? Plate? Special Order on my ‘cut list’ or replenishing my etsy shop? I love when the piece is dry enough to go after it with the letter stamps. And, of course, opening the kiln after a glaze fire – it’s like Christmas morning every time.
6. What do you love the most about your creative business?
Exactly that: the creative process. There is nothing better than seeing what was in my head is now something I am holding in my hand.
7. Are there any difficulties that you have to overcome to make your business work?
My lack of computer skills. My least fav thing is doing listings online. It just feels like time away from the clay! But it’s a necessary evil, I guess!
The only other issue was kiln related – I was working in a studio where I could use the equipment for firings. It became a huge headache so I decided to bet on myself & invested in a kiln. Happily, business has been successful enough that a second kiln has joined the family.
8. Where do you see yourself going with your business in the future?
I’d like to start doing art/craft fairs. I have been in production with some new ideas & getting to the point where I feel I have enough work to fill a booth. It’s a little scary but I love people & their stories & to put a face with someone purchasing my work would be icing on the cake!
Remember that May’s giveaway item is one of Suburban Cowgirl Clay’s handmade “Be Happy” ceramic bowl. Here’s how you can enter the drawing:
1. Join my email list by filling out the form below. Members of my email list are automatically entered into each month’s giveaway. You’ll also receive a free goodie as a thank you gift as soon as you sign up!
2. The drawing for this month’s winner will take place on May 26th at 6pm (EST), so keep an eye on your email inbox. The lucky winner will receive an email after 6pm (EST). Good luck!