During her childhood, Lucy Clark spent nine years living in the mountains of West Virginia. From a very early age, she adored hiking in the woods and digging in the dirt. “We had 25 acres, as well as thousands of acres that surrounded our home, to get dirty and be adventurous,” said Clark, who now lives in Transylvania County and is a renowned artist working in clay and other media.
“My mother, who was a master tailor, would spend countless hours in the basement sewing,” Clark said. “Her obsession with her craft was hard to bear as a child, but, as an adult, I understand why she was so passionate about creating. She made all of mine and my siblings’ clothes until I was 13. Although I loved it, my fondest wish at the time was to own a pair of store bought jeans.”
The family later moved to Iowa and then Jacksonville, Fla., where Clark graduated in 1980. Before turning to clay, Clark explored interests in creative dance, Feng Shui — the art of placement within a home or office — and went to massage school in her 20s and had a solo practice for more than 27 years.
“In a very real, subtle and profound way, massage and clay are very similar,” Clark said. “In both, I am simply working to smooth out the rough spots. There is a definite commitment to fluidity in all that I do. There are too many sharp angles in this world – my vision is to soften and round things out. My earliest influences of my work were Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams.”
About 10 years ago, Clark took a few wheel-throwing classes.
“I thought I could be good since my hands were so strong and sensitive,” she said. “I was awful. I walked out of those classes so disappointed and thought I would never touch clay again. One of my friends, who is a master hand-build potter, suggested I take a few classes from him to see if hand building would be any different. His name is Worley Faver. He lives in Palm Valley, Fla. After the first class, I was transfixed. After taking three classes from him, I set about creating vessels. I coil build each piece from low-fire earthenware clay. I then carve and burnish my work with a quartz stone to get a beautiful natural sheen. These methods are from the Pueblo potters in New Mexico, notably, Maria Martinez of the San Ildefonso Pueblo. I low-fire my work and pull each piece when the temperature drops to about 1,100 degrees and place them in either sawdust or horsehair for the finished effect.”
Clark said she has been “playing around” with using natural clay pigment she dug up in New Mexico, and using them after firing, as well as mixed metal leaf and mixed media such as wire mesh screen and copper, to achieve even more movement and fluidity in her finished work. “I have also branched out into jewelry, making ceramic pendants and adding different stones to make statement pieces,” she said. “Wall sculptures have entered the picture, as well, in the past few years.”
Clark said she never knows where each piece “comes from or what direction it will take.” “When I create, no matter where I am, I am totally committed to the process,” she said. “Since I hand build, each piece can take anywhere from 10-40 hours to complete. I am currently working on a wall sculpture that is pushing 50 hours. But, for me, that doesn’t really matter. What matters to me is that it is beautiful. I guess that’s really my intention with my work – just to create something beautiful.”
Clark and her husband, Bob, started visiting western North Carolina about 25 years ago. “I had a client who owned a home close to Brevard and offered to let us stay there for a few days,” she said. “The night we drove in, it was incredibly foggy and we couldn’t see anything. The next morning, I stepped out onto their porch and immediately my eyes filled with tears. I felt I was home for the first time since leaving the mountains of West Virginia. We began to visit the area five to six times a year, eventually buying a small home in Cedar Mountain. Finally, after lots of stops and starts, we permanently relocated to the area at the end of 2014.”
Of the local art scene, Clark refers to Brevard as “the kinder, gentler Asheville.” “What I mean by that is that Brevard has so many things to offer – working artist studios, art cooperatives, a strong arts council, Brevard Music Center, Brevard College, art galleries and places for art/culture workshops, all within a few miles of each other,” she said. “We have so many people who visit our working studio from Greenville, Spartanburg and the surrounding areas who think that our sweet little town is a perfect day trip. They can park easily, walk through our shops, studios and galleries and have some great food and drinks along the way.”
Clark and fellow artist Cathryn Cooper share a space with Trade-Arama at 51 W. Main St. in Brevard. For more information about Clark and where her work may be viewed go to www.Lucyclarkpottery.com.