Thursday, June 30, 2016

Donna S. Wallace, Clay & Jewelry Artist, Tells Her Story

My name is Donna S. Wallace and I am an artist, dreamer and creator of Dream Sister Studio. I have loved art since childhood, and have fond memories of visiting the National Gallery of Art on field trips in school. I wanted to surround myself in art, dance in the fountains and beautiful gardens, and then wish for everything to come alive!

Magic exists in nature. I have always been drawn into the mystical realms of the natural world. It speaks to me. Everything in nature is a work of art, waiting to be replicated in some form, speaking to those who will listen. I listen. I have been fascinated with stones, crystals, anything sparkly and making mudpies since childhood.

Discovering sculpture in high school was amazing for me. In a world where I never quite fit in, there is solace in creating art with clay - in becoming one with the earth. Time stands still.

I went on to art school at Virginia Commonwealth University and loved it. However, my boyfriend didn't like my being away from home so he monopolized all of my weekends and I couldn't keep up with the assignments. To save myself, I changed my major... and my boyfriend! Thoughts of saving the world preceded the humiliation of giving up on being a famous sculptor. Sigh, my biggest regret is not continuing on in art school.

I have worked many jobs over many years, only to discover that all I have ever wanted to do in this life is create art. When I started making jewelry I used clay, stones and natural objects. They were put together as talismans, medicine shields, or simply to bring healing energy to others. 

I used Reiki energy to infuse each piece, then hand-painted or carved small pieces of clay and assembled them as pendants, pins or earrings. They took many hours and many stages of producing, while like so many of us, I worked full-time to follow my spiritual journey.

In the mid 90's my right retina detached, making it difficult to see details when painting jewelry so I had to put that aside for several years. However, my calling to work with clay was always there, so I decided to create larger pieces for wall hangings that represented nature. I am constantly inspired by the intricate beauty of leaves, trees, dragonflies, the way sea shells weather and how rocks sit as sentinels with all their ancient wisdom. The earth is a huge shopping center with infinite possibilities.

I created Dream Sister Studio to represent all the sisters throughout every culture. They inspire us to dance to our own music, have faith in our purpose and know that each small kindness can change the world. That is why I create art – to inspire others and share my love of earth's natural and spiritual realms.

My eyesight is much better now and I create my jewelry with gemstones, crystal, glass and wire. Each stone has its own properties and is twisted with purpose, to work in harmony while melding colors to evoke a healing experience for the wearer. I have studied these properties, as well as energy healing, for many years.

My dream is to have a larger studio and expand my clay work to stoneware. I would love to create larger, more sculptural pieces (in a bigger house with a bigger kiln). My vision is huge and amazing and I am only limited by space and time. I hope to take more classes soon in ceramics, metal clay and design.

I will continue to create ceramic art and gemstone jewelry for healing and inspiration and am thinking of teaching or creating a movement to use art for self-actualization.

In the meantime...blessings to all on their creative journeys! Dream sister .... dream.

This is Week 25 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Donna’s story today! To see more of her work, visit the wonderful boutique, On the Wings of Dreams in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, or email her at either of the following emails:,

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shiloh Gastello, Clay Sculptor, Tells His Story

“It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
 Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures In Wonderland)

My work is inspired by the ephemeral nature of the human body and the instability of memory. Memory is vast and incalculable, prone to doing whatever it wants. Even mundane associations can become important moments when recalled through the lens of memory. Recollection of events and things in our lives can become fragile with time, slowly changing until they no longer resemble their original context.

Harbinger of Hope Series, dimensions from left – 24” tall to 10” tall, wheel-thrown stoneware, iron saturate glazes

The influence of the Arts have allowed me to forge new memories and shape my identity. I began as a painter in 2005, taking classes in my late teens at San Joaquin Delta College in my hometown of Stockton, California. I also took classes in drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. Sculpture became my main focus, as it allowed me to physically wrestle with the materials of clay, metal, and stone to record the imprint of my emotions directly. Realizing that I had found a means of expressing myself and discovering my identity through art, I decided to earn my Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of the Pacific in 3D Media. In 3D Studio Art classes, I discovered functional pottery. I was amazed to learn that there was a platform where I could combine my love of painting, sculpting, and my growing appreciation for making functional vessels! After earning my Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Media in 2011, I was excited to expand my knowledge of ceramics and gain a deeper understanding of the medium.

Continuum, ea approx 14” x 5” x 13”, wheel-thrown stoneware, black & white slip

Although I had never lived outside of California, the generosity that I had witnessed in the ceramics community stirred my passion for clay, resulting in my urge to travel and gain more knowledge. I began searching for residencies and assistantships nationally and found a six-month Production Pottery Studio Assistantship at Terra Cottage Ceramics in Paducah, Kentucky in 2013. The artist community in Lowerown Paducah was vibrant and diverse. During my time there, I learned techniques in printmaking, painting, sculpture, and ceramics. More importantly, through the rigor of being a studio assistant, I developed a strong work ethic and a new appreciation for the technical possibilities that clay had to offer. My mentor, Michael Terra, a masterful sculptor and potter, spent months helping me to hone the new skills that I was learning.

A cart full of tumblers made over the course of 2 days during my 6 month assistantship

I was able to accompany Michael to National Art Festivals and NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) to gain a deeper appreciation of Business Administration in the Arts, including how to discuss art with customers and fellow artists alike. I learned how to run a successful gallery while making thousands of pieces, including how to ship them nationwide. I taught classes on glazing ceramics, and was even able to assist in the communal production of over 1,500 bowls for the Paducah Empty Bowls Project Fundraiser for a local soup kitchen. Michael gave me the tools to grow independently as an artist, and I learned skills that will serve me throughout my life. I left Paducah with valuable and cherished friendships and an increased appreciation for the power of the arts.

 ½ of the bowls the Paducah community made for the Empty Bowls Project

After my adventures in Paducah, Kentucky, I sought a return to academia to gain more knowledge in the Arts. This goal led me to the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, OR, where I earned my Post-baccalaureate in 2014 and my MFA In Craft in 2016. During this time, I took advantage of the opportunity to attend residencies at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine and Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado. Travel provided me with the time to contemplate on the valuable relationships I was building with the wonderful people I met at these residencies. I treasure those memories.

Rock & Crag Ware Yunomi, ea approx 4” x 3” x 3.75”, hand-built, rock-formed bare porcelain exterior,
satin-matte glaze interior

Working with so many talented artists engrained in me a love of collecting a diverse array of artwork. I often traded my wares for various art objects and mementos that my national art family made, which helped me to better appreciate their impact on my artistic development. It was at this time that I became enamored by the manner in which objects find their way into our lives and accumulate meaning over time. Even simple and seemingly mundane objects develop a rich patina of experience, becoming wellsprings of memory, and symbols of relationships.

Contemporary Fine Mingei, 10” x 14” x 5”, slab-built, hand-pinched porcelain, satin-matte glaze

Upon returning from my residency in Colorado, I focused my thesis body of work on locating the emotional value of seemingly mundane objects from my past that carried strong positive and negative associations to me personally. More specifically, I began recording an object's form by covering it in a blank canvas of porcelain to remove the visual associations of the object's previous history. I then fired the original object in the kiln to preserve it in porcelain. The loss of the original object illustrates how the function of memory vacillates between clarity and ambiguity, freedom and preservation.

By burning out objects in the kiln and then preserving their form in shells of porcelain, I learned that I was transferring and releasing my negative associations into the work itself. Simultaneously, I was also preserving the positive associations that I had with the objects. I discovered that through the act of releasing objects through fire, I was releasing my own negative associations with those objects and replacing them with fresh associations. Burning out objects served as a way to acknowledge that I had learned from an experience so that I could move forward and build new ones.

If You Don't Know Where You're Going...Any Road Will Get You There, 8” x 10', slab-built porcelain

Upon concluding Graduate School, I was reminded of my favorite childhood book Alice's Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Young Alice finds herself in a place where all aspects of proper decorum are turned upside down, causing her to respond emotionally or intuitively. It is only when Alice rejects approved social behaviors that she can move beyond her own pre-conceived barriers. I saw Alice's adventures as a journey of learning to respond more presently to situations. I was inspired by the manner in which she learned to look inward for her answers, reacting to situations intuitively and with an assured sense of self, even after returning to the waking world.

Alice learned to respond without allowing herself to be held back by her own negative associations with those around her. The burned-out porcelain remnants carry the ability to serve as a means of remembrance to learn from the past. Inspired by this revelation, I am reminded to cherish lived experience, learn from my own mistakes, and in the end, move forward with renewed affirmation of self.

Degradation: Symbolic Gestures, 12” x 24” x 10”, hand-built, hand-pinched porcelain, satin-matte clear glaze

This is Week 24 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Shiloh’s story today. To connect with him and see more of his work, please use the following links:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mei Mei Chang, Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

As an artist, I’ve always been drawn into the depth and the mysterious side of the psyche. This is the source of my art and I can only express it in a language that transcends words.
Through my work, I have always translated the topographical maps of the mind onto multilayered and patterned surfaces. 

Growing up in Taiwan, studying visual art and photography at Ohio University, and working at various locations and in diverse contexts across the US has led to my personal internal landscape’s taking on its own appearances, colors, attractions, and distractions, all of which have culminated in the work that I do here in Takoma Park, Maryland. 

Among the many symbols in my mind is the awareness of similarities and differences between Eastern and Western cultures. There are connections between internal symbols and connections which stretch out to the external. I believe that there is as much to uncover beneath the surface as to discover on the surface. Our minds occupy a space between the conscious and the subconscious. My work encompasses what is beneath the awareness of consciousness and beyond the passive knowing of subconsciousness and brings it to life.

Another aspect of the human mind that I explore is its freedom from the boundaries of macro and micro scales and its power of infinitesimal infinitude. My work is a place for the mind to move without limits, from the work as a whole down through layers of ever more granular complexity.

This is Week 23 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Mei Mei's story today.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Nancy Curry, Paper & Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

I grew up believing I was an artist, an inventor, a “creative” and that I had the world by the tail in these areas. To be honest, I was a product of parents who suddenly had a child way after they expected, so they kept me fairly busy finding my niche. By the time I was twelve I’d immersed or dabbled (depending on skill set) in baton twirling, ballet, piano, clarinet, trumpet, swimming, basketball, softball, and took weekly art lessons every Saturday during the school year. I relished those art classes and learned to work in many different mediums. Then we moved and IT happened. I took my first and last school-based art class in eighth grade. Our grade was solely based on a creative project regarding an ad. After much work and detail, mine received a C with no remarks, no red comments, and no acknowledgement that she’d even looked at any part of it. 

“Every Child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Topsy & Turvy 30" x 30" acrylic ink and paint

I walked away from the art I knew for years, but the creative in me found other ways to have an outlet in the forms of poetry, needlework and calligraphy. Fast forward to the 90s when paper crafting and stamp art were kings and I put my big toe in once again. For me, combining color, texture, and motifs without fear of representational art rejection was freeing. I was mentored and encouraged by some of the biggest names in the industry until I was ready to fly by my own wings.My workshop career blossomed, a book deal was signed and I continued to hone my techniques and define “my” style.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ~ Thomas Merton

Concerto  12" x 12" birch deep cradle  watermedia, metal powder, fibers, beads

Years went by and my options widened significantly, but my choices were rather selfish in nature. My “why” is wrapped up in where I’ve been and who I’m still becoming. Art has been transformative and where I’ve found passion and a sense of self I didn’t know existed. Those early days when I found my art voice again are never far from my thoughts. There was pep in my step and a seemingly endless enthusiasm for possibility. I couldn’t wait to have time to play. What excites me the most now is seeing those moments in others when I teach workshops around the country. That look of wonderment and the sounds of whispered giggles as they play with new techniques is intoxicating. I adore that moment of their discovery or rediscovery of their own possibility, the quick relationships that develop while barriers are down, and the knowledge that I’ve planted some empowering seeds in a world where judgment and shaming abound. Afterwards, I’m always renewed and ready to go back to my studio playground. 

Faith  5" x 7"  mixed media

“People need a powerful why if they are going to be able to endure any how.” ~ David Brooks

Tuscan Interlude  30" x 12"  acrylic ink & paint, India ink & dip pen

I will continue to teach and nurture others, but these days I am also using my art to take a look inward and to let my creative voice come to the surface. To that end and to keep things fresh for me, I’ve gone in some new directions in my art. I’ve returned to painting after the long respite and am enjoying using watermedia in an illustrative, whimsical style. It allows me to break some rules and once I put on my big girl panties and saw that my imperfect style and quirky imagination could be a strength, it’s been a lot of fun and almost meditative in nature. When I’m up for a challenge, my newest obsession has been manipulating and upcycling old magazine art. Depending on the original colors on the page, each initial manipulation will produce a unique abstract outcome that I can choose to leave more organic or bring in a traditional or whimsical element for juxtaposition. I can get lost for days in my studio working on these and they all have a different vibe based on what I am feeling and how deep the questions are that I asked myself that day. I’m a work in progress so the questions change daily as I peel back my own layers ... and that’s where the magic is.

Bloom 7" x 5"  mixed media  

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”  ~Zora Neale Hurston

Open House  6" x 12" acrylic ink and paint, India ink and dip pen

This is Week 22 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Nancy's story today. To see more of Nancy's work, please connect with her at the following links: