By Lisa Leavell, Farmers Market Finds Guest Blogger
When I met Maria recently at an Art show in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia it was her unique ceramic creations that caught my eye. It was the bit of whimsy along with themes of nature that I fell in love with. I am usually attracted to color and pattern and though Maria’s work was largely neutrals and black and white, it captured my attention because she was able to render these themes and add a whimsical element that was fun and playful.
I did not have ample opportunity to really get to know Maria that weekend, we only spoke briefly. The crowds of people at an art show sometimes make it difficult to gather information. As an artist she has to be focused on the art show patrons visiting her booth and be ready to engage with them at all times. So I asked Maria if I could send her an email with some questions because I knew she was someone I wanted to feature on Farmers Market Finds “Young Artist Series.”
She responded to my questions with very thorough answers that made me wish I would have asked her to go out to dinner. After reading them, I knew she was someone I would really enjoy getting to know. At 23, Maria has spent her life creating, and confesses that having a mother who is an artist played a huge role in that. In college Maria focused on painting and drawing but then got her start in clay. It was a very new process for her and presented different challenges compared to the 2 dimensional work. After college Maria spent some time traveling and upon returning to VA realized she was really itching to work with clay again. She enrolled in a class at a local art center and shortly after began an apprenticeship with the studio manager. Maria had nothing but good things to say about the community at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond where she learned the ropes. She credits them for encouraging her to enter the market scene. She has been selling art at shows for just under two years and really finds that she enjoys talking to her customers and passersby during a show and has met so many wonderful people in the art community through the show circuit.
When asked where she gets her inspiration from she is happy to say that her travels in nature have been the source for much of her work. The river, flora, fauna, oceans and mountains all inspire her and it is evident in her creations. In fact, in my opinion looking at her ceramics you get an idea of how she sees the world. It was no surprise to me that an ideal day for Maria would be enjoying a really long hike in the mountains and maybe jumping in some swimming holes. She enjoys solitary ventures but says a friend’s company would be great too!
Maria supports herself mainly with income from art shows and farmers markets. However she does maintain a presence in a few shops in the VA area including, DeCOR, Harvest Grocery and Supply and 30’60’90’ Studios in Richmond and Kitsch in Norfolk. Maria also teaches classes and monthly workshops at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. She is working on branching off into other venues but is trying to get her online shop set up first.
I asked Maria about her other creative endeavors and that is when I found out there is not much in the realm of creativity that does not interest her. Butternut Press began as a bookbinding project (hence the press name) and she still takes time to bind books. She enjoys repurposing materials like leather scraps to make functional journals. In the realm of two dimensional she has worked in gouache, watercolors, encaustic, acrylic and oil and though she has not spent much time painting and drawing recently she intends to work on a new series soon. She has just taken up sewing and is super excited about all the new possibilities that medium presents. It seems her only creative struggle at this point is having so many ideas she just doesn’t know where to start!
It occurred to me that this generation of young people have grown up being connected. Cell phones, computers, tablets, all day, all the time, and many of them don’t know how to simply “be.” It seems to me that Maria’s early exposure to creativity as a lifestyle and her commitment to living a creative life have taken her to a place of depth and of knowing herself that is not always common in someone her age. The fact that she is entirely comfortable with solitude and seeks refuge and inspiration from nature makes me think she has a balance in life that many of us could learn from. Her one goal or dream in her life right now would be to continue learning under more established artists’ and develop her voice and craft more so that she could be a more resourceful teacher for her students. My belief is that Maria has so much to offer already that many a student could benefit from being around her in the studio or just in life in general. Teach on Maria, you have so much to offer!