Arts Editor’s Note: This occasional column, presented in partnership with Vashon Island Visual Artists (ViVA) re-introduces islanders to old and new friends in Vashon’s vibrant arts community. This week, we hear from ceramic artist Jane Neubauer, in her own words, about her life’s journey and how she has found fulfillment in working with clay.
In 1997, while driving a dirt road through the forest to look at a house, I knew this would be my new home.
I wanted a place to retreat, rest, and set up a leadership and coaching business. I had just moved from London, where I studied at the Institute for Art in Education and Therapy that focused on “using the creative imagination for a more fulfilling life.” I began to build creative imagination into my coaching work and yearned for an expression of my own creativity. An astrologer in London advised that painting was too calm for me. I should try sculpting or clay work.
Perhaps it was this foretelling that led me to a Liz Lewis clay class shortly after arriving on Vashon. I also joined the Land Trust citizen science project counting salmon in Shinglemill Creek. Creativity and the ecological world would evolve as my focus points in this new Northwest life.
Eventually, I joined the pottery co-op at Beall Greenhouses and formed “The Mud Mamas” with two other local potters. I studied with master potters from Mexico, Alaska and Korea. Inspired by indigenous ceramics, I traveled to the Southwest, Mexico, and Peru to experience the real thing in cultural context.
My clay work focuses on hand-building: slab vases, pinch pots, talking pieces, spirit animals and wall sculptures. Tending toward the primitive, I use stain or add multiple clay colors for effect. Natures elements are often included in the design. Pressing a slab of clay into tree bark allows access to the energy of the tree as well as the imprint.
The astrologer was right: working in clay energizes me. It makes me laugh. It’s like being in kindergarten. I love the feel of the mud in my hands. Best of all, there’s a magical moment when the object comes alive.
For more information on Neubauer and other local artists, visit vivartists.com. The work of 100 ViVA members is currently on display, throughout October, in the organization’s third annual member’s show at Vashon Center for the Arts. The exhibit at VCA is open to the public, with strict COVID protocols in place including mandatory masking and social distancing, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through Oct. 31.