Recently returned to Oregon a few years ago, Lisa Clapp decided to pursue her lifelong love of art with some pottery classes. She found the work "totally addictive," and before long had acquired her own wheel and kiln.
But the former teacher, extension agent and newspaper editor assistant had never considered making it more than a hobby until others suggested she enter some of her pieces in a student art sale. The proceeds from the pieces she sold covered that semester's entire tuition.
Now Clapp produces and sells her work out of her own studio, Emberwind.
The New York native spent many years in the Willamette Valley before her husband's work took the pair to Colorado. Three years ago they returned to Oregon and decided to make Clatsop County their home, and found a 43-acre spread between Elsie and Jewell. The North Coast climate, is much more to her liking, both the weather and socially and politically.
An avid gardener, Clapp finds pottery has its own special connection to the earth that appeals to her, "working with the earth and being able to form it into your own vision."
Clay offers so many ways to work with color, texture and shape, she said. It's also an unforgiving medium that offers many ways to mess up.
"It's the balance between control and the total lack of it," she said.
Aside from crafting the clay itself, there is the firing, the glazing and other steps that provide many opportunities to turn a potential work of art into a reject. The glaze, for example, can bubble, run, shatter "or just be plain ugly.
"There are so many times in the process something can go wrong," she said.
While she makes decorative items, or "oddments," as she calls them, most of her pieces tend toward the functional, such as plates, vases and cooking dishes.
"To me a mug can be more intimate than a sculpture of an animal," she said.
Clapp sells her work out of her own home studio, and in galleries in Astoria and Cannon Beach. She also shows in various sales and exhibitions around the Northwest, including an upcoming show in Beaverton.
"I'm like the typical artist - good at making, not so good at marketing, so here I am."
"Here" is Broadway Elementary School in Seaside, where she works as a substitute teacher and is filling in for a science instructor for the semester. She also subs at Jewell School.
The daughter of two teacher parents, Clapp taught middle school in Eugene for six years before her frustrations with the school administration led her to quit.
She's found the environment at Broadway and Jewell more supportive and the staff "wonderful."
"This is an incredibly tough profession," she said. "It's nice to go home, throw some pots, and relieve the tension and mellow out," she said.
Clapp enjoys being a part of the North Coast's vibrant arts scene, and applauds local art galleries for their strong support for local artists like herself.
"The local galleries have been incredibly gracious and welcoming," she said. "You don't find any snootiness - they look at your work for what it is."
People can learn more about her studio, view some of her work and find out about upcoming shows at her Web site, www.emberwind.com
- Tom Bennett