By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern
“I guess the best way to describe it is it’s very accidental… I’m an accidental artist.”
Equal parts humility and wonder light up Terry Shipley’s face when she begins talking about ceramics, a passion she discovered at age 42. A Community Supported Art participant, she considers herself living proof that it is never too late to embrace something new.
For Shipley, the something new was clay painting which boomed in popularity several years ago. She would spend hours at paint the bisque-ware places until her infatuation was so deep that “friends finally said stop it, go take a class.”
Those classes led to a nine year stint renting space from Clayworks as well as significant time spent at Jewish Community Center workshops. These experiences allowed for intimate clay study devoid of any intimidation. Maybe this is why Shipley speaks so fondly of clay, almost as though it’s an old friend – ceramics are a comfortable, all inclusive medium.
The opportunity to cultivate her relationship with clay on a full-time basis came from the McColl Center for Visual Art’s Artist in Residency program. As an affiliate artist, Shipley had access to a blend of local artists who inspired and challenged.
Now, Shipley has a definitive identity as a ceramics artist, including a wild color palette, the use of flowers, and stacking – most evident in her totem pieces. Conceptually, Shipley focuses on hand-building, a method of working that enables her to connect best with the clay.
“I exclusively hand-build,” she said. “I usually start with a slab construction, flat, and make different forms I can slump clay onto or into.” Even though hand-building comes with a price, (“it’s physically demanding and the repetition can take its toll”) she forges on.
Once she bought herself a kiln, Shipley was an unstoppable clay-working force. She caters primarily to décor and says she would describe herself – her aesthetic – as decorative. This is evident when studying her art. There isn’t a centralized message; the ceramics are simply beautiful testaments to human creativity.
“It’s not social issues,” she said. “I’m not trying to make an important statement. I kind of pursue decorative form. Most engaging about Shipley is her continuing desire to learn. She fosters that desire within herself, improving her painting skills thereby improving her clay-work, and within others. Her wall pieces, featured at the Levine Children’s Hospital, included the ideas of local fifth graders.
“I’m not a teacher but fifth graders are amazing,” she said. “Their enthusiasm is so strong. Little ones, they’re just wide open.”
CSA shareholders will benefit from Shipley’s dedication, receiving a painted vase with a “very lively, fabulous pattern” just in time for spring fauna’s arrival.
Fair warning: Shipley’s joie de vivre is contagious. Meet her and you will be changed, but sit with her for a while and you will realize you have dreams that have lain dormant far too long.