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Heartfelt, Handcrafted: Newtown Potter Throws Herself Into Her Art



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When Marcia Taylor sits at the pottery wheel in her home studio, her view from the large windows overlooks a wooded cliff, where trees and shrubs spill downhill and birds flit from birdhouses to branches. The sounds and sights of nature, from which the Hawleyville artist has always drawn inspiration, surround her. On the wall above the wheel, whether the wheel is spinning or Ms Taylor is seated at her worktable hand crafting and sculpting detail work for her pottery, hangs a sign that reads “Play Dirty.”

Pottery is the means through which Ms Taylor “plays dirty,” and visitors to Art & Frame of Danbury, in the Route 6 Plaza at 60 Newtown Road, can view the results of her dirty play until June 7. Ms Taylor is one of three women featured in “State Of Wonder.” The exhibition also offers paintings by Nancy Moore and fiber art by Ellen Schiffman.

“Even though our works are very different,” said Ms Taylor, “we use colors similarly, and it’s all very organic.”

The organic nature of her pottery pieces — as well as the silversmithing and copper enameling medias in which she made her name in the artistic world years earlier — grow out of Ms Taylor’s earliest experiences growing up in northern New York state. Hours spent outdoors as a young girl, marveling at nature, continued to influence her through her life.

Her first art lessons began when she was in elementary school, and she majored in art in high school. Ms Taylor studied at Syracuse and Hofstra universities, and later at Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan and then Brookfield Craft Center.

As a practical matter, she went into selling insurance to make a living, she said, and did that successfully for 30 years, while art took a backseat.

It was an epiphany, 15 years ago, when her children were grown, that she realized she was in a job that she did not love; lived in a house she did not love; and was living a life she did not love. She took charge, and made huge changes that have led her to the magical life she now enjoys.

“I was lucky I had the ability to make these changes,” said Ms Taylor. “I sold my house in Stamford, and here’s where the miracle starts. I just told my realtor to ‘look north,’ and when I walked into this house in Newtown, I fell in love.”

At the same time, she decided to take a pottery course at Silvermine “and I fell head over heels. I knew I had found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Pottery has been a huge part of redesigning and reviving Marcia,” she said.

Her silver and enamel pieces received a number of awards and are in private and public collections, but it is with pottery that Ms Taylor feels her creativity is fulfilled.

“As a little girl, I loved making mud pies. [With clay], it’s about watching something form with my hands. I can put a lump of clay on a wheel and end up with a pot. What I do in my studio is meditative and serene. It’s a sanctuary,” Ms Taylor said.

Ms Taylor’s pottery, known for its fauna and flora detailing, is at galleries across the United States, including Cassidy Gallery in Jackson, N.H., The Guilded Lynx in Ridgefield, and Jennifer Rutheny Jewelry, her daughter’s shop in Croton-On-Hudson, N.Y.

Animals and reptiles are authentically reproduced in miniature and serve as fragile knobs atop pots of all sizes, many decorated with nature inspired botanicals. Pottery lids are home to birds perched on credibly crafted branches. Lifelike lizards and salamanders crawl across porcelain surfaces, and a delicate dragonfly clings to the perimeter of a clay vase adorned with flowers and leaves. Each creature seems just one step away from life itself.

“Clay lends itself to turtles, lizards, and frogs especially, because they are not furry. Birds, you can texture the feathers, but to give the impression of fur is difficult,” Ms Taylor said.

Many hours are spent producing each unique sculptural piece, from the moment a lump of clay is transformed into the vessel, to the final moments when the hand molded details are attached, sculpted, refined, glazed, and fired in her kiln.

“I do a ton of research on each animal, including photographs. I read all about the animal, and I get extremely involved in how the bodies move, how a lizard might hold on to a branch, that sort of thing,” Ms Taylor said. “Then I go crazy, and put wings on frogs,” she laughed.

Foliage on the pottery is always indigenous to the creature it accompanies.

“The earth on my hands connects my imagination with the myriad magical creatures and plants I have discovered while kayaking or hiking — they come home in my mind and go on a pot,” she explains in her artist’s statement.

The miracle of finding the perfect home did not end with moving into the house. In Newtown, she met the man who is now her fiancé, Chris Cushman. Combining her pottery skills with his wood turning expertise, the two frequently collaborate on pieces. Turned wood bowls topped with her signature pot tops are among the pieces that are on exhibit at Art & Frame.

“I am extremely lucky,” Ms Taylor said, taking in her bright studio and the tools that allow her to turn visions into tangible works of art. “This is a gift from God.”

“State of Wonder” can be viewed during normal store hours at Art & Frame of Danbury, 60 Newtown Road in Danbury. Art & Frame is open Monday through Friday, 10 am to 7 pm; and on Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm. Ms Taylor’s pieces are available for purchase.

To view her portfolio or to contact her about commissioning a piece, visit www.marciataylorpottery.com.

A hand molded armadillo peers over the top of a lid at appliquéd clay roses, each petal individually sculpted. In the background is a wooden bowl made by Ms Taylor’s fiancé, Chris Cushman. The two frequently combine talents in pieces of artwork made of wood and clay.
A gingko leaf, the symbol of everlasting life, is imprinted on each piece Marcia Taylor crafts.       
A miniature rhinoceros rampages across the lid of a hand built pot created by artist Marcia Taylor. The smooth skin of a rhinoceros lends itself nicely to reproduction in clay, says Ms Taylor.                 
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