I came across Kaleigh on Instagram and was instantly captivated by her raw but beautiful, intuitive but skillful ceramic designs. Her work recalls that magical feeling I remember as a child, picking up a leaf and holding it in my hands, fascinated by nature in a way that adults tend to grow to ignore. But there’s nothing childish about the skill and artistic choices that Kaleigh makes in her art!
Kaleigh grew up in Lufkin, Texas, a small town about 2 1/2 hours northeast of Houston. She says,
”For as long as I can remember I have loved making things and creative problem solving. I was quite the little entrepreneur – I crocheted scarves, made hair bows, beaded bracelets and proceeded to sell them to anyone in proximity. I think the moment making went from a hobby to a necessity was when my therapist had me draw after losing my dad at age 6. Drawing and painting became woven into the fibers of my identity.
In highschool I had an amazing teacher, Ellen Harris, who metaphorically shook me and said "It's okay to make a career of art, if you love it you can make it happen". That was the moment I decided to take this integral part of myself and make it my life's mission.”
Kaleigh got her start as an artist in painting (you can still see some of her beautiful oil paintings if you follow her on social media or visit her website), majoring in painting and drawing at Stephen F. Austin State University. But about a year ago, she found clay. Or, rather, her best friend, Jackie, found it for her with the gift of a 25 lb bag of clay and tools. She says, “I put my hands in the dirt and came alive with this new found art form.”
Those special moments of really noticing and connecting with nature is evident in Kaleigh’s work. “My paintings, as well as my ceramic designs, are my way of connecting myself to the things around me, a grounding mechanism if you will.
I see the world in a series of inspirational moments – captured by the texture and color in nature. I take a drive and wonder what colors I would mix to paint the passing trees. I walk the beach and consider the way I would make a barnacle I found from clay. The work I create is my way of reliving those moments and how I felt – and possibly inspire others to take notice of theirs as well.”
I will admit that I was pretty much clueless about the full process that went into ceramics! I knew it took a while, but I was fascinated by what Kaleigh shared!
”With all of my ceramic work being hand built I begin most pieces with a chunk of clay formed into a ball. At that point I pinch it into a simple cup form and go from there, adding layers for more height or varying shapes. Once I've made the clay into the form I want, I carve designs or pinch nature inspired embellishments to add to the piece. A few weeks later, once completely dry, I'll fire the work in my kiln and paint it with glaze- which I then fire again to a hotter temperature! Lastly, if there are any gold accents I will glaze them as well and put them back into the kiln for a third firing.
My favorite part being the sculpting process, I love to Netflix and pinch!”
Artist life isn’t just about the creative process, however. Kaleigh says, ”The life of an artist isn't always the glamorous window one peers into on a social media page. It can be frustrating and disheartening at times. I have been so blessed to have an amazingly supportive group of friends and family behind the scenes uplifting me everyday. Most of all my husband and my parents.
I'll share a text I received from my dad just the other day –
"Love you bunches! I am so proud of you for doing what you want to do and sticking to your guns even in the face of adversity."