5 minute read

Love of Clay: Madison O'Neal

Love of Clay

Madison O'Neal's art of patiently producing a useful, beautiful object.

"I believe that handmade items can bring beauty to life in small but impactful ways."

Q: How did MADEceramics come to be? Has making pottery always been a passion of yours?

A: I started my journey into ceramics on a whim. I had just moved back to the Central Valley from college and I signed up for a ceramics class along with a couple painting and drawing classes just for fun. I was quickly swept up in the art form, particularly in the process of creating on the potter’s wheel. I was instantly hooked, and took the class as many times as I could. As soon as I had the means, I bought a potter’s wheel and a kiln and set up a home studio for myself. Pottery became a real passion. After many years of creating pieces just for my friends and family, MADEceramics was born.

Q: Do you juggle your business around family or another job? Feel free to share what your day to day is like.

A: I spent many years with one foot in and one foot out of the art business while working a full-time job, squeezing in pottery on weekends and evenings. When the pandemic hit, circumstances in my life allowed me to quit my full-time job and focus my time and energy on MADEceramics. Though it was a hard time to try to grow a business, it allowed me the time and solitude to not only create, but to learn about all the other aspects of running a business selling art. Now I get to make my own hours, I have creative control of every aspect of the business, and I work alone—which, as a self-professed introvert, I really appreciate.

Q: Can you share your pottery-making process?

A: My process of making pottery begins with my favorite part: throwing on the wheel. A shapeless lump of clay can become something tangible. After throwing a piece on the potter’s wheel, it has to dry enough to be flipped over, placed back on the wheel, spun and carved to create a foot on the bottom. Then it can be finished, dried fully, and loaded into the kiln with other pieces for their first firing, called the bisque firing. After a long, slow firing and cooling process, the pieces are unloaded and glazed. Once glazed, cleaned up and dried again, they are loaded back into the kiln for their second, hotter firing, which melts the glaze and fuses it to the clay body. The process is long, and patience is a virtue when it comes to this particular art form.

Q: Are there specific design elements that are signature to your creations?

A: Most common throughout my work are the neutral, earthy color palette and the incorporation of the bare, unglazed clay as a contrast to the glazed surfaces of each piece. I have learned to never create work with the sole intention of catering to another person’s taste. As long as I make pieces that I like and would want in my home, I can always be proud of what I’m creating. I gravitate toward simple, clean shapes and calm, earthy colors—that design element tends to shine through in my work.

Q: What types of pieces do you make and is there a favorite or popular piece?

A: The pieces I make are almost entirely utilitarian. What excites me most is creating something useful. My most popular pieces are those everyday functional items like mugs and my bestselling berry bowls!

Q: What is the most fulfilling part of what you do?

A: I believe wholeheartedly that handmade items can bring beauty to life in small but impactful ways. One of the most fulfilling parts of what I do is meeting people who get just as excited as I do about the simple beauty of a little ceramic object.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

A: I’m just so happy to be a part of this growing arts community in the Central Valley. Things have changed so much in regards to culture and representation here in my lifetime. There is still so much work to be done, but I'm truly inspired by the incredible people in the community who are working hard every day to make this a more diverse, tolerant, better, and more beautiful place to live.

Find MADEceramics at:

madeceramic.com

Arts Visalia

Common Goods, Visalia

Langley Threads, Exeter

Instagram: madeceramics