Charleston Daily Mail - Arts and Entertainment - Fairytale sculpture is the passion of local artist
and here it is:
Thursday September 11, 2008
Fairytale sculpture is the passion of local artist
Woman to sell clay pieces at Mound Festival Saturday
by Monica Orosz
Daily Mail staff
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If a co-worker had decided to take a weaving class, then Mayssan Shora Farra's artistic life may have taken quite a different turn.
Instead, the office manager at her husband's medical practice announced she was going to take a pottery class and invited Farra to join her.
Farra was 50 and after years or helping her husband in his urology practice and raising two children, she was ready for a new adventure.
"I had sent my children to college. Empty nest syndrome does it every time!" she said.
A native of Damascus, Syria, Farra and her husband came to the United States in 1970 and moved to Charleston in 1978.
"I have an architecture degree, but I never used it except when we built our house," she said. Instead, she raised their son and daughter and went to work with her husband.
"I would go in the patient rooms and hold their hands," she said. "I loved it. I loved the people."
But at midlife, she was ready for something else and the pottery class at Garnett Career Center sparked her creative side.
"I had some experience with clay from architecture school because we had to build models," she said. "I just loved the feel of the clay. I just loved the class and I couldn't keep my hands off the clay."
She bought a kiln, a potter's wheel and set up a home studio, turning out bowls and small fountains.
Her first real show was at the Mound Festival, where Farra will return Saturday for its 30th anniversary show. This time she'll come a little wiser and with a cache of items that reflects her now experienced hand with clay. Besides bowls and plates, Farra now makes detailed sculptures and masks.
"The first year, I didn't have a canopy. I didn't have tables. My space was by a hillside, so I laid my bowls and fountains on the ground. It was sunny and hot.
"After that, I learned."
Farra now exhibits and sells items from Gallery Eleven in Charleston, the Huntington Museum of Art and Tamarack. She has a regular circuit of art and craft fairs, including the Capitol City Art & Craft Fair at the Civic Center in the fall.
"I love talking to people - that's why I love doing the craft shows," she said.
Farra took her first stab at figures at the request of a niece.
"She wanted a figure of her and her mommy, so we went into the studio to design it. I realized it's such a neat idea - the clay lends itself to a lot of gestures and movement."
Farra's figures - three women dancing, a snowboarding Santa, two children reading a book, a bride and groom - contain details like strands of hair and textured clothing, but usually no faces. She prefers to capture the emotions in their poses.
There is a fairytale quality to them.
"I think I never lost my childhood imagination," said Farra. "I look out my window every night and say goodnight to the fairies. I see flying bugs and imagine that they are fairies."
The trick to the small and detailed figures is knowing when to work fast and when to slow down, she said.
She starts with rolled slabs that she cuts into shapes and forms into figures. Hair is created through a tool that looks a little like a garlic press.
"You work fast to capture the clay while it is soft," she said. "Then you have to let it slowly dry."
She colors her pieces with stains applied with watercolor brushes because she likes the feeling of painting. A clear glaze provides the shine.
Farra said she's in her studio every day, even if to pop in and look. During the holiday season or now, when she's working on an order of more than 100 pieces for Tamarack, she works five or six hours a day.
Prices generally range from $40 to $250. On occasion, a larger piece might fetch $350.
"I once had a sculpture for $500, but that was only because I really didn't want to sell it," she said.
Farra said even when she's doing a large order, as the one for Tamarack, she doesn't let it feel like production work.
"I never make exactly what they want - I always add a little something to them," she said.
At 63, Farra marvels that she has found something so fulfilling.
"I found my second life."