VESTAVIA HILLS, ALA. — Becky Bolton can recall making mud pies beneath the boughs of an old pear tree in her backyard at a young age. More than 40 years later, the Vestavia native still clings to the earthy material, which has inspired her career as a clay artist.
“I have several strong interests in life, but working in clay is one thing that has kept me involved on many levels because it serves to satisfy my creative and curious mind endlessly,” she said.
The artist said she was first exposed to the potter’s wheel while taking art classes at Vestavia High School. Working with clay deeply inspired Bolton, as it was a three-dimensional medium that could be sculpted into anything her heart desired.
“I felt a naturalness in that medium,” she said.
Graduating from Vestavia High School in 1973, the emerging artist knew she wanted to pursue a career in the arts, but she was also interested in science. The two loves seemed inseparable, she said. While pursuing a degree from the University of Montevallo, art professors Ted Metz and John Spicer encouraged her artistic abilities, influencing Bolton to ultimately spin in the direction of full-time clay work.
“I think my love of form, geometry, nature and life play into my artistic expression,” she said. Now, decades later, Bolton has made a career of her passion and teaches ceramics at Montevallo.
Bolton said there are a few motifs to her work, such as aquatics, that she often gravitates toward — but ultimately, she said her art is something that’s solely driven from an internal place.
“Since artwork reflects one’s personality and spirit, my work has a basic essence that has permeated throughout my 40 professional years,” she said.
Each bowl, porcelain figure and any other object Bolton creates is signed and dated. “I like to know where I was in life when I made it,” she said.
Throughout her career, Bolton has experimented with a wide range of techniques, from sculpted and wheel-thrown stoneware to paper-relief design on airbrushed porcelain.
“The swimming fish motif is a decorative element I use drawing into porcelain slip,” she said. “Many of my pieces have blue glaze, and the aquatic theme lends itself nicely.”
Bolton said reoccurring aquatic imagery might be inspired by childhood vacations spent by the Gulf.
And while some of her designs are geometric in form, others feature a more loosely ornate appeal. The artist’s style is ever changing. Looking ahead, Bolton said she couldn’t imagine doing anything else than creating and teaching art.
“I plan to keep working in clay as long as I am able,” she said. “And I hope people will continue to connect with my art and want to have it in their own lives.”
Bolton’s work can be found at seasonal shows such as Bluff Park Art Show and occasional showings at Pepper Place Market.