Au Naturale Eye Essentials Kit
{Fabulous Ladies of the ROC: Carol Barclay}

Our Fabulous Ladies of the ROC series continues this week with local artist Carol Barclay. I first found Carol's shop on Etsy about a year ago and have been wanting to talk to her more. I'd like to thank Carol for the opportunity to get to know her more.

Q: Your porcelain creations are exquisite. How long have you been working with porcelain?

A: Thank you, Karley!  I became obsessed with clay when I took ceramics as an elective at SUNY Fredonia in 1969 (YIKES!). The previous semester, I had taking a drawing course from Marvin Bjurlin and thought he was an excellent teacher. Since I was an Elementary Ed. major, I decided to take another course from him so I could learn more about teaching methods. I asked him what else he taught and he said "Ceramics". I asked, "What is that??".

It sounded intriguing, so I signed up and spent every spare moment of the next semester playing in the mud. At that point I ran out of electives, so the rest of my ceramics education has been self-designed. Upon taking an adult ed course at Niagara University, I was introduced to porcelain, and I became captivated.

Q: What is it about working with porcelain, in particular, that brings you so much joy?

A: Ooooh, boy, where to start?!? Porcelain feels great- it is smooth and silky, and in ceramics terms it is "plastic". It sort of feels like cream cheese, but not so gummy. I once heard someone describe working with porcelain as being similar to trying to nail jello to the wall. Hey, I'm up for a challenge!

I am an athlete ( playing competitive volleyball for almost 30 years!) so I love to use my body. Porcelain is a fascinating material with unique and challenging properties, so I find it a constant physical challenge to work with those qualities.  I also like the color- the white/ivory clay body allows me to use  stains, underglazes and glazes in the clear, soft colors that I really love. I do have to admit, tho, that sometimes you'll find me grinding my teeth, as the porcelain shrinks 14 % by the time it is glaze fired. That is a HUGE shrinkage, so there can be a lot of warping or cracking...sometimes a piece that I am eagerly anticipating doesn't make it through the firing. 

On the other hand, when something wonderful emerges from the kiln, there is much joy and celebration and dancing around with the dog (poor little guy).

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your pieces?

A: Botanical forms are a rich source of form and color inspiration and delight for me. I am a passionate gardener and relish that my studio has a 14 foot picture window that overlooks my award winning garden. Admittedly, the temptation is great to sneak out to the garden when I have pots to make, but what a privilege, to be torn between doing two things that I love to do! Three years ago I got a small camera that I try to carry with me, and the close-ups that I capture remind me of shapes that I need to explore. My family members have toured many many gardens with me and they have patiently listened to me rhapsodize about leaves, blooms, and buds. Now, they too can throw around a few Latin names!

At SUNY Fredonia, I also joined the modern dance club, Orchesis, and developed an appreciation for movement and the shapes of the costumes in action. You can often see the flowing shapes of rippling fabric in my work. (I have an iconic portrait of Martha Graham in my studio- oh that glorious black skirt!).

I attend clay conferences regularly, and find that spending up to 5 days immersed in "clay talk" fires up my imagination. Soon, I spot inspiration absolutely everywhere- from the stage curtains in the conference hall, to the railings on some city stairs, to the shoes of a fellow potter. It is such an incredible feeling, and the only problem is how to record all of the ideas so I can try them in porcelain.

Q: As a Fabulous Lady of the ROC, what is it about the Rochester area that you like so much?

A: I have amazing friends in Rochester and could be thrilled to live anywhere they live. Nothing is more important than those bonds, but there are certainly many qualities that make me love Rochester. I mean, right now, we are enjoying an amazing Spring- I just step outside and inhale the wonderful fragrance of lilacs and visually feast on the blooming bulbs and lush bright green foliage that exploded almost overnight. The change of seasons is such fun- from the colors of the fall leaves, to the quiet created by a fresh snowfall.

I think this is an amazingly accessible city- the mantra in our family is that we can get anywhere within 20 minutes- and often in much less time! We have luscious farm markets, a fabulous library system, and beautiful and mysterious parks (always some new vista around a corner). We enjoy a rich cultural life, lots of waterfront (think of the Lake Ontario, the Genessee, and the Canal), and many opportunities for adult athletes,

Q: I think that Rochester is a great community for the arts. Do you have any places you enjoy going that celebrate the arts?
A: I agree! Jim and I support the Memorial Art Gallery (be sure to check out the Albert Paley exhibit) and we both exhibit at the Clothesline Show. The Eastman House has an amazing collection and a regular series of impressive films and notable speakers. They also have a marvelous garden!

I really love the Neighborhood of the Arts in the University Ave. area and eagerly anticipate even more visual delights that make it a great place to stroll and browse and eat. We also try not to miss the art shows at venues all over the city- R.I.T.'s Bevier Gallery is a favorite. 

We can't forget the performing arts! Geva's Nextstage produces contemporary challenging work and Nazareth College presents a wide range of programming. Downstairs Cabaret is wonderful about supporting and promoting small enjoyable productions.

Q: Have you always lived in the Rochester area? 
A: No, we both grew up in the Niagara Falls area. We moved to Rochester in 1974 when I landed my dream job of teaching at The Harley School. It is an amazing community, where children, teachers and parents enjoy an exciting, nurturing, creative environment. Our daughter, Jennifer, attended Harley from kindergarten right through 12th grade and tells us that she treasures that education and appreciates how well she was prepared for the challenges of adulthood.

Q: Where can we find your work locally?
A: Why thank you for asking! Craft Company No. 6 carries my signature folded vases, as well as pieces from my Porcelain Petals Collection. The Store at the Memorial Art Gallery carries my new Tablescapes Collection. I also show at the Clothesline Show, the Second Storie Indie Show in November, and I'll be at the 100 American Craftsmen Show in Lockport from June 4th- 6th. This year- probably in July- I'm going to try something new. I'll use my mailing list (both snail mail and e-mail) to invite folks to a party in my garden and a studio tour. I always love to stroll through gardens and to check out artists' studios, so I thought it might be fun to open up my place for that sort of thing. Next, I have to get started on figuring out what sort of cookies I'll make for the party!

Q: I always ask--what's your favorite restaurant in the Rochester area?

I enjoy Panzari's in the Cornhill area. They have a pecan crusted pork chop in a blackberry balsamic glaze that is my favorite. We went there for Mother's Day! Mise en Place is a close second- we do take-out from there regularly.

Q: Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

A: Jim had designed a terrific website for the whole family (we're talking a potter, a photographer, and two writers). Please check it out:   If your readers would like to be on my mailing list (perhaps so they can try the cookies at my party), they can click on "Contact Carol" just below the artist's statement on my page.

My work is also available at and at (just type in Carol Barclay in the search box).