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Enjoy the process: Lessons from an artist

By Alisha Siebers, Executive Director, Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center

Anyone who has visited the Distant Whistle notices the wall of hand-crafted ceramic mugs created by Lisa Beams. Folded into each of those unique mugs is the story of an artist who loves to experiment and learn.

When she was a girl, Lisa pored over the Sears catalog, dreaming not about toys, but about the art kits and the possibility of getting a whole set of markers with all the colors. When she was studying at Ohio Northern to be a pharmacist, Lisa wanted to balance her chemistry and math classes with something creative. She took a ceramics class and learned a lot, but, she says, “not enough.” She kept her tools, thinking, “Someday I’m going to do this again.”

Twenty-seven years later, her son, who was enrolled at KVCC, encouraged her to sign up for the first of several classes in ceramics. It turned out that ceramics has been a great fit for her experimental, scientific mind. The chemistry involved intrigues her, especially the way glazes combine to create colors. She can layer a specific off-white glaze with a brown one and the vessel will turn out blue after firing! She keeps a notebook of all of her creations so she can remember what she tried. The only problem with ceramics, she jokes, is that clay is heavy. When she’s lifting a tray of fragile, heavy pieces, she thinks, “Why didn’t I get into the paper arts?!”

Lisa got involved with the Distant Whistle through the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center. Back when the VCAC had a gallery space, Dane Bosel noticed her mugs and asked who made them. He told her he was starting a brewery and wanted mugs for a Mug Club. Lisa never wanted to be a production potter, where she would repeat the same design over and over, so working with Dane turned out to be a great match. All he requires is that the mugs hold 20 ounces. Other than that, Lisa can experiment with colors, shapes, and styles.

Lisa’s drive to learn new things has led her to be a “serial artist,” learning about all kinds of art forms through her life: stained glass, drawing, painting, cake decorating, photography, and spinning. She currently leads the South County Fiber Arts program with Julie Renzema and Jody Gerard. She brings the same attitude of experimentation and play to spinning and knitting. Their group especially welcomes new people who want to dive in and learn these traditional arts.

Lisa’s experimental approach to the arts has a good lesson for all of us. She points out that artists tend to be self-critical. They might think “Oh, that’s not what I wanted to make, therefore it’s bad.” Lisa explains, “Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean someone else won’t.” When she was learning at KVCC, sometimes Lisa would cut a piece she created on the wheel, to the shock of newer students around her. She explains that the scientific side of her wanted to see how thick it was inside. That’s part of learning. The main point is “What did I learn from it?” The big takeaway from Lisa’s artistic experience is “If you want to try something, go for it. If it doesn’t work the first time, try a new way. Enjoy it. Enjoy the process.”

If you’d like to see more of Lisa Beams’ work, visit her Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/sunsetlakestudios.

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