Karen Ingram’s love of clocks and pottery come together in her elaborate pieces.
Creativity and emotion flow through Karen Ingram’s hands into each of her pieces of artwork, and nowadays, she has more time to savor the process. Although she earned a degree in education from Auburn University, her love of art and drawing drew her toward learning drafting and civil design. But after working in the civil engineering field designing shopping centers for more than 30 years, she retired in 2010. “At that point, my hobbies really took off,” she says. “There are so many things that I would love to do, but I have to keep reining myself in so I don’t spread myself too thin. My main hobbies are painting, pottery and making wooden lazy susans.”
As a longtime Shelby County resident, Karen was familiar with the Shelby County Arts Council and eventually became involved with the organization by submitting paintings for juried art shows. While at a reception at SCAC for such a show, she was told that the organization offered classes for both wheel-thrown pottery and hand-built pottery, and she could sign up. “Since I had just retired, I had lots of time on my hands. I took the beginner hand-building class and fell in love! Pottery is something I have always wanted to do because I love using my hands to make things.”
Now a member of SCAC’s Pottery Collective – a group of potters that have taken pottery classes at SCAC – she sells her work at events like artist markets in December and the SCAC’s Celebration of the Arts luncheon in February. “Candye Lundy teaches the hand-building class at SCAC and she is wonderful. I love the camaraderie and laid-back atmosphere of the class and have made many new friends.”
Developing an Artistic Specialty
Some of Karen’s favorite memories growing up were of spending time with her dad in their old garage making or fixing things. “I remember there was a lady in Wilsonville who had a lot of antique clocks and Daddy helped her get a lot of them working again. I was always looking over his shoulder and was fascinated by their mechanics.”
After she had been doing pottery for a while, she started thinking about how she could combine her love of clocks with her love of pottery. “I have a book where I jot down painting or pottery ideas and designs and, over time, ended up developing ideas for patterns and styles for clocks out of clay.”
So far, she has created five different mantel clock designs including a pendulum clock. She anticipates her designs will continue to evolve. “With clay, you can’t get in a hurry. It is fragile in the green stages and you need to handle it carefully – it needs to dry slowly, fire slowly, and it takes days and weeks to complete,” she explains. “You never know what will happen in the kiln…will the piece explode? Will the glaze be what I expected? Will it crack? You just never know…. when it happens (and it will), you just have to shrug your shoulders and move on. That is life.”
Including ‘Purr-fect’ Details
From 2014 to 2017, Karen was diagnosed with and underwent treatment for cancer two different times. “Pottery was my therapy. When I felt able, I would create angels in clay and each angel would be holding and praying over animals. Some of my clients said these were their most favorite pieces as they had so much emotion in them.”
Karen includes animal themes in her artwork and in every clock she builds. “Most of my clocks feature a tiny mouse peeking out or a bluebird and bluebird nest. My favorite is one has a tiny mouse and a cat peeking at one another.”
Whether it is a sweet animal portrait, a portrait of a person and their pet or a sneaky mouse peeking out from a hole in the clock, she hopes people feel the emotional connection she has with each piece. “To me, that is the fun part. There is nothing more exciting than opening my kiln after a firing and seeing all those clocks sitting inside. It is better than Christmas morning.”
You can find Karen Ingram’s work at Brass Bear Antiques, located at 2652 Valleydale Road, and online at Facebook.com/KarensCanvas.