Native American Art with Roots
Welcome to my Studio
Tribal Stories in Clay
My Native American heritage is rich with stories of suffering and triumph – the foundation of who we are today.
Our sense of identity may be lost forever if we don’t preserve and pass them on.
I create ceramic art that speaks to the heart of the stories and the souls of my ancestors.
~ Carolyn Bernard Young
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How I Fell in Love with Clay
My work pays respect to my Choctaw heritage, and I hope brings a modern voice to the Native American art I so love to make.
For 33 years, I was a quality engineer for a major aerospace company. Midway through my career, looking for a way to relieve stress, I discovered and fell in love with clay. In order to learn from the best, I spent a week each summer at Arrowmont School of Art in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I bought a wheel and practiced my craft every day, preparing for the day I could retire and live my dream – to be a full-time potter. In 2009, I took a giant leap & retired early from aerospace to live that dream.
But I Fell in Love Again
In 2011 my life changed dramatically – again. I reconnected with my long-lost love, Sam and in October 2011 we were married. After a 3 week honeymoon roaming the southwest, we bought a home on two acres in Weatherford. Sam began building a new 1200 sf studio the day we moved in ~ and he insisted I pursue tribal membership without letting another day go by.
Now I spend every day working in my beautiful studio, carving clay and living my dream! As Sam always tells me…DREAM BIG!
About My Heritage
Although I knew we were Choctaw, my mom didn’t talk much about it as we were growing up. When she died, I found a copy of the Choctaw Roll (aka Dawes Roll) with my grandmother listed. Later I learned that my maternal grandfather was also Choctaw, but he was registered on the Mississippi Choctaw roll. With that documentation I could apply for tribal membership. Years passed, however, and I didn’t pursue it.
From the beginning of my clay journey, my work has had a Native American feel. When I learned the sgraffito (carving) technique, I began carving petroglyphs on my pots and never looked back. The work couldn’t be presented as Native American art since I wasn’t a tribal member. Sam encouraged me to gather the paperwork and apply, so I finally did. Becoming a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was momentous for me. It allowed me to take my work in a new direction that would honor my tribe, my family, and our ancestors.
The Choctaw Nation has been so helpful and supportive of my work. The tribe has purchased several pieces for their collection at the Museum and the Headquarters. Recently I completed a commissioned piece for the new Cultural Center which will open in 2021. My work is classified as “contemporary” in the Native American art world. Naturally I wanted to learn the traditional methods of creating and firing Choctaw pottery, so I began driving to Durant, Oklahoma for the bi-weekly traditional pottery classes offered by the tribe. Pots are created from hand-dug Native red earthenware, burnished, then fired in an open pit. It was a wonderful experience and I was so pleased to win second place with my first traditional piece entered in an art show.
After 25 years of working in clay, my hands have developed chronic tendinitis. The pain of throwing on the potter’s wheel became so great, I had to make the difficult decision to give it up – the wheel, not the clay!
So in early 2017 I began to take my carvings to the wall, making sculpture that brings forth an emotional connection to the story. Totem Sticks emerged along with figurative sculpture and some other new surprises. I love surprises, don’t you?
In 2020, Sam & I decided to slow our pace a bit, so you won’t find me at the big shows (Indian Market, Heard Museum, Eiteljorg, Red Earth, etc.) Another hard decision, but the physical demands of life on the show circuit have become more than we want at this stage of our lives. I won’t be giving up clay any time soon, so you can still find my work on this fancy new website, as well as at these fine galleries:
- Worrell Gallery in Santa Fe
- Raven Makes Gallery in Sisters, Oregon
- Mountain Arts Gallery in Ruidoso
- Choctaw Nation Headquarters in Durant, Oklahoma
- Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio
Thank you for supporting Native American art and those who create it. I’d like to think my mom and my grandparents would be delighted to see what I’m doing. I’d love to hear what you think too, so please feel free to send me a note on the Contact page and tell me all about it.