SOME OF POTTER JUANITA MARSHALL’S PIECES ARE HEFTY AND ORGANIC: PEBBLED AND RIPPLED WITH BOLD PATTERNS EVOKING MOSSY FOREST FLOORS, GRITTY BEACHES, AND RUGGED TALUS SLOPES. OTHERS ARE AS DELICATE AND TRANSLUCENT AS A ROBIN’S EGGSHELL, WITH SUNLIGHT STREAMING THROUGH TO CREATE ANOTHER DIMENSION OF FLUID SUBTLETY. ALL OF THEM ARE AS ELEGANT AS THEY ARE EARTHY.
“I’ve always loved working with my hands,” says Marshall as we peruse some of the work she keeps at her Park City home. “Clay is a great medium for that,” she says of the visceral connection between the artist and resulting creations.
Marshall describes her work as having consistent elements that are natural, layered, and interactive. From dainty sake cups to large vases and memorial vessels, these stylistic touchstones mark her collected work. They all incorporate a distinct feeling of reverence for the outdoors and the natural landscape, a joy in nature she has appreciated since she was very young. Although art was always a big part of her creative life, her professional work in ceramics didn’t start until much later. “When I started working with clay,” she says of her BFA program at the University of Utah in 2010, “It was difficult to learn how to throw on a wheel,” and she found the challenge to create “perfect” and consistent pieces frustrating. “I had to embellish them to distract from the [perceived] imperfections.” This ornamental aspect of her work—initially intended to cover up “mistakes”—has become her trademark.
Her ceramics have a playful and inter-active quality, as a result.
Marshall says of a recent group show for the Utah Council on Aging at Art Access Gallery in Salt Lake that she created pieces she calls “everyday altars,” intended to be more contemplative than functional, with sliding pendants and curiosities reminiscent of household altars or tabletop reliquaries. But the practical backbone of her work is the glazed earth-toned workhorses of every home: plates, mugs, and bowls. “Those are the things we use every day,” she says of the satisfying aspect of creating usable art.
A 30-plus year Park City resident, Marshall also enjoys the frequent opportunities she has to give back to the community. With the Clay Arts Utah group, she often contributes work to the “Empty Bowls” fundraiser to combat hunger with St. Vincent de Paul, and considers it an honor to share her time and talents with groups like the National Ability Center. A portion of all her ceramic sales goes to local groups that support education, the environment, arts, and humanity. A longtime member of the Park City Professional Artists Association, she also teaches ceramic classes for all ages at the Kimball Art Center.
As friends and family around her have grown older and face the challenges of life’s transitions, Marshall says she’s more often creating commissioned work celebrating the many stages of life, from births and weddings to memorial pieces. “Things have changed,” Marshall says of the shift in her work. “It’s become more about self-expression and remembrance instead of refining the craft.” She’ll even make an exception to her usual earthy palette she says with a laugh, “If some youngster likes purple.” But regardless of the hue, the naturalistic and organic elegance that result are unmistakably Juanita Marshall.