Among the many gift ideas to be found at the Thanksgiving Artisans Festival is the selection of unique decorative and functional ceramic pieces by local artist Amy Nevin. Her display features such a range of styles, colors, and designs that it’s clear that Ms. Nevin is an artist with a fertile and curious mind.
Among her most popular pieces are a number of sea-themed platters and dishes, a line of petal bowls featuring scalloped edges and feet, and a series of Victorian-inspired dishes decorated with slip trail (raised) designs along the elaborately sculpted edging. Ms. Nevin also creates beautiful carved vases and other vessels with a stylish art nouveau sensibility, and platters decorated with semi-geometric abstract patterns. There’s a lot to admire when looking over the artist’s wide selection at the Artisans Festival.
And not only does Ms. Nevin experiment with different styles and different methods — wheel throwing, building, carving, and more — she also makes her own glazes.
“I use my own formulas that I have created,” she says. “I don’t use any commercial glazes. I like the chemistry part of the process, making the glazes and seeing how they react.”
Ms. Nevin is especially partial to the look of handmade glazes. “They add a lot of depth and movement,” she says.
Motion is a good word to describe the ceramicist’s work. Many of her designs incorporate swirls of color, wavy edges, and other dynamic fluid elements. It’s not surprising then to find that one of Ms. Nevin’s biggest influences is the ocean. She grew up spending summers at the Jersey Shore, and her love of the ocean was a driving force in her move to the Vineyard from Westchester County, N.Y., 13 years ago.
Ms. Nevin is an avid scuba diver whose unique perspective of the ocean has had a big influence on her artwork. “I spent three years in the Bahamas scuba diving regularly,” she says. “I love the flow of sea life, the movement, the tranquility. The continuous flow of plants and fish amid the backdrop of turquoise water is a visual treat. In my pieces I combine the flowing feeling of all these parts together.”
The artist often uses starfish designs to decorate her tableware. One of her best sellers is the wave bowl, whose ocean theme is carried throughout, from the wavy edges to the marine colors and the eddylike swirl at the bottom of the bowl. Ms. Nevin also uses the form of seashells for many of her more popular pieces, like shallow scallop-shell bowls and large oyster-shell serving dishes. “They make amazing centerpieces,” she says of the latter. “Throw ice in there, and you have a raw bar.”
Entertaining is one thing Ms. Nevin knows quite a lot about. She works as a private chef, and often uses her own pieces to fashion interesting tablescapes or as serving pieces. “The most wonderful times I’ve shared have been living and entertaining with friends and family,” writes Ms. Nevin in her artist’s statement. “Beautiful tableware, handprinted with bold and joyful colors, delicious food from the local area, and beautiful flowers in vases all set the scene that I have personally created with my hands from clay and fire.”
The artist also creates larger sculptural pieces like garden urns, light fixtures, and tabletop fountains filled with hand-built coral, shells, and sea creatures.
Ms. Nevin has been working with clay all of her adult life. She earned a B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute, and an M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, and was awarded an artist residency at the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass, Colo. Before moving to the Vineyard, Ms. Nevin served as director for the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts.
The New Jersey native has been showing her work at the Artisans Festival since arriving on the Island 13 years ago. She also shows regularly at the New England Open Market in Boston, a juried crafts fair. She really enjoys interacting with her customers: “I love to talk to people about my work and educate them about the process, and see how they respond to the work.”
Ms. Nevin often invites collectors of her work and other customers to visit her studio. For the past few years she has been hosting kids from the Charter School at her studio. She also offers private lessons.
Ms. Nevin finds the Vineyard very hospitable to artists, as well as a source of continued inspiration. “I love the light, the natural surroundings,” she says. “I try to recreate the colors of the ocean, the beach, and the sand in my work.”
Perhaps a line from her artist’s statement sums it up best: “For me nature is the most rewarding source of inspiration. Our surrounding landscape is so vibrant with color and texture. Rolling hills of green, colorful flowers, underwater sea life, and sunsets over the ocean provide the ultimate palette for my work.”
Check out a selection of Amy Nevins’ work this weekend at the 20th annual Thanksgiving Artisans Festival, Nov. 25 and 26, 10 to 4 each day. You can also visit amynevinceramics.com.