Heidi Anderson creates a world with her ceramic figures. Influenced by folk art from the Southwest and Mexico, these figures have a timeless quality about them. With her background in painting, Heidi has developed these illustrative figures in full 3-D form. However illustrative these appear, they are not painted at all, they are produced by a process called agateware. Earlier in her career, she used the natural colors of clay to decorate her figures and pots but now she has expanded into colored clays to experiment more with her color palettes. This gives her greater control over the outcome of the work as glaze can be rather unpredictable and difficult to work with. And the results of the agateware process are stunning, the figures have great detail in form and in surface decoration.

Here we talk with Heidi about her process, inspiration and what a day in the studio looks like…


You do both illustration and ceramics, what drew you into ceramics?

My interest in ceramics started around 2011. I was intrigued by some of the art that I was seeing happening around me. A resurging interest in ceramics was just beginning to happen and it sparked my imagination. I took a ceramics class in high school and used to make things out of fimo clay when I was little so I was just naturally drawn to working with clay. I’d been a painter for a long time before working in clay, mainly focused on 2D, and I felt newly inspired by the idea of branching out and exploring work in 3D. Working with clay was complicated but so full of potential that I became completely immersed in trying to learn how to use it. I began by making rings using sculpting clay and taught myself how to make molds and do ceramic castings of them. When firing became a challenge I was invited by a friend to take a class at East LA community college where she worked and that is where the figurative sculptures came about by learning to throw on the wheel.

Your work has so many details, what is your creative process like?

I do sketches and loose intuitive drawing to find shapes and work out ideas. I also try visualization to get a picture in my mind of what I want to make. I look at a lot of art, it keeps me conscious about what I’m making and how to make things better and to keep growing, so I have tons of images of all kinds of art that I look at and go back to for inspiration. Going to museums and art galleries as well as stores keeps me engaged and helps keep my creativity flowing.

Where do you get the inspiration behind your figures?

The figures have been a creative evolution. I’ve been really inspired by folk art from the southwest and Mexico, in particular, the Storyteller dolls made by the Pueblo people of New Mexico. Native American art also was a big inspiration growing up in Seattle.

You create your designs with an inlay method called agate ware. What drew you to this technique?

I really love the natural color of the clay itself it provides a wonderful palette. There are so many verities, and they compliment each other so well. Doing the agate ware technique eliminated the step of glazing which at the time was really liberating. Agateware is a lot like painting in a way just with added control. I have recently started adding color to my clay so it has changed my work in a refreshing way and made it even more like painting. I can compose a design right there on the piece and have a pretty solid idea of how it will turn out.

What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you in your ceramics career?

The most exciting thing for me has been the genuine interest, support, and enthusiasm for what I’m doing out there in the world. I love knowing that what I’m doing makes some people excited about art or that the figures people bring joy that is so big to me. To feel recognized and supported for your work is the dream so when it becomes realized even just a little bit it’s the best.

What does a typical day in your studio look like?

A typical day is me just diving in wherever I’m at and making sure I stay on top of completing what I need to before things get go south with the clay. It takes a lot of vigilance. Or sometimes I walk into the studio and just stare into space.

What are you working on now?

I’m taking a little break at the moment from production mode to focus on making a small body of work that will be drawings and large sculpture for a show. It’s going to draw from my experience over the last year living on Vashon Island and what it’s meant to me.