Clay artist Deb Paradise loves to lose herself in the creative clutches of sculpting.

 

Sculpting isn’t usually considered a thrill-seeking activity, but for Deb Paradise of Creative Expressions in Clay, that’s exactly what it feels like. Her clients consist mostly of designers who are working on hotels or spas, so each project requires balancing the designer’s needs with her own vision—an operation that Deb compares to solving a puzzle while the clock ticks.

“I am often faced with creating new imagery, discovering new techniques, and providing a finished piece of art all within a usually tight timeline,” Deb says. “It can get rather chaotic and invigorating.”



Deb, who was born in Vestavia but now lives in Bluff Park, started her creative career as a photographer. While she loved using her camera, she began to long for something more tactile and turned to pottery as a way to unwind. Now, she creates wall-mounted works of art full of visual interest and movement, including mandalas, large-scale florals and dynamic, textured geometrics.

“I began making bowls and other functional pieces, but always felt a desire to make more sculptural pieces for the wall,” Deb says. “I finally made the choice to focus on my current work and never looked back!”

Deb comes by her creativity honestly, as the same artistic blood in her veins also ran through her mother and grandmother—both painters. She has always made art in one way or another, and found inspiration early on both at home and in a potter named Beatrice Wood, who was part of the Avant Garde movement.

Now, though, Deb is an inspiration to others in her own right. She indulges in the process of creation, starting in the conceptual phase and moving into the hands-on work of rolling, forming, firing, finishing and re-firing the clay. It’s a labor of love, involving many more steps and much more time than people think.

Deb and her assistant, Cecelia Thompson, work on a large wall installation.

When asked about the most challenging aspect of her work, Deb says it’s the beginning of a new project. “Making the transition from concept to action is a commitment to the final piece,” she explains. “It is no longer just an idea, and I don’t always know how to solve the puzzle before the picture is revealed.”

But challenges are welcome in the quiet of Deb’s studio, when it’s just Deb and the clay, working together to form something beautiful. “Clay has a mystery about it,” Deb says. “It knows what it wants to be, and if you listen, you will hear it.”

Deb describes sculpting as a “sensuous process that is both tactile and meditative.” She finds great satisfaction in losing herself in her creativity, where the clay transforms beneath her fingers into something that previously only existed in her mind.

Of course, it’s impossible for Deb to choose a favorite project from her portfolio of work, but a recent piece, “Whisper,” stands out in her mind. It was the first piece she had ever made with blue porcelain, and the results were even more stunning than she expected.

“I love what I do,” Deb says. “It is so fulfilling to know that my work brings beauty and love to people all over the world.”

But even the most passionate sculptor must step away from her art every now and then, and Deb is no exception. When she isn’t crafting gorgeous pieces out of clay, she meditates, listens to good music, travels to interesting places and spends time with her family and pets.

She has another hobby, too—something she calls “visual feasting.” Beauty can be found everywhere, and Deb loves to refill her creative well by finding that beauty and capturing it in photograph form. “Early in my life, I was a photographer,” Deb says. “So I take my camera and soak up inspiration in all kinds of visual environments.”

Deb’s commitment to her art is evident not just in the final product, but in the beginning stages, as well. She believes that surrender, trust and detachment are essential for the sculpting process, and that each piece comes out of the fire either stronger or weaker because of its own hidden properties. It’s those pieces that come out whole that inspire her to follow their example, pushing herself to continue breaking through cultural, spiritual and ethnic differences to the heart of what really matters. “I try to infuse each and every piece with the beauty and joy of life,” Deb says. “No matter where you see it, I hope you will feel uplifted and inspired by your experience.”

Visit Deb online at paradisecreativeexpressions.com.