There is nothing more fascinating to me than learning about someone else’s world. How did they get to where they are now? What hurdles were crossed? How long did it take to know this was their purpose? When it comes to artists, I mostly want to know about their process and if they find complete joy in creating. Local clay artist Trudy Chiddix left me with little doubt regarding her happiness as her effervescent demeanor said it all.
On one of those perfect Evergreen summer afternoons, Trudy and I spend more than two hours in her home studio discussing pottery, glass, bike tours, travel, life ambitions, work and passion. Before jumping into the interview, Trudy pours me a refreshing Arnold Palmer and gives me a quick tour of her home. For close to 30 years, Trudy and her husband have lived in their charming Upper Bear Creek abode. I can only define it as a sanctuary or an oasis. From the lush green fauna and myriad of colorful flowers to the tranquil creek which murmurs in the background, I want to do nothing more than find a hammock and a book.
The interior is an homage to the adventurous life Trudy and her husband enjoy together. Rustic wooden walls are simply decorated with images and artifacts from their many travels, all so vibrant and full of life. To say I enjoy the positive energy Trudy exudes is an understatement. I don’t have to ask if she is happy doing what she loves; the answer is further evident once we enter her studio overlooking the trickling creek.
Trudy’s home studio is spacious, bright and superbly organized. Walls are lined with various carving and texture tools, drawers overflow with pieces of colored glass, and small bookshelves contain more glaze colors than I knew were possible. In the back stands a large kiln for firing ceramics and another kiln for fusing glass. At the center of the room is a large table with slabs of gray clay waiting to be formed. This is where her ceramic vessels, wall art and abstract figures, inspired by cultures from around the world, are born.
Trudy is not only an accomplished clay artist, she also enjoys creating with glass and often combines fused glass elements with her ceramic pieces. Her process begins with an inspiration from whatever strikes her in the moment—could be a travel experience, world happenings or recent cultural research. She utilizes her hands and various texture tools she’s made or gathered from nature and around the world. She’ll first develop a ceramic piece through to completion, including the final glaze firing. Next, she’ll form the glass for her design by cutting shapes from sheets of colored glass which are layered and combined with crushed and powdered glass before being melted in the kiln. This fused glass element will adorn her fired ceramic piece. Trudy considers her approach to be “unique,” especially in the way she seamlessly integrates the customized glass with her ceramic forms.
Trudy learned her basic ceramic skills in college and years later became intrigued with glass as an artistic medium. She took glass classes, improvised and experimented until she figured out how to “combine the glass and clay in a graceful way where they complement each other.”
From an early age, Trudy’s parents supported and fostered her love for art. Eventually, she majored in art at UC Santa Barbara. She knew ceramics was her medium soon after she touched clay. Trudy’s first job out of college was selling handmade coffee mugs at local craft fairs. She quickly learned that was not going to pay the bills, so she took on several art teaching jobs in the area. After several years of selling functional pottery and part time teaching, Trudy returned to school to get a Master’s in Art Education. During this time, she met her husband, Jim, and after graduation, she joined him in Hawaii. Jim’s career eventually brought them to Evergreen, and subsequently to Connecticut, New York City and San Francisco. Luckily, they were able to keep their Upper Bear Creek home and return to it often. As Trudy puts it, “Evergreen is the home of our hearts.”
Trudy and Jim currently split their time between Evergreen and San Francisco where Trudy has a second studio in an artists’ co-op in the Mission District. Over 100 artists, who work in various mediums, work in open air spaces and share kilns as well as ideas. Trudy finds the atmosphere to be buzzing with creative energy and camaraderie, feeding her soul in a whole different way.
It is obvious Trudy Chiddix is an artist who loves her craft—she revels in “working for hours and seeing concrete results, the physical evidence of where all of her energy has gone.” It warms her heart when people enjoy her art and “feel” something when it enters their home. She is a one-of-a-kind individual and clay artist whose positive energy and passion is evident in all that she creates.
If you’d like to see more of Trudy’s artwork, visit trudychiddix.com
If you enjoy Sandy’s writing, check out her other Serenity column, “Parenting & Beyond.”