Maria Smith had no intention of becoming a potter until five years ago when she visited family in her native Germany. Working as an apprentice for a friend in Berlin for three months, Smith learned to shape and throw clay using a potter's wheel, and sculpt cups and bowls. "Pottery kind of taught me to appreciate the process of getting there versus always trying to see results right away," she says. Once back in Cleveland, she began Clear Blur Design, making nature-inspired kitchenware from her home and at the Shore Cultural Center in Euclid, where she fires and finishes her clay work. "After people finish a race, a lot of people have that runner's high," says the 33-year-old. "That's what I get when I do pottery, from the moment I throw a piece to the final time I open the kiln." Nature Nurtures: Smith creates bowls, spoons, mugs and plates as stand-alone pieces of art within themed collections. One theme has paper boats sailing across a vast sea of waves. Another has cherry blossom trees blowing in the wind. "Nature produces some of the best artwork," she says. Happy Mistakes: While working on her auric blue collection, Smith was mixing white and blue paint to create a lighter color for her mugs when she added too much white. The colors didn't blend how she had hoped, so she rolled each mug's outer rim in the splotchy paint to create a cloud effect at the top. "I won't ever be able to re-create it," says Smith. "It was like this tiny moment, and I had to seize it." Free Hand: Smith forms and paints each piece, then carves intricate lines in the clay with a small needlelike tool before starting a three-step firing process to preserve the paint's natural color. "I use clay more as a canvas than just as a functional piece that you put into your cupboard," she says. BEE creative: While visiting a friend, Smith was drawn to a small honeycomb found on a lotion label. "It was mathematically perfect, and I just wanted to keep using it over and over again," says Smith, who created an entire line derived from the shape, including a mug with a honeycomb handle. "Everything [I do] is such a free-for-all."FIND IT: Buy Clear Blur Design at the Cleveland Flea Oct.10 and the Holden Arboretum Holiday Show Nov.13 - Jan 3.
With luster from flecks of gold and a 23-karat gold rim, this 9-inch cherry blossom plate ($45) exhibits the quality of Smith's work with an arc of intricately etched tree branches, miniature flower petals and carefully carved designs.
MORE INFO: etsy.com/shop/clearblurdesign