When sisters Valerie Holley and Jill Lindsey took their first pottery class in 2007, they didn’t know it would place them on a path to new careers as professional artists. Now they share a studio in Valerie’s Hollywood home, sell their work at art shows and at Liz Lane Gallery on 29th Avenue under the name Sister Art Pottery, and organize the annual Handmade Art Show.
Although Valerie and Jill became potters later in life, they both have prior connections to art and creativity. When Valerie was 6 years old, she made mud pies and sold them to her neighbors from her wagon. She spent hours sifting the dirt and sand, adding the perfect amount of water to make them the right consistency, drying them in the sun, and decorating them with mimosa blossoms. When she was older, she started sewing, and later on she enjoyed cooking and gardening. “I chose to settle on pottery as my primary medium because it’s the most interesting one to me,” she says. “But it’s exciting to think about how I ended up here. Every craft I’ve ever done has provided layers of experience that culminates in the pottery I make today.”
Jill began painting 12 years ago and still enjoys doing so occasionally. The knowledge and color theory she learned from painting impacts the pottery she makes now. She says the glazing process can make or break a piece: “You can have a great piece of pottery with bad glaze, and it ruins it. Or you can have a questionable piece of pottery with a terrific glaze, and it ends up gorgeous. The various color combinations and type of glaze I choose make a huge impact on my work, so I’m grateful for my painting background.”
Valerie and Jill’s work has evolved over the years. They have made both functional and decorative hand-built pottery since they started out as potters, but their work changes based on their likes and dislikes, exposure to new techniques and patterns, and what might appeal to potential buyers. They enjoy experimenting with unique textures and patterns and are always on the lookout for new ideas to incorporate in their work.
Valerie is known for her flower wall plaques and Jill for her plates with a partial flower in the corner. They will always make their signature pieces, but they continue to develop their skills and try new methods, too. At a recent workshop in North Carolina, they learned a glazing process from potter Jeremy Randall that uses copper oxide to create a rustic, industrial finish. They are now experimenting with this technique on some of their own pieces and are looking forward to seeing how others respond to this style.
While the sisters make their own individual pottery in their shared studio, they offer each other feedback during the many stages of the hand built pottery process. Artists often work in isolation, so they are grateful to have someone with whom to learn and create. It’s also nice to have another set of honest eyes in the studio when they face obstacles. “Yesterday I was building a bowl and something seemed off,” Valerie says. “I asked Jill her opinion and she helped me see the handles weren’t the best size for the piece I was making. I re-worked the handles while the clay was still wet and now the bowl looks great.”
Valerie and Jill not only value and support each other, but they are also active members of the local art scene. One way they give their time and energy to other artists is through organizing Handmade Art Show. They have been participating in the show for several years and have been the primary organizers for the past four years. They are strong advocates of local art and love being able to promote and share the work of other Birmingham area artists.
When the Handmade Arts Show comes to Homewood Central Park on Oct. 15, be sure to track down Valerie and Jill and check out their newest pottery technique. Their work will also be at the Blue Light Special show at Tena Payne’s studio in December.