Shape. Dry. Design. Fire. Glaze. Decal. Repeat.
Attending The Fine Arts Center with a focus on painting, McPhail didn’t discover her passion for ceramics until her sophomore year at Clemson University.
“I just like working with my hands and making something,” she says. “I like the process.” McPhail also enjoys the process-oriented art of printmaking.
“With painting you’re just standing in front of the canvas. The canvas changes, but with ceramics I’ll have a hundred different things going on at a time — all different stages,” McPhail says. “With the printmaking, I’ll do different techniques on the clay at all the different stages.”
The surface design became the focus of McPhail’s ceramic art in college. Continuing that focus in her current work, McPhail layers image upon image to create complex art. “I love layering images,” she says. “Sometimes I get carried away.”
She describes her artwork style as vintage china, a new piece with an old look.
Her attraction to patterns stems from her younger years of visiting her great-
great-aunt who collected pottery, china pieces, and little statues and figurines. “Every time I went to her house I got to pick something out, and I started collecting the cups and saucers — the teacups,” McPhail says.
Becoming a collector of patterned antique pieces herself, McPhail now sees the correlation between her past interests and her current artwork.
While heavily layered pieces are what she enjoys creating, she also makes simple pieces for the sake of variety. “I’m starting to actually enjoy that more and step back and be OK that it’s not covered with stuff,” McPhail says. “But that has always kind of been my thing.”
McPhail creates and sells ceramic dishes, bracelets, earrings, ornaments, and
tiles to act as canvases that display her designed patterns. The artwork process can be repeated, but McPhail says each piece is completely one-of-a-kind.
While some of her pieces are functional, McPhail’s ceramics are intended to be art. “I’m making functional pieces, but I’m focusing on the design aspect,” she says. McPhail identifies as an artist, not a production potter.
“Everything is always evolving, but everything also reflects back on each other,” she says. “Everything influences everything.”
Opening The Art Cellar in 2014 and teaching art classes, McPhail crafts and showcases her pieces at the gallery along with other artists. The Art Cellar features 50 local artists and four resident studio artists.
McPhail credits Greenville for her success so far, calling herself a product of the Greenville arts community. “I know from my experience here, there’s a lot of people, a lot of artists moving here just because the community is so supportive of the arts,” she says.
Standing out as an individual artist is a goal of McPhail’s. She strives to be true to herself and create for herself — not others. “You don’t want to make something or do something just because it’s what sells or just because it’s the trend.”
Art is all about creating work she enjoys and having others enjoy owning a piece of her work, she says.