The first thing you notice about Martha LeRoi’s ceramic pieces is the intricate design. When you look at them more closely, you realize her works reflect the colors and patterns of nature. Wisps, crackles, sways, rustles–you can almost hear nature’s sounds flowing from the clay.
Right now, Martha is showing a collection that pays homage to the common weed. Without a doubt, her next collection will reflect a new idea. “I don’t like to classify myself,” she smiles when asked to define her approach to art, “Let’s just say I’m a cabbage.”
Inspired by an aunt who “was not an artist but who liked to do art things,” Martha likes to play around with texture. Sometimes she carves directly into her clay. Other times she hand-carves a stamp and uses that to transfer an image.
Martha is a retired social worker; she still teaches sociology part-time at Shepherd University. She says she teaches for fun, just as she works with clay for fun. “Neither pays enough for anything other than having fun,” she says.
The freedom of doing art but not having to depend on it for a living is a luxury Martha appreciates. She grew up in Maine and spent her working life in Connecticut. About ten years ago she moved to the Eastern Panhandle, in part to be near a daughter and her family.
Being a member of the Berkeley Art Works Co-op for many of those years has been a positive aspect of her life. “I’ve enjoyed being part of a group of artists,” Martha comments, “and I’ve enjoyed being part of the markets and shows.” This year she used a new glaze that “seemed festive” for the pieces she sold at the Holiday Market.
Celadon, a green-glazed ceramic that originated in China, is her absolute favorite art form. Because celadon requires a special kiln that she has to travel to Baltimore to find, Martha doesn’t make as much of it as she would like. She is a practical woman, and excels with more easily-fired glazes that highlight the ridges and crevices of her original carvings and stampings.
Practicality should be an important consideration for any artist, according to Martha. She suggests anyone interested in becoming an artist first develop a day job. “Develop another area of interest, possibly another profession,” she says, “The old saw ‘If you love it you can make a go of it’ doesn’t necessarily work in art.”
The next time you are in downtown Martinsburg, stop by Berkeley Art Works at 116 North Queen Street and check out the collection of Martha LeRoi ceramics on sale for decorating your home or office and one-of-a-kind gift giving. The co-op gallery is open Wednesday 11-5; Thursday 11-5; Friday 11-8; Saturday 10-5, and Sunday 12-3. Berkeley Art Works is closed Monday and Tuesday.