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Rising Stars: Meet Audry Deal-McEver

Today we’d like to introduce you to Audry Deal-McEver.

Hi Audry, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was raised by a creative family. My mom has a degree in painting and worked in graphic design for most of her career. My father is a professional musician (primarily a jazz guitarist). My dad’s parents were professional photographers and my mom’s father built grandfather clocks from scratch. Growing up, I played 14 years of very serious classical piano before switching to the visual arts in college.

While pursuing my Bachelors of Fine Art at Ohio University, I tried a ceramics class my sophomore year. At the time, I was planning to focus in photography and had never worked with clay before. It was a “Pottery on the Wheel” class and my professor was so hard! I was used to working diligently and then getting good grades in school, but that didn’t work in this class. I was working hard and still not doing well. My professor didn’t offer much encouragement and I stubbornly decided I was going to prove him I could indeed figure this thing out. Over the semester, I spent every extra moment of time in the studio working on my technique and slowly began to get a little better. In the process, I accidentally fell in love with clay.

I had unknowingly ended up at one of the top ceramics program in the country, so I had to work very hard to catch up once I decided to switch my focus to ceramics. It ended up being a wonderful experience though! I was even able to study at Burg Giebichenstein School of Art and Design (Halle, Germany) through a scholarly exchange program. After graduating, I continued my education through multiple short-term artists in residency positions at places like Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Red Lodge Clay Center, Hot Springs National Park, and the University of Alaska.

For the first eight or so years of my career, I primarily taught ceramics to afford me the stability and time to begin to slowly build my body of work (and eventually my art business) on the side. This was primarily through community education programs like Vanderbilt University’s Sarratt Art Studios, Watkins Community Education Program, and Cheekwood’s Frist Learning Center. I later took a full-time job at Ensworth High School teaching their upper-level clay and photography classes.

About four years ago, I left that job to shift my focus to my own art practice and business. Since then, 85% or more of my income has come from selling my handmade functional pottery. I primarily do direct sales by traveling to high-end art festivals. It is such a joy to meet my customers and hear stories about how they have enjoyed using my work when they come back the next year.

I still teach a little on the side, as I really love the community that comes with teaching. In addition to teaching privately out of my home studio, I have also taught at Middle Tennessee State University and am currently an adjunct professor of ceramics at Belmont University.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Making a living in the arts always comes with its unique challenges. Early on, I often had to create my own opportunities to teach workshops or exhibit my work to help build my resume while getting established. I’d propose an exhibit at a botanical conservatory or library (places that didn’t have galleries) to help get my work out there. Although it wasn’t exactly the most lucrative start, it was such a fun way to get feedback about my work from communities that wouldn’t always walk into a traditional art gallery or museum. It also gave me wonderful practice figuring out all the logistics of being an artist – how to transport my work, create displays, etc.

I’d say my biggest struggle has been learning how to run a business. They don’t exactly teach you that in art school, so I had to seek out my own education on this. The Nashville Art and Business Council, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, and Tennessee Craft’s professional development workshops have all been great resources for me. I also spent years taking professional artist friends out to business lunches to seek out mentorship on these matters. Throw in A LOT of trial and error, and I eventually figured it all out.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
My pieces all begin on the pottery wheel. I “throw” a 50/50 blend of porcelain and white storeware clay to create my basic forms. Often multiple pieces will be assembled together or altered to create more complex shapes. Once the clay stiffens up a bit, I then hand-carve ornate botanical patterns into the surface that are inspired by my research of historic textiles patterns (primarily from India – 1600 to 1700 AD). Since I don’t use stamps or stencils, each carving is unique and my work ends up having a lot of variety. My goal is to allow my customers to be able to create “eclectic sets” by mixing and matching their favorite patterns together, but for the work to also feel cohesive at the same time. Through using consistent line quality and keeping my color pallet rooted in earth tones, almost any two pieces look good together. This is also fun because my customers end up assembling unique sets that no one else will have!

I also take great pride in running a “green” studio practice. I run a zero waste production by recycling all of my scrap material. By mixing my own glazes from scratch, I have been able to develop recipes that incorporate reclaimed materials. I also have bought enough solar panels in our community solar farm, Music City Solar, and enough green energy credits to offset all of my studio’s power use. This is no small undertaking since I fire my kiln weekly (sometimes multiple times a week) to temperatures between 1800 and 2300 degrees.

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
I feel so fortunate to have parents who supported me on my artistic journey. They didn’t even blink when I said I was going to go get a degree in art. They trusted I’d find a way to make a living and they supported me every step along the way.

I also want to give a shoutout to the wonderful art workshop centers in Tennessee. I have continued to gain so much knowledge and mentorship through the Appalachian Center for Craft and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. I still make a point of taking workshops as often as I can for fresh inspiration and ideas. We are so incredibly lucky to have these places nearby!


  • Ranges from $30 to $600.

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