Written by: Wendy Seiple of ArtisTree Community Arts Center & Gallery
Local artist Charlet Davenport is sitting on a stool at a long table as daylight pours into the ceramics studio at ArtisTree on a frigid February morning. While her hands move fluidly shaping the clay, she talks about her life, her family, and her work.
Currently, she is focused on a fist size piece, one of seventy, that will come together to make a giant frame. Each of the seventy pieces is composed of multiple smaller elements that are molded, carved, and twisted together by Charlet’s confident and skilled hands. Anyone who sits with Charlet for even a few minutes will not only be mesmerized by the intuitive flow of her fingers as she contours the clay, but also her bountiful stories.
Her art, like her stories, ebbs and flows organically.
Like any seasoned artist, Charlet has an eye for her medium and its potential. With what might look like a nondescript slab of clay to the inexperienced ceramicist, she sees a bird.
“Yes!”, she says studying the nondescript mound, “it’s definitely a bird!”, and within a few minutes the head, beak, and body are gently molded. As she’s talking about the bird, she explains that the consistent artistic theme throughout her life has been “mud and light, because all things come from that.”
Once she is satisfied with the shape of the bird it becomes part of the larger fist size piece. Her art, like her stories, ebbs and flows organically.
Now in her late seventies, Charlet shares that when she goes skiing she likes to tell people that she is 80, “since that gets a bigger reaction than saying I’m in my late 70’s.”
This playful humor combined with a keen sense of her surroundings is reflected in her work, as well. This morning she saw a yellow tulip at home and the shape of its petals inspired her. She deftly carves two tulip petals from a flat piece of clay.
She moves the two petal shapes together at their wide ends to create wings, and explains, “tulips are like bird wings! I didn’t notice that until this morning.” As she’s melding one form into another, she’s also seamlessly connecting one story to the next. A story about a cat that drowned in a local well, leads to a story about her friend who is a douser, which leads to a story about a bobcat that was relocated miles from its home only to find its way back.
Her face lights up and she says, “Isn’t that amazing? How a place gets into you? Like with the bobcat.”
Though she has a home studio, ArtisTree is a place that has gotten into Charlet. She is a regular at the ceramics studio as she enjoys connecting with other artists while working. “Your work reflects where you are.”
With nine grandchildren and a lifetime spent pursuing various creative endeavors, Charlet has a wealth of experiences to share. She is a tremendous local resource as well as a valued member of the ArtisTree community.
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in the studio with Charlet, pull up a stool and enjoy.