PUNXSUTAWNEY — A Punxsutawney potter prides herself on being passionate for faces and clay, sharing that love with the community.
Yvette Lepley runs her pottery studio out of the basement of her home, and also has a retail shop — “The Rusty Garden” — in a building beside it.
Lepley recalls one of her favorite stories, rewinding back to the age of 7, when her mother gave her an old blender. She took it out in the yard and filled it with mud, fascinated she could make a clay-like substance.
She didn’t start experimenting with clay, though, until 20 years later when she was at Cecil College in Maryland, Lepley said. She has an associate degree in education, as well as a bachelor’s in studio art, specializing in sculptural ceramics. At 32 years old, she was putting in more than 12 hours, seven days a week, at her second job as a studio assistant.
“I love clay and wanted to make sculptures,” she said. “I see the pottery wheel as a tool to get to where I want to go.”
When her children were small, Lepley started selling her products on eBay, or at the Wizard’s Workshop in Punxsutawney and “Chicks from the Sticks.” She’s been selling her products out of her home retail shop for three years, as well as gaining publicity through Facebook.
What she is most popularly known for is faces — almost every pottery creation she makes has a face, and each is different. Lepley appreciates how the “tiniest change” to a face, such as moving the eyebrow or mouth, changes the entire display.
“It’s part of the joy of what I do, the beauty of expression,” she said.
She’s made thousands of faces over the years, working on about six to 12 coffee mugs at a time. She makes “cartoonish” faces, as well as realistic ones, working from photographs. Each piece is individual.
Some include Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Heath Ledger. She also gets requests, Lepley says.
In almost everything she does, Lepley aims to work “outside of the box,” creating crazy pieces that people see and recognize as hers.
Lepley loves sharing her passion for clay, too. She hosts adult classes and children’s pottery events three or four times a year.
Children tend to really enjoy the classes, too, when they realize they can poke and play with clay and still make it into what ever they want, Lepley says.
For adults, pottery is a stress reliever, Lepley says. They get to be a part of every step of the process.
“Clay is healing for them,” she said. “If people come after a stressful day, they leave happy, and they leave with a memory they can take home with them.”
Lepley’s husband, Bill, is also an artist. He repurposes a lot of things in and outside of her retail shop, working often with balance.
When the weather gets warmer, she also starts making her way to shows, like the “River Road Pottery Show” held in Worthville in May and September. It’s a “high-end crafter’s fair” held outdoors, featuring several handmade and repurposed items.
Her retail shop is constantly growing and changing, Lepley says, as she discovers new clay creations, such as bird feeders or salt and pepper shakers.
“For Punxsutawney being a small town, I’m impressed with the ratio of people who enjoy art,” she said. “There are a lot of talented people here.”
Lepley’s work will also be at the Handmade Fair at Nomadic Trading Company on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, visit “Yvette Lepley Pottery” on Facebook.