My Art Process

Curious about how I create my whimsical art?

Cheryl B Hutchinson sculpting a figure in clay(There's a reason it's called "Happy Muddy Stuff" -- ceramics is messy!)

Whether it's art for your wall or an original sculpture taking pride of place, my artwork centers around my colorful quirky ceramic sculptures.

Sure, I can create stunningly realistic busts and sculptures. But, with this collection, I steer clear of realism because I want to avoid creating a false sense of separateness or "otherness."

My colorful anthropomorphic characters make it easy to see our commonalities, connectedness, and "sameness." Maybe they’ll even help you spread a bit more compassion to yourself!

When I'm ready to create a piece, I peruse images of animals until a photo "grabs" me. I'm on the lookout for unusual poses, interesting scenarios, or animals that "say" something to me.

The initial photo that sparks my creativity rarely has all the exact details I'm looking for, so I hunt for more photos until I have everything I need to bring the sculpture to life.

For example, I'll find a photo that has a great pose. And in a second photo, maybe I'll like the way the animal's head cocks to the side. And then a third photo has just the right facial expression -- which means it's often a photo of a human! And so on....

I then "fuse" all of this visual information together in my head as I imagine the piece taking shape.

But instead of doing preliminary drawings before I sculpt, I simply grab some clay and get started -- peeking at the reference photos on my phone and letting the clay "tell" me where it needs to go.

I start by pinching a hollow form and then add, subtract, and push clay around until I'm happy with how it’s reflecting the underlying bones and muscles of the animal. I do the same with each and every body part and then add them all together to complete the critter.

Cheryl B Hutchinson attaching a limb to her ceramic sculpture

Then I refine and smooth the sculpture by adding and removing clay until I'm happy with the final form.

Next up, the clay needs to dry out in order to go into the kiln for its first firing. (If it's not fully dry, it can explode in the kiln -- not a pretty picture!)

Once the sculpture is out of the kiln, I paint it with glaze in a color that reflects the emotion I'm trying to convey and pop the piece back into the kiln for its final firing.

With the sculpture complete, I poke, prod, and cajole the critter into posing for its portrait.

Like people having their photo taken, some critters are more cooperative and others, not so much. But with time, patience, and often a good talking to, I finally get a portrait I'm pleased with.

Then comes the magic of Photoshop to adjust the colors for accuracy, add a complementary background color, and replace the sculpture's ceramic eyes with dark, sparkly eyes from photos of real squirrels.

All of these steps make my art come alive and give it its playful, young-at-heart personality. You won’t find anything else exactly like it!