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ARTIST PROFILE: Christina Saunders finds success with ceramics

November 30, 2018
By STEVE LESTER - Arts correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - For Christina Saunders it all started with a handmade ceramic mug when she was 9. To her it felt like the earth, it felt wonderful to actually drink out of it, and best of all, it was a one-of-kind treasure because the hands that made it were hers.

"At 9 years old, to create something I could drink out of was a feeling of accomplishment," she said.

But to make a living doing art? Pffft!

Article Photos

Photo provided — Steve Lester
Christina Saunders poses behind a table of her ceramic pieces for sale at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts’ Gallery 46 in the Alpine Mall downtown.

"I never wanted to have to rely on art for income," she said.

After high school she ventured about 60 miles southwest from her hometown of Penn Yan to Alfred University, with its student body of roughly 2,000, where she earned bachelor's degrees in gerontology and psychology.

"Alfred has a pretty diverse curriculum for being so far out in the middle of nowhere," she said.

Her interest in pottery never faded from when she made that first mug through an after-school program in Penn Yan, but she found it challenging to find openings in pottery courses offered in high school and especially at Alfred, she said.

"Alfred is one of the top ceramic schools in the country," she said, adding that pottery instruction there is in such high demand that few other than graduating seniors in their final semester are allowed to take it.

She graduated from Alfred in 2003 and found her way to Lake Placid two years later.

"I came up in the summer and waited tables while trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. And I never left," she said.

She spent some time working with at-risk youth while doing food service on the side, she said, but she also found two outlets where she could develop her pottery skills: BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake and the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

"I felt excited and comforted to have access to studio space and to be in a community that cared enough to provide such," she says.

She took one class at BluSeed and spent the rest of her creative hours at the LPCA's art studio until she built one in her own home, she says.

"LPCA is at the forefront of my way back into clay here," she says. "I think if you really dig into all they have to offer in the way of arts in this community, there is, in fact, something for everyone. Being such a small town, we are all super-lucky to have such variety in dance, arts, music, shows and coursework for so many age groups."

The LPCA is also at the forefront of something she never expected from her art: a little steady income. Saunders' works have become steady sellers at the LPCA's Gallery 46, located at 2525 Main St.

"It's been doing very well there," she said. "They take pretty much everything I have."

Unlike many pieces of ceramic work, the design on Saunders' continues all the way around from top to bottom. If you pick up a plate and flip it over, you will see more artwork on the bottom as well.

When asked why shoppers like her works, Gallery 46 director Jon Donk commented, "Well, I think it's the uniqueness and the details. When people look at the bottoms, they get pretty excited. It's not like something you can buy at a big-box store."

Saunders said she makes regular trips to Gallery 46 to deliver her works for display. When asked how often she makes such trips, Donk interjected, "Not enough!" But after some discussion, she estimated that it's about once a month.

"Pottery work is a long process," she explained.

Despite conflicting information posted on various websites, Donk said Gallery 46 opens at 10 a.m. Thursday through Monday, with different closing times. On Thursday it closes at 5 p.m. On Friday and Saturday it closes at 6, and on Sunday and Monday it closes at 4.

It's located next to the Alpine Mall, with entrances on Main Street and inside the mall itself.



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