Sarasota Artist’s Pottery: An Ode to the Gulf Coast

By Jane Bartnett

The art of ceramics, or hand-thrown pottery, has become one of the fastest growing trends in today’s art world. For Gretchen Singh, a professional graphic artist who discovered ceramics after a successful career in the corporate world, it has given her a new world to explore. As one of 33 featured artists at the Coastal Flow ocean inspired design and decor store on South Tamiami Trail, near Stickney Point Road, Singh’s handmade pottery items are a customer favorite, according to Jesse Gill, Coastal Flow’s owner.

“They’re kind of peaceful,” said Gill, as she held one of Singh‘s coffee mugs decorated with a whimsical seahorse. “Holding it in your hands and looking at the beautiful blue-green glaze is somehow comforting. I think it makes you feel the beauty of Siesta Key beach,” she said. “People are attracted to these handmade, beautifully colored items,” Gill noted. Singh agrees and says that she finds “there is a renewed interest in things that are handmade and made here in America.”

“Pottery,” ceramic artist Amelia Johannsen wrote, imbues “everyday objects with purpose and beauty; it gives them a soul. When an object is made by hand, you will care for it and cherish it.” As the growth of the website Etsy has shown, the pandemic has fueled growth in the world of hand-crafted art. With the holiday season upon us, seasonal gift guides are reporting that hand-crafted items such as handmade ceramic cups, dishes, vases, and all things for the home are extremely popular. Perhaps the unique nature of the pieces, each one unlike any other, gives us a sense of wonder. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “with everything upside down” handmade items by talented artists are special. They bring a bit of beauty and calm and let the gift recipient know that no one else in the world has this special gift.

Ceramic artist Gretchen Singh at the pottery wheel in her Coastal Clay Studio. 
Photo: Coastal Clay Studio

A visit to Singh’s website CoastalClayStudio.com offers a glimpse into the artist’s work. Her “decorative and functional pottery” as she calls it, reflects the colors of the Siesta Key coastline in soft shades of blue, green and sand. Her hand-thrown clay designs range from mugs to small dishes, sponge-holders, desk items, and larger vases and dishes. In addition to selling her wares at the Coastal Flow store, Singh is also a weekly featured artist at the Farmers’ Market at Lakewood Ranch, located at the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, where she exhibits her pottery every Sunday from 10 am – 2 pm. She also sells her pottery designs at regional art fairs and on special order. Upon request Singh will create custom pieces and produce select pieces for wholesale. A graduate of Texas Woman’s University, Singh holds a bachelor’s degree in art.

“I enjoy pottery because the possibilities are endless,” said the artist. “Anything you can dream of you can pretty much make with clay,” she says of her new passion.

Singh made the Sarasota area her home in 2017 when she re-located to Venice from Toledo, Ohio. Drawing on her professional corporate background she launched a graphic design business called Coastal Creative Studio that caters to small area businesses. Her graphic work also helps to support her ceramic business. “I design websites, logos, print materials, business cards, and promotional post cards for small businesses,” she told the Siesta Sand. “I enjoy creating logos and helping small businesses to build their identities.” Her graphic design work draws on Singh’s 15 years as a professional graphic artist in the corporate world. For 12 of those years, Singh worked with the Boy Scouts of America and during that time, she served as the organization’s Art Director for their national office in Irving, Texas. During that time she was involved in shaping the organization’s national advertising campaigns as well as overseeing their corporate messaging. Her move to Venice allowed her to not only continue her graphic design work but also provided an opportunity for her to branch out into stonework clay and to build a new business as a ceramic artist. “I left the corporate world to channel my creative energies into pottery full time,” she said. “The Sarasota community,” Singh says of her new home “is a welcoming place for artists.”

Speaking passionately of her art, Singh explains that “a brick of stoneware clay is spun and pressed with a finite attention to detail. It is bisque fired then dipped, rubbed, and brushed with a carefully selected glaze combination. Finally, it is fired again at temperatures exceeding 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The end product is a beautiful piece of art.”

Coastal Flow store owner Jesse Gill

displays pottery designs by artist Gretchen Singh. Singh is one of 33 local artists whose work is sold at Coastal Flow.

Photo: Siesta Sand.