Jean & Carl Saake – Master Ceramic Artists
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” — Will Durant
If excellence is “just” a habit, the act of continually pounding on one’s craft and striving to become better with each stroke of the brush or each pinch of clay then Carl and Jean Saake are indeed masters of their art.
In this month’s Inside the Artist’s Studio, we will be hearing from Jean and Carl whose whimsical handcrafted work is hosted in galleries all over Western North Carolina.
Inside the Artists’ Studio
Jean was born in 1934 and her husband Carl (a retired project architect) was born in 1927.
This dynamic artistic duo were married in 1954 and have been created a long-lasting partnership based on love of each other; their children and of course their mutual love of art and beauty.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
JEAN: Marry and have children.
CARL: Be a newspaper reporter of a archaeologist.
When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?
JEAN: Doing a clay work in high school. First project was clay lamp base.
CARL: When I did watercoloring at approximately age 10.
How long does it take you to create one of your pieces?
JEAN: It all depends on the piece. Ornaments or hand-formed fruit (or critters like ladybugs, cats, birds, etc) take longer. Sometime hours or days or even weeks.
CARL: If it is sculpture, the several months.
What is your schedule like when you’re working?
JEAN: I paint every day for over 5 hours. This is not counting pouring bells or hand forming fruit, etc.
CARL: Depends on what I’m working on.
What would you say is your most interesting quick while working?
JEAN: I love music when I work or nothing so I think about what I am doing.
CARL: It’s hardly a quick: I enjoy classical music as I work. (Now that his hearing is fading, Carl says he wears earphones so he can play his music as loud as he wants – without disturbing Jean).
Where do you get your ideas or inspirations for your artwork?
JEAN: I mostly depend on my own ideas – like the fruit. I buy pears to see how they are formed. I read magazines to get some good ideas occasionally.
CARL: From the following: Magazines, museums, newspapers, gift shops, nature, animals and not the least which are people who sometime suggest ideas to me.
How do you decide on which ideas to develop?
JEAN: We’ll try to think of things that will sell well. I drop those things that don’t sell.
CARL: Will it bear any fruit ($) or will I decide it is to remain with me (us – in our collection) because of the length of time it took to produce it.
What do you like to do when you’re not working on your art?
JEAN: Cook, clean (I love cleaning), gardening. Ceramics is my life.
CARL: Read and listen to music or sketch out a new idea.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your art?
JEAN: Sometimes good things happen by accident! Do not hold any piece as precious – it may break!
CARL: Since I am detailed oriented, the (actual) length of time it takes to achieve what I perceive in my mind.
How many pieces do you think you have created?
JEAN: 10,000+ pieces over 63 years as a potter – the pieces are all over the world!
CARL: Numerous – I’ve been at this a long time.
Which ones were your favorites?
JEAN: No favorites – things are made, sold and gone. Sometimes I do wish I had kept more for myself.
CARL: Those that are in my permanent collection.
What do you think makes good art?
JEAN: It is in the “eye of the beholder”. Art that you know took time to create! I love old master painters.
CARL: A well conceived idea – execution of one’s talent on the project and if desired….”marketability”.
Do you hear from your fans? What kinds of things do they say?
JEAN: People like our work when they see it in person. They say “How cute!” or “It’s beautiful”.
CARL: I have no” fans – my (our) work is only available in the Asheville area.
Since Carl and Jean don’t use the web to market their work; they only associate “fans” with online followers – so they just don’t know how well their work is received outside our area and that they are considered by some to be “slightly famous” as two of the oldest working ceramic artists in North Carolina.
We invite you to come by the gallery and see Carl and Jean’s artwork for yourself > Directions to Mountain Made art gallery in downtown Asheville NC.