“Maria Wickwire’s intriguing clay sculptures of the female figure bring to view emotions of anguish and longing. She was a successful, published poet until she first touched clay and discovered a direct connection between damp earth and her feeling hands.” (Stephen Hunt, Cascadia Weekly)
Maria Wickwire’s creative journey began with her earliest crayon images, populated even as a child with figures whose stories were dictated and recorded faithfully on the backs of the drawings. Although encouraged by her family, Maria’s artistic exploration was mostly a solitary one, drifting between drawing, painting, and writing. The hours she spent imagining and creating were her way of recharging when the shy child felt challenged by the frequent relocations of a Navy family.
Living at various times on both coasts and in the south, Wickwire was fascinated by the music of the accents and dialects she heard, spawning an interest she later pursued when learning to speak several languages, and enriching the stories she would eventually write in the voices of characters who seemed to want to write themselves into her poems.
Growing up, Maria was surrounded by people who quietly infused daily work with creativity, whether it was in her grandfathers’ gardens and storytelling, her grandmothers’ intricate needlework and cooking the daily meals, or her parents’ senses of humor. A creative life was not something separate; it was just how you did whatever you did. Perhaps that is why one of Maria’s favorite quotations is, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
As a young adult, Maria’s passion for helping young children pursue their interests led her to become a teacher dedicated to encouraging her students to blossom into their full potential. Throughout her career, Maria continued the exploration of her own creative life, becoming a published poet and, later, discovering her talent for creating ceramic figure sculpture.
In a serendipitous moment, Maria first put her hands into clay while making teapots with her young students. She has not been able to put it down since then, advancing quickly from teapots to figures. As with her poems, the figures and the tales they come to tell seem to “write themselves” into being. Maria works intuitively and trusts the clay to tell her what it wants to be. She follows the call, discovering universal stories through the process.
Maria is primarily self-taught, but as she developed her unique voice in writing and in clay, she took advantage of opportunities to learn from poets William Stafford, Judith Barrington, Barbara Drake and Kim Stafford as well as sculptors Francisco Salgado, Richard Helm, Kikki Masthem, Christina West and Adrian Arleo, with whom she worked in Italy in the fall of 2108.
After retiring from her teaching career, Maria became a well-known artist in Portland, OR, created a public art piece for the city of Lake Oswego, OR, and was featured on the Emmy Award Winning show, Oregon Art Beat, before relocating to the Skagit Valley. Since then, she has exhibited near her new home and made many new friends in the process.
When asked why she doesn’t make bronzes, so she can “have lots of copies” of her pieces, Maria responds that each of her pieces represents a unique journey and learning experience. The process is the important thing and she is ready to move on to the next discovery. The sculptures, too, are ready to move out into the world to stand on their own and share their wisdom with those who encounter them. Viewers often have differing interpretations of her work, but that simply adds patina to the pieces, as far as Maria is concerned. She creates from a deep place inside and only hopes her work will touch others deeply as well.