Leslie Wentzell Expresses Herself through Clay
Growing up in Racine, Wisconsin, new Anderson Artists Guild member Leslie Wentzell liked art but never thought she was any good at it. When she married, she dropped out of college, having been unsure of a major, anyway.
For 30 years, she and her husband, David (also an AAG member), ran a commercial silk screen shop together. They started in the mid-1970s, when everything was done by hand or camera. “I liked the work though it wasn’t terribly creative,” she said. “We worked with a lot of design agencies that did the creative stuff.”
When her kids left for college, Wentzell returned, as well, at age 50 earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a ceramic emphasis from the University of Wisconsin Parkside. “Once I got my hands on clay, that was it,” she said. “I kept talking myself out of it, but once I took a class, I fell in love with working on the wheel.”
Her work has evolved over the years. In college, she worked very abstractly or nonrepresentationally. “I looked at forms and what I saw and what attracted me rather than putting forth concepts or ideas,” she said. These days, she builds primarily from hand, creating figurative or abstract sculptures. She also makes birds mounted on driftwood and clay baskets with driftwood handles that she used to sell through a gallery in Key West. She also creates functional pottery, which she calls “my bread and butter.”
Fifteen years ago, she and her husband moved to the Florida Panhandle, where she worked as a graphic designer and taught classes to locals and snowbirds in her studio. But Hurricane Michael, followed by the pandemic, gutted that business, and they moved to Anderson in December, drawn by the small size and temperate climate. They also didn’t want to be too far from family in Florida.
Since then, they have been converting their oversized two-car garage into a studio, adding insulation, paint, shelves, a sink, and a kiln. There is also an outbuilding that they plan to use, as well. They’re eager to finish. “The goal is to work on our own things and not be beholden to anyone,” she said.
For more information about Wentzell, visit http://lesliewentzell.com/index.html.