Mysticism and Symbolism Conveyed in Clay
By Heike Hellmann-Brown
Clay artist Phoebe Maze has always been intrigued by stories that formed the foundation of societies, such as Adam and Eve, Noah, by religious symbolisms, fantasy and mythology. “As an army brat, I lived in Germany during my childhood. Many values and educational lessons in this society were conveyed through the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. As a young girl I was fascinated by those stories.”
Phoebe’s mother, a painter, inspired Phoebe to explore her artistic potential. “I have always been an artist in a certain sense — I just did not know how to express it,” explains Maze, who majored in art. “I enjoyed learning about the creative process and tried different outlets. Painting eventually led me to clay, because I always wanted to reach into the paint and rearrange it.”
Maze has worked in clay since the late ‘80s. In the beginning she used models to make life-size busts or small figures, but her interest changed to animals, mythology, and architecture. “Sometimes I have a path in mind, certain ideas that I want to bring to fruition. But, often I let the clay tell me what to do, and I become lost in the creative process,” Maze says. “Interestingly, it’s often the cut-off scraps that define the piece by becoming an intricate part of the decoration.” Maze also experiments with metal inclusions or glass pieces that bear the element of surprise, because she can never really tell if they melt or retain their original form.
Today, Maze’s 3D-work, either as clay sculptures or dioramas, is often inspired by her frequent travels to far countries, from Middle America to Europe and the Far East. “I take guided tours, but afterward I explore the country on my own,” says Maze, who recently visited Nepal. Her travels to Asia inspired a collection of temples. “The locals create small outdoor temples to commemorate hikers who died climbing Mt. Everest. I also became fascinated with the eye symbol, which is used as a talisman in several cultures. Buddha will protect you and avoid evil, but, at the same time, he will watch you.” Her work also explores the image of the heart as a symbol in different cultures and incorporates images of the Chinese Terracotta Warriors into architectural framework.
In her spare time, Maze enjoys renovating old houses. “Currently, I oversee the renovation of a 1909 farmhouse in Waleska that I intend to bring back to its original beauty.” Her interest in architecture also influences her clay pieces, for instance, by giving functional boxes an architectural flair.
Maze and her late husband owned “Maze Studio,” a gallery in Atlanta. Now, she displays her work during exhibits and was a featured artist at the High Museum’s Artist Studio Tour. Maze is on the board of directors of the Cherokee Arts Center and was a judge at Cherokee Arts Festival and Riverfest. She is also a past president of the Georgia Clay Council.