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Natural Awakenings Tucson

One-on-One with Artist Robin Chlad

Jan 31, 2023 09:00AM ● By Suzie Agrillo
Robin Chlad is an artist who owns her own namesake business in Tucson, Robin Chlad Designs. Chlad makes inspirational pieces that will beautify your home, patio and garden. Her pottery style is bright and cheerful, not your typical clay pottery. She also creates ceramic wall tiles to spice up your walls.
If you’d prefer to exercise your own creativity, she offers workshops for beginners, in which participants can make their own mosaic wall hanging or a mosaic table. Mosaic art isexperiencing a resurgence since the pandemic, and Chlad’s classes fill up quickly, so consider the opportunity to make your own masterpiece.

Q & A with Robin Chlad

Tell us a little about growing up and your attraction to art as a vocation.
I was born in New York State, raised in Hamilton, New York. Mostly farm country, but it was also a college town (Colgate).

I was always attracted to art. I loved coloring in coloring books, drawing and doodling. I loved art class. But with six kids and an alcoholic father, my family struggled. I barely got any encouragement at home, so school was my resource. My art teacher was very supportive of my ideas and helped me cultivate my creative appetite.

When did you first start working with ceramics?
In 1983, I had a job in Germany at the Army base in a ceramic hobby shop. I learned how to make molds, paint and glaze, fire a kiln and also teach others how to as well. My boss had a potter’s wheel. I tried to make a bowl a couple times but failed miserably. I promised myself when I got back to the States I would take classes and learn how to do it. I did just that.

What inspired you to work with clay?
I was always amazed at how one could make an object out of mud. When I was little, I loved little knick-knacks that were so popular in the ‘50s. I loved how you can make clay look like anything you desire in ceramic and how you could transform a rough dry piece of clay or sculpture into a shiny new piece of art. I was not your typical ‘70s or ‘80s potter with subdued color glazes, but was entirely attracted to colors with high glassy surfaces. I like colors that pop.
Being in Tucson with the Mexican art culture, it was a natural thing to pursue.
Inspirations from the desert, sunsets, tiny flowers and precious hummingbirds, the character of a coyote all play into my art. But what also inspires me is the teachings of Jesus and his amazing creations. I do many inspirational pieces of angels and altars within a garden setting that come from my spirit—it all comes from the spirit above, really.

Are you self-taught or have you studied with someone else?
I took classes at Pima College for pottery, but I wanted to do more than make pots. My creative spirit wanted to manipulate pottery with hand-building and
sculpting. I would say most of my craft is self-taught.

Who are your biggest influences and/or mentors?
My daughters were  my biggest  influences and encouragement.  being a young mom and a new artist starting out.  Shauna and Natalie were my biggest motivation to do what it takes to provide for them. It wasn’t easy but  they have turned out to be my proudest feat in life.  When they were little they gave me playful ideas to create out of clay.  Now they are adults, they encourage and support me, give me strategies and have become my best friends.
Peter King, an architectural ceramic artist, the late Tom Kerrigan, world renownedsculpture artist. I have taken painting classes at the Drawing Studio in the past.

What is the process of making your ceramic art?
I make many types of objects, so the processes vary. Simple tile making is rolling out a slab of clay, drawing and cutting shapes, drying. glazing and firing. A vase is made from a slab of clay but rolled into a cylinder and designed. A shadow box (small sculpture) has many steps of the process and it all has to be timely. It begins with a square, rectangle or arched structure and many small sculpted free forms are built into the box.

What motivates you to create art?
Sales, honestly. When I sell something, it is a confirmation I am doing the right thing. When I get a custom order, it motivates me to create art that is my own.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?
The classes are a huge hit. Most people want to learn and make something beautiful. I have made it easy for them to make and complete a mosaic table or wall piece in three hours. It’s a lot of preparation but the smiles and joy on my students’ faces says it all. They always leave amazed at their ability to create something they are proud of and beautiful. And I’m always so proud of the different designs everyone creates. It’s extremely rewarding.

What is your dream project?
A public art piece.
Do you make custom art pieces for homes?
Yes, most of my custom work is for homes.

What do you like most about being an artist? 
I like the freedom of making my heart’s desire. I’ve always been a free spirit and I need the freedom to create. I truly believe God made me to be an artist. He put this gift in me and blessed me with a way to provide for myself. I love my life and am so grateful for being able to nurture and share my talents.

Where can people purchase your art?
Folks can purchase direct through my website or my Etsy site or through the galleries who represent my work, Wilde Meyer Gallery in Tucson and Scottsdale, and KNewby Gallery in Tubac.

Do you listen to music while you’re creating? If yes, which genre of music?
Yes! I listen to a variety of music—old country, Alan Jackson, old rock, Van Morrison, Crooners, Bossa Nova, Contemporary Christian.

Can you share the details of your wall and table mosaic classes?
Offered once a month, you get to choose from so many beautiful handmade tiles designed and made by me. I have an assistant that helps keep my inventory up. The workshop is three hours, design, glue and grout. The students leave with their piece completed.

Do you offer clay classes?
During the summer, I offer building 3D tile or shadow box classes. The classes are a four-part series. It includes small sculpture and glaze application.

What types of shadow boxes do you make?
Donkey shadow box, quails, mostly desert critter scenes.

Describe yourself in three words.
Imaginative, determined, faithful.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Always speak life, proclaim your future and do not wait on circumstances to be perfect, but keep persevering.

Do you have any favorite restaurants in Tucson?
Vivace, Truland Burgers and Greens, First Watch.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m just so grateful for all those that have supported my visions and work throughout the years. I love what I do and can’t wait to share more of what I do.

Connect with Robin Chlad at or by following Art & Clay Designs by Robin Chlad on Facebook.

Suzie Agrillo is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine. She focuses on writing about the arts, inspirational people and the human connection. Connect at [email protected].

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