In order to get to know our artists a bit better, we are introducing a series of interviews with our current member artists.
Let us introduce Celia Barbieri, The Button Florist! Celia is a quirky, joyful artist happy to bring joy into people’s lives with her colorful button flower arrangements. Not only does she create her own ceramic buttons, Celia also upcycles objects to create wall hangings, table arrangements and more.
Here is what Celia has to say:
Can you briefly describe your background and education – where you grew up, college degree?
I was born in Kansas City, lived there till I was 9. Then, my mother, sister, and I moved to a little town in Southeastern North Carolina, named Chadbourn, then the next larger small town of Whiteville. When I graduated from high school, I decided to make the move to the mountains where I went to Warren Wilson College outside Asheville in Swannanoa, NC. In 2007 I graduated from Warren Wilson with a double major in Biology and Art, concentration in Ceramics. I loved the atmosphere of the River Arts District, so I found a studio space and opened my business and I’ve been here ever since.
How did you first get involved in ceramics?
When I was 16 I took an intro to ceramics class at the local community college. It was a night class, and I went with my best friend, my mom, and stepdad. There was no ceramics class at my high school, so it was a great way to get some early college credit. We had a blast, the teacher was an older man who only taught us the basics of hand building. It was a great foundation for my love of the clay world.
How do you feel that your formal education (undergraduate and/or graduate school) prepared you for your career in ceramics?
I double majored in Biology and Art with a concentration in Ceramics. Both of my degrees help me look at the natural world with constant wonder and awe, my work is inspired greatly by nature. I find it very amusing and a seemingly perfect fit that I create an artistic representation of a natural object (flower). I think that my time at Warren Wilson prepared me to work hard, it is a work college and all the students have to work at a job on campus while attending academic classes. There is also a service component to the school. I think this all helped open my eyes to a world where strange things are possible and having diverse interests helps to create a well-rounded life! ( get my pun! )
Would you explain your attraction to buttons and/or flower arrangements?
I remember shadowing a florist when I was in middle school. I think it was the only semi-creative option for career shadowing day, but I loved the idea of arranging flowers, however I needed something more alternative than filling FTD orders! I can remember always loving buttons, small treasures, circles.
Could you describe how you came to making buttons and button flowers for a living. Why not pots? Sculpture?
I make button flowers because they are unique and they make people smile. I saw the idea of button flowers somewhere and it just seemed to click with me. In the beginning my button flowers were all made from up cycled, vintage buttons, it wasn’t until taking my 2-3 ceramics class that I had the idea of making ceramic buttons to incorporate into my flowers. I have also enjoyed the evolution of button flowers, they have grown and evolved over the years. Eventually, I would like to get back into making more functional pots and maybe even some larger sculptural button flowers as well. However, especially in a town full of potters, I like making a unique product that stands out from the crowd!
What does a typical workday look like for you? How much do you spend on marketing vs. making?
I don’t really have a typical workday. Somedays I am making clay buttons, and some days I am assembling flower stems and bouquets. I spend most of my time making. I struggle with the marketing and “business” side of running my business. I like social media outlets, like Instagram and Facebook, where I can easily just post a quick snapshot of my day.
What is your favorite part of your work?
Finding new treasures to use to press into the clay in order to make new button designs. I love seeing the potential in often discarded or under appreciated objects. For example, taking a cabinet door knob that I found on the side of the road in a trash pile, while taking my dogs for a walk, then taking that back to the studio and pressing it in clay to realize it will make a beautiful button design.
If you could (add?) any material to your work what would it be and why?
Enamel and copper. I have had dreams of learning how to enamel copper for years. I have an enameling kiln, but just need to take the time to learn how to use it! I would really like to make copper enameled buttons and find a way to incorporate them into my flowers!
Do you prefer making what you want or fulfilling the customer’s design ideas on commission work?
I have been fortunate in that most of the customers I have worked with on custom orders and commissions have been easy to work with. Every once in a while someone asks me to make something or put together a color combination that I don’t enjoy, but I think for some people part of buying handmade items, means that they need to be part of the process too. Sometimes it is nice to get a fresh perspective, and sometimes it is a pain in the ass!