Sydney Roper: Clay Whisperer

Sydney Roper, local artist and owner of Muse Pottery, is a quirky and brilliantly creative clay whisperer. She creates unique pottery that is both functional and artistic, often putting out work that is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. From tea sets to birdhouses, orchid pots to coffee mugs, and everything in between- her technique impeccable and style is unmatched. Watching her throw on a potter’s wheel is absolutely mesmerizing. Some of my favorite pieces I have seen from her are her giant cabbages, buttery popcorn, and banana blossom sculptures. Her talents don’t stop with clay however, she also paints, knits, and runs a small hobby farm, homeschools her 6 children, teaches various art classes, and really, there doesn’t seem to be anything this renaissance woman can’t do if she sets her mind to it.

When asked to describe herself, she says, “I am a mom of six and people often ask how I do all the things I do. I am a maker. I make things. I work in a variety of medium and materials. Currently I primarily work with clay and oil paints but that could change. Although those have been constant notes in my artistic composures. I sculpt, paint, knit, spin yarn, and make functional pottery pieces. Honestly I don’t have a choice. I have a compulsion to be creative and work with my hands.”

She goes on to say, “Recently I overcame the extreme fear I had developed and have started showing my art work publicly and not just to close family and friends. I have never “fit in” well and once I got to a point in my life when I realized I never really wanted to It has been fun. I enjoy doing things a lot of people don’t show interest in, I am always learning. I am married to my best friend who is incredibly supportive of my interests.”

What’s a typical day like for this busy mom of six and wife of a firefighter? “I am up around sunrise and I write a list of what I desire to accomplish both creatively and otherwise. I homeschool my children, tend to the usual household chores and animals. During nap times I will work in clay typically as my “clay studio” is outdoors. Painting I reserve for the evening time when I have no available light to work on clay. Visualization is a big part of the process for me, I imagine the construction of pieces and try to work them out in my “mind’s eye” first. I jot down ideas in a sketch book but seldom work sketch out ideas.” She failed to mention that she is also breastfeeding her youngest daughter, who just turned one, and doesn’t not yet get to sleep through the night.

One of her fondest childhood memories is, finding clay with a potter, while living in Jamaica, and learning to make things with it. “I still have one of the pieces out of that found clay, the ears have since broken off but I am happy my mom saved it for me,” she smiles as she reminisces.

One of the biggest influences in her life, and part of the reason she developed into a phenomenal artist, is her father. As she recalls, “My late father was a renaissance man. He came from a long line of engineers and architects. He designed and built wooden sailboats and ice boats. He could build anything. He also did intricate decorative rope work, a nearly lost art. I didn’t understand how unusual his multitude of talents were until I was much older. We lost him when I was 18. There are so many things I wish I could learn from him now. we just didn’t have enough time.”

Where does Sydney find her inspiration? She says, “Artists draw inspiration from everywhere really. I often work in a series but rather accidentally. I become enraptured by a topic and dive right in sometimes. Some of my current series are: cows, chickens, octopuses, and of course Alice in Wonderland. I was drawn out of my shell, or my self-proclaimed bog, by Danika Hopper. I have enjoyed being around other creative people and that energy is contagious. There are people who are technically skilled at a given medium and then there are artists, being with true artists is an amazingly inspiring experience.” She’s right, I did sort of attempt to drag her out of her bog, and into the spotlight. Her work is simply too wonderful not to share with the world.

Future goals for this talented woman include her dreams of owning a ‘67 Camaro and a VW bus. Sydney says, “I want my children to see that I pursued my dreams. I achieved my Master’s degree with six children in tow. I created art despite being told I would never make enough money at it or it was just a hobby. Or even from other artists being told clay was a craft and that my styles of art weren’t what they considered art. I would like to move my studio to a climate controlled space, so I guess the Camero and VW will have to wait.”

Sydney says her biggest mistakes along the way have been allowing people’s opinions to determine the worth of her art, as well as not taking enough risks artistically earlier in her career. When asked what advice she has for budding, new artists, she had this to offer, “Keep working, experiment, take risks and be bold.”

Sydney’s amazing work is on exhibition throughout South Florida, from galleries in Fort Myers all the way to Miami. Locally, you can find her functional pieces at, Cottage Under the Oaks, 95 Fort Thompson Ave. The Barron Park House Gallery, 471 N. Lee St., exhibits her original paintings and a few items can be found in their gift shop. For more information, contact Sydney at musepotterylabelle@gmail.com.

Danika can be reached at dhopper@newszap.com

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