Local sculptor Karissa George ready for her next step
Karissa George, manager of ClayHouse Studios in Newpark, said her road to becoming an artist started when she was in high school.
"I took my first pottery class in 10th grade and that’s where I made my first sculpture," George said during an interview with The Park Record. "I tried to sculpt an airplane and I ended up making a beached whale."
While George said the piece was "awful," her teacher helped boost her confidence.
"She was really supportive, inspired me and made me feel like I had this awesome talent," George said. "At that point, I couldn’t stop wanting to work with clay. I dived into it and took classes every term against my mother’s wishes, because I was from a family who was math and science oriented."
Still, George’s love for art only blossomed when she was a student at the University of Utah.
"I took a pottery class and realized that was what I wanted to do every day," she said. "I did a lot of wheel throwing, and then I took a figure sculpting class."
That experience is instilled in her mind to this day.
"I sculpted this nude man who was posing for us in class, which was mind-blowing to me," George said. "I created this two-foot-tall sculpture and cast it in chocolate."
That was when the budding artist decided to seriously pursue figure sculpting.
"I remember telling one of my professors that I wanted to be a figure sculptor and his response was, ‘Figure sculpting has been around for at least the past few thousand years. How are you going to put a twist on it and make it different?’" George said. "I thought about that for a long time and one day, I just put a moose head on one of my figures."
That opened up a new world for George.
"It was funny because I just felt like doing that and fell in love with the concept," she said. "Since then, I’ve been super interested in creating human sculptures that have animal heads."
She also creates dog sculptures.
"I just love dogs," she said. "They are just whimsical and fun and make people happy when they look at them."
George’s fondness for animals came from her youth while growing up in Heber.
"My father is a hunter and has many hunting cameras," she said.
One of the cameras caught a playful elk at a water hole.
"It that had these huge giant antlers and would stand all prominent and regal and then roll around and play in the water," George said. "Then he’d hop up real quick as if saying, ‘Did anyone see me do that?’ Then he would do it again, and I thought how could anyone think animals don’t have playful souls."
George’s father was also instrumental in helping her develop an eye for spotting wildlife.
"While my family didn’t travel much, we did go camping all the time," she said. "And one way my dad was able to keep us quiet in the car was to pay us every time we spotted animals."
George and her siblings would receive 10 cents for every deer, 50 cents for every moose and a dollar for every bear .
"So, to this day, my friends know me as this person who can spot animals out of nowhere," she said with a laugh.
While in college, George started to see the changes in the world.
"I began to understand that all of these ecosystems are shriveling up and that inspired me more to love animals," she said.
George graduated with a degree in art education with an emphasis on ceramics and found herself at a crossroads.
"The idea of teaching at a high school was so intimidating [because] the thought about teaching 25 students in classes all day was just too much for me," she said with a laugh. "So, I thought about my time in college and realized that most of the educators in my life had a huge influence on who I am and my aspirations.
"So, when I thought about how I could change the world, I decided I could make an impact and do what those educators did with me," George said. "I could help people tap into their creative sides even though they may think those sides are nonexistent."
However, that idea was put on hold for a few months.
"After graduating, I moved to Alaska for four months and worked as a bartender," George said. "I then moved to Europe for a couple of months and worked as a sales rep. So, I stepped away from sculpting for a few, but this year, I dived back headfirst into it."
The management position at the ClayHouse opened one year ago.
"I was in Europe traveling and I applied for the job while abroad and started working when I got back in February," George said. "This job here is absolutely perfect for me. It’s my dream job. All the classes are very small and intimate and I lead classes every day."
George teaches all ages.
"The kids clay classes are geared for our youngest students who are six years old," she said. "I have a class whose ages range from 10 to 13 and I teach adult classes as well, and one of the students is 72."
In addition to helping George forge her teaching skills, the job also has helped her develop some business skills.
"This has helped me understand more about managing and running a business," she said.
While most of George’s exhibits took place when she was in college, she has shown her works at the Park Silly Sunday Market.
"When I show my own sculptures, I hope that everyone who sees them and interacts with them has their own experience," she said. "I want my works to help people become more aware of their surroundings and connect more with each other as well as other creatures that share this planet."
The next step for George, who cites figurative sculptor Deon Duncan and ceramic Crystal Morey as her two main artistic influences, is to find art gallery representation.
"I feel ready," she said. "I just need to start applying everywhere. For some reason they don’t teach you how to approach getting into galleries in art school so I’m in the process of figuring it out and hitting it hard."
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