Mariella Luz is a working artist and studio potter living in Olympia, Washington. She serves as a board member of several arts organizations including Artist Trust. “I think it is really important to be an advocate for art and artists,” she explained. “That said, it is a challenge to make time to do volunteer work when you also have to make money. There are times when I have to miss things because I need to stay in the studio to make a deadline, but I guess that it’s all about the balance.”
On why she supports Artist Trust as a volunteer board member and donor, Mariella exclaimed, “Artist Trust makes a direct impact on artists’ lives and that is huge!” Introduced to AT through word of mouth, Mariella shared that “hearing so many artists talk about how impactful Artist Trust has been to their work, not just the grant money but also the training and resources.”
In addition to her AT board service, she is on the board of the Washington State Arts Commission and Olympia Artspace Alliance, which is currently working toward obtaining affordable studio spaces in Olympia. One of the challenges that Olympia’s artists face is not uncommon to what’s happening in other cities across Washington State. “Like so many other places, the cost of living is going up and that is making it hard for people to find affordable living or work space. In our case, it is the sprawl of Seattle/Portland and not anything we are doing in our own community.”
Unable to imagine life in Olympia without the arts community, Mariella cites its vibrant presence as one of the reasons why more and more people are flocking to Washington State’s capital. ”Our local scene is driven by artists without much help from the city or any other infrastructure and I wish that were different but even without it I think art/artist make such a small city so livable,” she said. ”In the state I am always impressed so many amazing artists call Washington home. We have so much going on in our corner of the country!”
A graduate of Evergreen State College, Mariella founded the Olympia All Ages Project and worked as the general manager of K Records, an independent record label founded in 1982. “I had been working in the music industry for a long time and when the label I had been working for started to change its structure, I felt like I wanted to move on to a new challenge,” said Mariella.
Turned off by the idea of working at an office job, Mariella began spending more time on developing her own studio practice. She would sell things that she made from time to time and took on side gigs like teaching to supplement her income. “It took awhile before I could leave my full-time job to work as an artist full time,” she reflected.
She describes her day-to-day as “a grind like any other job can be.” Debunking the myth that being a working artist is just about creating and having fun, she adds, “There are lots of awesome parts but tons of other not as fun things too. Including taxes, forms, and emails! You don’t pick up the guitar once and play like Hendrix, why would you be good at being an artist after your first try? You wouldn’t, you don’t. Stop thinking it’s magic.”
As far as turning her artmaking into a viable career, Mariella struggled with figuring out how to grow her business in a way that was true to herself and her values. “Living in a capitalist society, it is always about making more money and constant growth. But really, does that make sense? To me it doesn’t and I have to just trust my instincts.” Another challenge that she has faced is learning how to say “no,” adding that “when you’re self employed saying ‘no’ to money seems silly, but really you have to think about your capacity - to continue to do work you feel pride in, and your sanity!”
So what made Mariella decide to passionately pursue a career as an artist? Just one pottery class was all it took for her to get hooked. “Honestly, it was love at first sight/touch,” she shared. “I love making things from clay - the transformation it goes through, the meditation of making things over and over again.”
The impression that she wants people to have of her ceramic pieces is that they are simple and beautiful objects. “It seems like there is so much disposable stuff and my work is the opposite of that. I don’t want people to think it is too precious to use every day. Use it! It might get cracked, but it will still be useful and lovely in a new way.”
View Mariella’s pottery work on her Etsy page mbuenopottery.