Creating in clay helped Caroline Douglas heal, and her work inspires others today
Boulder resident Caroline Douglas holds a degree in ceramics and has been an artist most of her life. About 20 years ago, Caroline injured her head in a cherry picker while decorating a gym for her daughter’s graduation. “My head was crushed between the cage and the ladder,” she says. “Then I fell to the ground.” She sustained a traumatic brain injury, which took eight years to recover from.
After relearning to walk and talk, Caroline began having nightly dreams of clay pieces “that wanted to be made.” Clay became her main healing tool and her doctors were amazed by her recovery. “Clay became a place of creative joy where healing occurred,” she says. Today, 20 years later, Caroline continues to inspire other artists and students through her classes and workshops.
H+G: Please describe your artistic style and preferred medium.
Caroline: My style has been called ‘magic realism.’ I love fantasy, mythology and the art of ancient cultures. I’ve been drawn to clay since my teen years, so that would be about 45 years. Clay is so malleable, textural and easily formed. Figurative ceramics are a wonderful way to express my inner emotions and dreams.
H+G: What is your favorite thing about creating art?
Caroline: I love creating something from basically nothing. I love how creating brings me into the present moment, where time stands still and I can surprise myself. I love it when that happens.
H+G: What inspires you?
Caroline: My dreams, the world around me, walking in nature, the animals who inhabit my garden, mythology, museums, travel and the workshops I teach around the world. Every year, I take a group to Morocco to collaborate with clay artists there and ride camels on the beach and in the desert. That’s inspirational.
H+G: What is your greatest challenge about creating art?
Caroline: Finishing all the pieces I’ve started! Another is what to do with all I’ve made. Also, I can get so totally focused that I forget appointments, or sometimes I forget to eat. Well, not so much these days—forgetting food—hah!
H+G: What terrifies you?
Caroline: Losing the use of my hands.
H+G: Why are you drawn to figurative clay sculpting?
Caroline: The figure is the perfect image to express ideas about life as a human. Animals also captivate my imagination and I love rendering them in clay to represent the sacred beings that they are.
H+G: What artists do you admire?
Caroline: I could spend days in the British Museum among the ancient sculpture sections. I love to look at Michelangelo, Rodin, Brâncuşi, Calder, Picasso and Chagall, as well as Gaudí and Matisse—their works are feasts for the eyes. [Sculptor] Antonio Canova for his love of the body and his ability to reveal its aliveness—that’s sheer delight! I admire anyone who creates something from nothing, with passion.
H+G: What is your favorite pastime?
Caroline: Creating art is my favorite thing to do. I get grumpy if I don’t have a project to work on.
H+G: What do you want your art to say?
Caroline: An image is worth a thousand words? Life is a journey filled with wonder? Our sacred world is captivating and magical? As [poet] Mary Oliver says, “Pay attention/Be astonished/Tell about it.”
View Caroline’s work at carolinedouglas.com; on Instagram @carolinedouglasart; and on Facebook. She exhibits at the Worrell Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and at the Watson MacRae Gallery in Sanibel, Florida. Subscribe to Caroline’s website to receive five free prompts from her “Creativity Heals” workbook.