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Art & Life with Jane Kelsey-Mapel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jane Kelsey-Mapel.

Jane, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
When someone asks me how long I have been an artist, I answer “Always!” As a child, I drew constantly. I guess you could say I got my start in clay by making mud pies and baking them in the hot desert sun. Fortunately, my parents were very supportive of my artistic interests. My mother had a degree in home economics and taught me to sew at an early age. These skills still influence my work today as I cut shapes from flat slabs of clay connecting them like pattern pieces to create human and animal figures.

I went to college in my home town of Tempe, Arizona, earning my bachelor’s degree in art at Arizona State University. I spent two years after graduation working and trying to figure out how I was going to make a living and continue producing art. During that time, I worked as an apprentice potter, a clerk in an art supply store, an art specialist at a Girl Scout camp and a deck hand on a fishing boat in Alaska. I finally decided to go to graduate school and moved to Denton, Texas where I earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramics at the University of North Texas. I have never regretted that decision as it gave me the opportunity to really develop my work and the credentials to teach at the college level. I find teaching very fulfilling and an extension of my creative practice. I have taught both full time and part time at universities and colleges in Texas and in the Phoenix area. I now balance my full time studio practice with teaching ceramic figure sculpture at the Mesa Arts Center and leading short term workshops.  My husband and I live in a historic district in north central Phoenix. We love the vibrant urban neighborhood and found it to be a great place to raise our two sons. My studio is a large guest house in the backyard.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
What really drives my art is a desire to communicate. I’m fascinated by the challenge of transforming an abstract idea into a concrete visual image. I create figures in clay and mixed media with the intention that they transcend the inanimate nature of their materials. I seek to create a psychological presence in each piece that elicits an emotional response.

In my recent work, I am using stainless steel to build an armature or skeleton then overlay it with thin slabs of clay. The steel is fired in place and allows me to create expressive linear elements and a fragility of form not possible with clay alone. I embrace the cracks as the clay shrinks around the steel and relinquish control as the kiln dictates the final outcome. Through this process, I am celebrating the contrasting elements of chance and control and of strength and vulnerability that are intrinsic in ceramic art and in our daily lives. Ultimately, my work reflects my life and is a vehicle for understanding my world. I deal with themes of aging, societal expectations of women, family relationships and the connection between the physical and the spiritual. Through my work, I hope to contribute to the greater community by sharing something of beauty, contemplation and mystery.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
The biggest challenge facing artists today is to create a new audience for their work that is capable of supporting them financially. The old model of brick and mortar galleries and serious collectors is disappearing. Artists have to be diversified and pursue multiple avenues to market their work and their artistic skills. We have to be creative engaging and educating our audience while delivering a meaningful experience.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I exhibit my work nationally and have work in public and private collections across the country.  Check my Facebook page and website for upcoming exhibitions and workshops. A great way to see my work locally is at the annual Open Studio Tour sponsored by the ASU Art Museum on Feb. 23rd and 24th, 2019.  Currently, you can see my work at the museum stores at the ASU Ceramics Research Center in downtown Tempe and at the Shemer Art Center in Phoenix.  During the month of May, I will be exhibiting work made in collaboration with Becky Frehse at Practical Art in Phoenix.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: (602) 264-3691
  • Email:
  • Instagram: Jane Kelsey-Mapel
  • Facebook: Jane Kelsey-Mapel Studio

Image Credit:
Jane Kelsey-Mapel

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Marie Mahoney

    January 5, 2019 at 2:55 am

    Wow! How wonderful Jane to be featured and interviewed! What a joy to know you and know your art. May 2019 bring much more creative art for you to share! Thank you! Your friend, Marie


    January 25, 2019 at 1:12 am

    Great article. I have long admired Jane’s style and technique – it’s great to see her featured on your site. Really enjoyed reading about the inspiration and influence that encompasses her art. Now I want to hear more about her job as a deck hand on a fishing boat!

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