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Channeling creativity while under quarantine

Veronica Martin. (Photo contributed)

Veronica Martin is a maker and an artist.
The Great Barrington-based woman has carved out a craft making artisanal skincare, handmade candles and one-of-a-kind ceramics through her business, Veronica Martin Design.
Although she holds a degree in English from Westfield State University, it was a class with Ben Evans, a faculty artist at IS183 Art School in Stockbridge, that fully sculpted the career she currently holds.
“I really loved the art in college, but I never went further than an elected course,” she said. “I’ve always felt compelled to make things with my hands. It’s a reaction, an impulse. It’s how I breathe.”
Early on, Martin created more functional pieces like cups, bowls and plates. As time passed, she developed a ceramic piece she refers to as “cage vases.” The concept, she says, came about within the past two years when she was trying to arrange daffodils in a vase. Admittedly, Martin says she didn’t have a natural knack for arranging flowers. The cage design, however, allowed her to have complete control over floral arrangements.
“When I first conceptualized the cage vase, I wanted to use the highly decorative features to perform functionally, providing support and control. Cage vases make floral arrangements easy and stunning, and provide visual interest when not in use,” she said. “With each cage vase, I blend a mosaic of wheel-thrown, hand-built, and sculptural techniques to form each angle. The pattern flows viscerally. I never know what each design will be until I’m making it. It is a deeply meaningful and soulful artful expression; I spend many hours on each piece, cultivating it, getting to know it as it evolves.”
With each piece, Martin has cultivated her vision into nearly 20 unique designs.
By the end of February of this year, she’d thrown more than 200 pounds of clay over the course of five weeks.
“I’m thrilled to say that it was my most productive [period] yet,” said Martin. “I hit new (literal) heights, expanding my arts, creative process and capabilities.”
But that productivity began to wane after threat of the spread of the coronavirus led Gov. Charlie Baker ordered the closure of schools throughout the commonwealth, which included studio space at IS183 Art School in Stockbridge.
Since that first issue was ordered and extended, coupled with the subsequent Stay at Home advisory, the majority of the craft fairs and events she had planned on serving as a vendor at have been canceled. And with stores that carry her product like Sett, a tabletop shop in downtown Great Barrington, closed, sales of her product have essentially come to a screeching halt.
Besides the physical barrier, Martin says that working on other creative endeavors has been a challenge as productivity has always been a sign of her joy. The global pandemic has generated a lot of trepidation, she said.
“I’ve been anxious and fearful lately. When I’m imbalanced, I don’t work as well,” she said. “All I’ve ever wanted is for folks to live a nice life and seeing all this breaks my heart.”
While her usual artistic undertakings were on hold, she again turned to the world of making.
After a friend mentioned that Jo-Ann Fabrics was offering free material for people to make cloth masks, she decided to join the effort. Initially, she had planned to produce cloth masks with the intention of shipping them to the hardest areas hit. That soon changed as she started giving them to people in the community.
“I’m not an incredible seamstress by any means, but this only takes basic skills. It’s also therapeutic,” she said.
People would ask for them as fast as that she could make them, said Martin. At this point, she’s given more than 100 masks to community members and local nonprofits, and plans to keep making them until she doesn’t need to anymore.
“No one should have to pay for a mask during a pandemic,” she said. “I’ve always been an advocate for holding good thoughts in your head when doing a task. I think it comes through to your final product in anything, whether it’s cooking, conversation, or craft. … The process of making is art itself.”

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