We had the good fortune of connecting with Laurie Canfield and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laurie, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I began working in ceramics as an art major in college. Afterwards, I became a public school art teacher in rural Florida. One day, a friend asked where she could take her children for art enrichment classes and since there was no place in our town offering anything for them, I began giving classes around my dining room table. The idea of having my own art studio was born! Fast forward a few years, and I began working exclusively in ceramics, and showing my work publicly. As I talked with people at craft fairs and exhibitions, they often shared with me that they still remembered creating with clay as young children, or that they still had ceramic sculptures they made in school. I realized that humanity has a deep emotional connection to creating with clay. I also noticed that there were not a lot of places that offered beginners the opportunity to experiment and learn how to work with clay. I found working with clay to be so enjoyable and therapeutic, I wanted to provide others with the opportunity to “get their hands dirty” and experience it for themselves. I wanted to use the ceramic arts to bring families together, and to build community. I wanted to provide programs for artists with all levels of experience and interest in the ceramic arts to make memories and masterpieces together. I also wanted to help the local economy by collaborating with and promoting local artists and small businesses to design unique, educational art opportunities for our community that include opportunities for artists to display and sell their artwork and teach their craft. I am really proud that after all these years, my dream has come true and my vision has been realized. I recently opened Sunshine Sunflower Studio and am excited to provide our community with a variety of opportunities to experience art, create with clay, and make memories and masterpieces together.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My favorite part of creating with clay is constantly experimenting with the medium. I like pushing the boundaries to see what else I can do with it, what other materials I can add to a piece to make it visually exciting. I started out adding glass to the bottoms of bowls, and then I began purposefully distorting the shape of wheel thrown vessels to create sculptural forms and wall hanging pieces. Then I began piercing the pieces with sticks, interlacing them with wire, and developing ceramic looms to weave upon. Since moving to Phoenix in 2017, my work has become influenced by our Southwestern culture, desert landscape. and the gorgeous Arizona sunsets. The piece I made that I am most attached to is a carving of a deer skull and I used creosote branches for the antlers. It’s definitely not perfect, but it was very challenging and I am proud of stepping out of my comfort zone to create it.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
A visit to Phoenix would not be complete without a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden. It is my favorite spot in the city. Walking along the paths surrounded by such an enormous variety of cacti makes me feel so peaceful and in tune with nature. I love visiting the Phoenix Museum of Art and exploring their galleries filled with exciting new exhibitions. Viewing artworks always makes me feel inspired and refuels my creative energy. Two of my favorite small galleries in the area are On the Edge Gallery in Scottsdale, and West Valley Arts HQ in Surprise because they feature unique items and exhibits by local artists. One of my favorite spots for brunch is The Farm at South Mountain. The food is delicious and you dine outdoors in a pecan grove. Another great restaurant is The Barrio, which has a unique spin on Mexican food. Lastly, I love the natural beauty of the Phoenix landscape, and I enjoy going hiking on South Mountain when the weather is nice because it offers a wonderful view of the entire Valley.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have to start at the beginning with my parents, who taught me to believe in myself, to dream big, and to work hard. My husband, Wayne, who has survived almost 20 years of my “ideas”, who has accompanied me to art exhibitions, craft fairs, and festivals, putting up tents, setting up tables, building displays, hanging shows, and now recently has painted and fixed “all the things” in the new studio. My children, Angelica, Michael, Zachary, Kimber, Nathan, and Chloe, who started out as my art lesson guinea pigs and have grown into my studio assistants and business advisors. My SCORE mentor, LaTonya, who helped channel my one million ideas into a coherent business plan. And of course, my closest friends who have been my cheerleaders, my advisors, my sounding board, and my test market: Tracey, Donna, Kara, Anahi, Bev, Idenna, and Kaitlin. I’ve been so blessed to have so many people help me to bring this idea to life, and I am so grateful to all of my family and friends over the years who have encouraged me.