Art is ’magic’ to Open Studio participant Paula Caudill

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Art is ’magic’ to Open Studio participant Paula Caudill“Clay is magic for me. The most important aspect if I am going to sit at that potter’s wheel and center a piece of clay, is I have to be centered myself, or I can’t throw a thing,” said Paula Caudill, local potter and member of this year’s Open Studio Tour.

The tour is set for Oct. 27 and 28. For details on this Maturango Museum fundraiser, see

When you buy your ticket — only $10 this year — you will receive a map and directions to the studios of the participating artists. Then you can choose which ones you want to visit for your self-guided tour. This gives you a chance to visit with each artist and see as many or as few as you like.

At Caudill’s studio, four other artists will also show their work, making her studio an efficient stop. Other artists showing at this location are Toni Wilkins with large pottery vases, Kim Winchester with jewelry, Sally Adams with “Iron Buzzard” decorative iron figures and Kathy Fields with pottery. All five are friends.

“We’re going to have a really good time,” said Caudill. “I like when people touch my work. My pieces love to be handled — they’re very tactile. I hope viewers can feel the joy I get out of making my pottery and jewelry. I hope they get as much pleasure out of my work as I had making it.”

She makes functional pottery like mugs and bowls, as well as sculptures and decorative pieces. She also paints and makes copper-wire and beaded jewelry.

“In order for me to work the clay, I have to chuck my attitude at the door,” said Caudill. “ I know within five minutes if I’m wasting my time. If so, I get up and clean. My head and heart have to be centered or it just won’t work.

“You have to let go of control and let the clay speak to you. There is this amazing energy — I have come away from a sculpture or painting hours later and felt like only minutes passed. Nothing else exists. It’s an energy thing. I love it when that happens!

“When I experience those times when time doesn’t exist, that’s when I do my best work. If I don’t let go of control, you can see my hand in it and it’s not as good. When I’m done, I realize some spiritual energy came through me.”

Caudill came to Ridgecrest in 1990 from Virginia to attend Cerro Coso Community College for two years. “I’ve been here ever since. I proudly became a desert rat,” she said. “I fell in love with this area, and now I can’t imagine ever living anywhere else.”

Her only goal when she came to Ridgecrest was to get an associate’s degree at Cerro Coso and “get a real job.” She took a drawing class, where she discovered two things — first, that drawing is very difficult for her, and second, that she absolutely loved being in an art lab environment.

“I knew I needed to be an artist, surrounded by turpentine and brushes and all that. The class next door was Paul Meyers’ ceramics class, and I could hear them laughing and having a good time. So I stuck my head in the door to see what they were doing, and I took that class next semester. The minute I said ‘I want to be an artist’ was magical — everything fell into place and I felt this is my destiny.”

She left for Humboldt College to get her bachelor’s degree in art, then returned to Ridgecrest. Things happened serendipitously that allowed her to find and buy the exact property she wanted. Abandoned, the house was in terrible repair, but the outbuildings were perfect for a studio.

She and friends and several contractors labored for several years, working around her day job at Cerro Coso as an assessment assistant, to completely remodel and redecorate the little house. It is now in process of becoming a work of art in its own right.

“Cerro Coso is a very special place for me — it’s where I learned what my destiny was, and where I have a job that allowed me to purchase this studio so I can do my art. I couldn’t have done this without Cerro Coso.”

Story First Published: 2012-10-10