Teresa Fitzpatrick likes to joke when you ask her how long she has been sculpting.
“Well, my mother always told me I was playing in the mud, but I don’t know how true that is,” she deadpans.
Fitzpatrick jokes quite a bit, in fact. When asked what inspires her she blurts out “money” then quickly retracts, “No, I shouldn’t say that ...”
When she was making fish faces, she loved them even though they were labor-intensive. Now, when she is making turtles, she loves them too. Same goes for her fanciful fleet of frogs.
For her it's all about whimsy. Her turtles have various expressions and faces which she calls singing, smiling and dinosaur-head. Her frogs, in various poses, reflect relaxation and a day-at-the-beach lifestyle.
Making these critters comes natural to her. When she was in college learning all the aspects of clay, she says that any extra clay would "be turned into a critter. I'd have to, I'd want to make a little critter."
Fitzpatrick, also the co-owner of The Picture Show on St. John Street for 31 years, has lived in Havre de Grace since 1992.
No matter where she draws her inspiration from at any given moment, she said that positive energy is required at her shop, Atelier de Teresa, on South Union Avenue.
“I know that when I’m upset, I can’t work. And I have to be careful with who I’m around too. You can get me out of whack and I can’t sculpt at all. Somebody that brings a lot of tension in the room, I can’t work,” she says.
She’s unabashed and in tune with herself.
“For me, life is hard enough. As an example, I’m going to go to the library and return the book I got because it’s about a real ugly character," she says. "I don’t want to hang out with this character for the whole book. I mean, give me a nice little character that I can enjoy!”
Not only does she sculpt whimsical small, medium and large critters of the turtle variety (as well as many other things), but she has created one children’s book, "The Special Task Force of the Fish Friends".
She can also do calligraphy, although it's not among her favorite pursuits.
Fitzpatrick, who sells her clay creatures wholesale to 40 retail stories throughout the United States, said that she is, “excited about having these retail stores that have been really very kind to me.” And business is going well for her.
But the main thing for her is the joy she has found in her work. “I like what I’m doing, you have to—to be making as many as I do. It’s not like, ‘Oh man, I got to make the donuts,’” she said.
It is just the opposite. “I could do this all the time. All the time! Hopefully, it’s going to be my retirement job. Actually it already is,” she said.
Patch sat down with this artist to get to know her a little better.
Patch: Do you have a formal education?
Fitzpatrick: Yes, from Millersville State University which is just outside of Lancaster, PA. I have my B.A. in art, sculpture and 3-D. I was also the artist-in-residence there. I did bronze casting and then did clay—all aspects of clay to wheel throwing, to slab rolling to sculpture and also glaze chemistry.
I was very fortunate when I got out of college, I was doing a bronze every year. I did one for HdG High School—the Warrior. [Since the price of copper has gone up Fitzpatrick doesn’t do much bronze work anymore.]
Patch: Do you teach as well?
Fitzpatrick: I do private lessons. People need to plan for two hours to get something done. One time you make it and then they’ll need to come back and finish it.
Patch: Where can people purchase you’re products?
I can do custom pieces for anything. I love to do commision work, when people give me an idea and I get to bring it to life.
[For more information contact Teresa at 443-243-8078 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her work at www.atelierdeteresa.com]
Patch: What inspires you?
Fitzpatrick: I must have been a sculptor at heart. I wanted to get away from picture framing in '87 had already had [the shop] for 7 years so I went back to school to get my degree…and then I get turned on to clay, I liked the functional aspect of it, like a coffee cup, a dish.
Patch: What are you most proud of?
Fitzpatrick: Probably the Baby in Hand piece at Franklin Square Hospital.