Pictured: Artist Joanie Wolter holding one of her sculptures made of fiber clay.(Right) Pictured: Wolter’s sculpture named “Blue Crush.” (Left)
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Putting a ding in the Universe


Shea Stanfield
Steve Jobs once said, “I want to put a ding in the Universe.” An attitude that certainly rings true for local artist Joanie Wolter as she applies her endless wit and sense of humor to her laughable, lovable, ceramic sculptures.

Wolter’s journey started in California, she was born and raised in the town Downey, a suburb outside of Los Angeles nestled among orange orchards, chicken ranches and the Rockview Dairy.  

Wolter describes herself as, “focused, serious, very shy, and college bound kind of kid.”  As a result, the thought of taking an art or music class never entered her mind, even though she says she has better than average skills as a musician.  After high school graduation Wolter headed off to the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in sociology.  Later she would return to school for a credential in mathematics.

There was little doubt Wolter would follow the path to become a teacher.  Her summers, during her teen years, were spent working as a teacher’s aide or a recreation leader.  Upon completing her college degree at age 22, Wolter stepped right off into a 37-year teaching career. 

The beginning of her career started at the elementary level, soon moving into middle and high school as a math instructor.  Her favorite job was as the Director of the Independent Studies program for students with “alternative” learning styles and special needs.  It was not until she and her husband Charlie retired and moved to Sedona that she considered a profession in the arts. 

Returning to “school/training” was necessary to identify where her natural, creative abilities should be focused.  The Sedona Art Center was just the place for this new beginning.

Wolter recalls entering the art field where self-expression is a valuable commodity, she immediately recognized she was a bit behind the curve.  Growing up in an extremely competitive family where being first was the only option, room for mistakes was not allowed.  So, stepping off the cliff into to the world of artistic expression would be a new and uncharted territory, and an opportunity for growth. 

“Fortunately, at the art center I was able to try out everything from drawing to jewelry making with some very nurturing instructors.  But, it was love as first turn when I took my first ceramic class,” Wolter recounts. “Now I was home!” 

Dennis Ott, the ceramics teacher and Wolter’s mentor, realized quickly that Wolter was not going to do her best work throwing clay on a potter’s wheel and suggested she try hand-built clay.  This was a fateful move opening a whole new world of possibilities and fun that Wolter made her signature craft.

Lorri Acott, a sculptor from Colorado, introduced Wolter to fiber clay, which was a “match made in art heaven” for Wolter’s keen sense of humor and quick wit.  She produced fluffy older women, sagging in all the places to illicit a laugh and a giggle from the viewer.  Humor in clay became Wolter’s signature style.

“My creations are meant to help people find the joy and silliness in life. If folks smile at a piece, I have done my job, to cheer them up in a world that can be very dreary,” she said.

Today, Wolter and her husband, a glass artist, live and work in their home studio in North Scottsdale.  Her goal is to continue sculpting images of the brighter side of life, with fiber clay.  She also loves sharing the joy through teaching classes to anyone that’s willing to explore a new medium and have a lot of fun playing with the possibilities.  Her philosophy is, “Everyone is a success!” 

Wolter has representation in three galleries, Wild Holly Gallery in Carefree, Sedona Arts Center, and Javelina Leap Wine Tasting Room in Cornville. She will also be exhibiting March 30 - April 27, at the Holland Gallery of Fine Art at the Foothills Community Center in North Scottsdale.

To learn more about Joanie Wolter and to view her art or class schedule, visit her website www.cveeart.com, or to contact Wolter directly she can be reached at Joanie.wolter@cuveeart.com.   

Contact Arts Columnist, Shea Stanfield on flowingquill@yahoo.com.