Lori Baker makes stoneware pottery at MudPi Studios near Woodbine.
A selection of Carroll County artists will open their studio doors to the public this December as part of the 11th annual Studio Arts Tour. To help commemorate the event, now entering its second decade, the Times will feature profiles of participating artists biweekly in Life and Times.
At MudPi Studios in Westminster, tea can go from growing plant to steaming cup, all under the careful hands and watchful eyes of artist Lori Baker.
On her farm, Baker creates pottery work, including tea cups and kettles all to be used alongside her homegrown tea. Though she splits her time between the farm and her art, Baker said both passions came to her a little later in life.
"I loved pottery. I would purchase it and I was always drawn to it at arts and craft shows, but I didn't really get into it until about 10 years ago," Baker said. "I took my first class and fell in love with it there."
About 2½ years ago, she sold her engineering company to start the farm and begin working on her pottery and sculpture full time. Baker said she was always an atypical engineer who focused on the creative aspects of her work as much as the logical and analytical side. She said that drive has led directly into her work as a potter and a sculptor.
"I love textures and patterns which I pull from," Baker said. "You'd be surprised how easily it translates."
One of the major influences of her career as an engineer is the focus on creating functional pieces of work. She said almost every piece she creates has a decorative aspect, but is equally focused on being useful as an object, be it a mug, cup or teapot.
"I'm a very utilitarian kind of person," Baker said. "My dad was a first-generation American, my grandparents were from Czechoslovakia, and they ingrained a very eastern European work ethic where everything has a purpose."
Baker said she comes into the studio each day with somewhat of an idea, but is always open to the small accidents that truly bring a piece of work to life. She said it's vital to go in with a sense of flexibility, particularly when working on the spinning wheel.
Some pieces are modeled out of paper at the start, while others she starts figuring out the forms as she works on them. While spinning on the wheel, she said you have to let the clay speak to you as it tells you what kind of piece it wants to be at the end.
Baker said she loves to bring a sense of whimsy to her work, even as she takes a lot of inspiration from nature and natural forms.
"I've always loved gardening and being outdoors," Baker said. "I'm definitely inspired by things that are more natural, from wildlife to flowers. I love the colors and the shapes of natural beauty."
Much of that inspiration comes from the tea farm, which Baker describes as the first in the state. She said it had always been a dream of hers to run her own tea farm.
"I always knew I wanted to pursue that as a second career," Baker said. "The two jobs fit together hand in hand. This has kind of been my latest crazy adventure."
Studio Artist Tour
Future artists in the series include Kelsey Wailes, Teri Koenig, Sharon Schaeffer, Trista Fedoruk, Laura Fedoruk, Laura Koenig, Laura Wailes, Joyce Schaum, Max Groff and Elisa Dasher.Schaum, Max Groff and Elisa Dasher.