Her Ideas are Big but She Works Small
With a degree in interior design and a master’s in exhibition design, one would think that Maizie Clarke worked Big. But this 32-year-old illustrator prefers to work Small. Originally from Vienna (Virginia, not Austria), Maizie settled in Louisville in 2014. She opened her own studio in 2016 decorating high-end ceramic products and tea towels with her own illustrations. “I started out doing custom house portraits, and now those are the only direct-to-consumer pieces I do. I love learning the stories of the house,” Maizie says.
Maizie uses this kiln to fire her pottery pieces.
For the wholesale division of her business, she attends the yearly Museum Store Association Show (who knew there was such a thing?), and her pieces are featured in museum gift shops and the Library of Congress.
“There is such a wide variety of museums. The building is very much their identity and I love drawing buildings. For the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts, I illustrated the facade of the building and then illustrated pieces from the museum’s model ship collection to go on the ceramic pieces for its gift shop.
“I do all of my illustrations by hand,” Maizie says. “I use the tools I started using in college — old-school drafting tools, a T-square, a triangle, a compass. I use an illustration block of 300 lb. cold-press watercolor paper and Micron ink pens. I sketch out my design in pencil, ink it in with the Micron pen, and then paint it with watercolor. I use the Winsor & Newton professional line of paints.”
Maizie sits at her drawing board where she works on illustrations for upcoming projects.
Once the image is created, she puts it through a ceramic decal printer in her studio and applies the decal to various ceramic pieces that she has purchased wholesale. Then they sit in the kiln for 14 hours. They’re durable, waterproof, microwave safe. The images go on trinket trays, bowls, small platters, and bud vases.
“It’s not all about the illustration only, but how the illustration can enhance the shape of the piece,” she says.
Maizie’s latest collection, inspired by the Far East, features blue elephants and pagodas. An earlier collection sports horses with colorful horse blankets. Just right for those with equine sensibilities.
Maizie shoots for three to four new collections a year and a few mini collections. Next up: a Moroccan-inspired design with colors of pink and salmon, black and white, and images of camels and desert tents.
Her day-to-day is spent filling orders, getting them out the door, planning new collections, and talking with retailers. “I try and guard my time for working on ideas, but 50 percent of my time is dedicated to the business of running the business and the other half dedicated to creating artwork.”
What works for this working illustrator?
Dagne Dover tote
With this bag I can work from anywhere. It holds my laptop and my Moleskine soft cover notebook where I do all my planning and designing. The bag has a zipper closing and lots of pockets. It has a flat bottom so it stands up on the floor or desk. I recommend it to everyone. I use it every day.
L’Occitane en Provence Fleurs de Cerisier (Cherry Blossom) hand cream
I love this lotion. My hands are very dry and it is a luxury skin care product that I treat myself to. The tube is shiny silver with an illustration of cherry blossoms, which has a special meaning to me as I grew up near Washington D.C. with its National Cherry Blossom Festival.
QIAYA LED Ring Light
I use this for lighting and photographing my work and making process videos for Instagram (@maizieclarke). I have it set up on my tripod, and I can connect my iPhone to the clip and the ring illuminates the working surface with no shadows. It gives a bright white light that is adjustable and dimmable.