Barbara Mann

Mann Made Designs

My mother took up the potters’ wheel in high school, and when she reminisced about kicking the wheel, her eyes would sparkle.  She would stand one foot as the other one kicked rhythmically in the air and it was enough to make any child giggle.  I grew up with a few of her pieces sprinkled around the house.  To me they were just permanent fixtures to avoid knocking over when I reached in the glass-front bookcase for a volume of the 1959 World Book Encyclopedia.  She was good!  Perfectly round and very thin coil-built pieces: lime greens, bright oranges that were probably full of lead.  And she made the process sound like such fun!  After college and into a job, I signed up for a wheel-throwing class at the Hand Workshop (now Visual Arts Center) in Richmond.  I wasn’t very good, but I loved the feel of the clay and I kept throwing until I was able to build some level of competency.


I never considered myself particularly gifted as an artist.  When I say "gifted," I mean to differentiate that concept from "skilled."  That is, I have never felt like I was born into this world knowing how to create masterworks.  Even those of us who don't consider ourselves "gifted" artists can enjoy the process of creation and gain an even greater respect for those who are truly graced with such a natural endowment. After working at this for more than 40 years, I will accept the notion that I am skilled with room to grow.      


My forms are simple and quiet so that I can use surfaces as a canvas for both stylized nods to nature and happy doodles.  I love to make table lamps and to go through my paper collection to find just the right colorway and texture for each lampshade.  Sometimes, I will find a paper I love and that paper will inform the piece. I am in awe of the beauty and singularity of plants and flowers and inspired by an array of images from botanical illustrations to garden photographs to Georgia O’Keefe macro paintings and the fantastical paintings of Henri Rousseau.


I make no attempt to concoct a social statement or to stretch the boundaries of what we think of as art; art isn't required to search for the meaning of the cosmos.  My work is intended purely for the amusement of the visual sense, not necessarily for the intellect.  Beauty gives our souls a little refreshment so we can get on with the more mundane tasks of life.


Other fun facts…

B.S. in Biology with concentration in Botany


Tap dancer/ballroom dancer

Day Job: Grant Developer at Old Dominion University

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