Gail Lawson - Biography

After growing up with Wake County sand between my toes, this area holds a big place in my heart.  Our area has changed a lot in the last 50 years, but somehow, since I have had my hands in clay, many of the memories of living on a farm, playing in the sand and building "frog houses" have come back to me. 

Working with other “clay artists” has taken me back to the simple life that I had as a child.  You can’t be covered in mud and dirt and hold yourself aloof from those around you.  It kind of brings everyone to the same level and frees people to just be themselves.  It’s a lot like a family reunion.  Those are the people that have to take you in when nobody else wants you. 

I am always very aware that God is the great potter and I am a clay vessel created by His hands.  Kind of takes you back to fundamentals, doesn’t it?  It also keeps me from taking myself too seriously.  After all, I am just imitating the original creator.  And it's just dirt, isn't it?

Dan Finch, in Bailey, NC, began introducing me to the intricacies of working with clay several years ago.  He is constantly teaching me new things (thanks Dan).  I have been a portrait artist most of my adult life but longed for something “a little more”.  I called a few potters in my area searching for a studio to teach me the techniques for sculpting, glazing and firing clay.  A wonderful person (whose name I can’t remember) told me about Dan’s studio.  The rest is history. 

Love of the human face has driven me to sculpture.  Painting is very satisfying, but I wanted to be able to close my eyes, run my hands over the clay and “see” the face of the one I was sculpting.  I find that sculpting portraits is “enough”.  As I learned more about armatures and methods, I long to sculpt the faces of those people around me.  They bring out the best in me.  My husband, Jonathan Spader,  and I share 5 wonderful children and 8 grandchildren. 

I am delighted to be able to demonstrate portrait sculpture at various venues, as the opportunity is presented to me.  Recently, I had the opportunity to demonstrate relief tile making to my fellow potters at the Triangle Potter's Guild April 2018 meeting.  It makes me very happy to share with others what I have learned.

Besides working at Dan’s studio for several years, I have taken workshops with many wonderful clay artists and sculptors.  Philippe Faraut conducted workshops at Dan Finch Pottery in April 2006 and 2007 and I was privileged to study with him.  Philippe is one of the foremost sculptors in this country and the techniques he shares are priceless.  I feel as if I should just mail him a check each month to show him how much he has helped me to improve. He is an amazing instructor - maybe the best I have ever had.

My formal education is in computer graphics and software.  My work history reflects that training.  I work as a Solution Architect implementing Field Service Software to large and small companies around the world.  That is very satisfying at times, and I am very thankful for the opportunities that have come my way with this profession.  I believe it has enlarged my mind with global travel experiences and helped me to expand my creativity in clay just by giving me a view of people, cultures, and art around the globe.

This year, 2018, starts a new chapter in my clay adventures.  I am opening my home workshop to teach others what I have learned and enjoy their journey of discovery.  I will continue to teach in other venues as opportunity and timing permits, but I and my husband are very excited to open our home to others who are excited by clay the way we are.  We plan to give all our workshop friends an experience to remember.  Since I also have experience in painting and my husband is an avid woodworker, don't be surprised if other workshop opportunities pop up on this website.  We love people and we both love teaching.


I find that it's not what happens to you that matters - it's what you do with what happens to you that matters.  I believe God wants me to share the gifts He has given me and I will do that with great joy and enthusiasm and His help.


Training and Workshops I have attended over the years:

  • Rudy Autio and Ron Meyers - Dan Finch Pottery, Bailey, NC - 2003

  • Charles and Linda Riggs, Marcia Selsor, Steven Branfman - Dan Finch Pottery, Bailey, NC - 2004

  • Steven Hill - Dan Finch Pottery, Bailey, NC - 2005

  • Jim Fatata - Litmus Gallery, Raleigh, NC -  figurative sculpture - 2005

  • Bruce Everly - John C. Campbell Folk School - portrait sculpture - 2005

  • Philippe Faraut - Dan Finch Pottery, Bailey, NC - 2006 - portrait sculpture

  • Philippe Faraut - Dan Finch Pottery, Bailey, NC - 2007 - portrait sculpture

  • Marcia Selsor - Architectural Ceramics - La Meridiana, Certaldo, Italy - 2007

  • Peter King - Architectural Ceramics - Dan Finch Pottery, Bailey, NC - 2008