Spruce Pine artist Jeannine Marchand explains her clay fold process in her studio.

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Jeannine Marchand turns accident into artwork

When I looked at it after that I noticed how it looked like fabric. I thought to myself, I didn’t know clay would do that. – Jeannine Marchand

On a secluded mountain road just outside Spruce Pine, there is a studio. Its large windows offer unobstructed views of Mt. Celo and within it are pieces of art created by “happy accident.”

When Puerto Rico native Jeannine Marchand was in college at the St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia she was stretching slabs of clay with a rolling pin. The clay broke in the process.

“When I looked at it after that I noticed how it looked like fabric,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t know clay would do that.’”

That broken slab of clay is the foundation of Marchand’s folded clay sculptures. She has seen similar art forms, but knows of no one who does exactly what she does. Most of her art is created on the floor of her studio, because of her short stature, over a period of usually three weeks or maybe a month, depending on the size of the piece.

She cuts each piece of clay with a cutting wire and uses a rolling pin to roll each individual slab before setting them up to dry with wooden clamps.

“They usually dry overnight,” she said. “Especially in the winter when things dry so fast.”

Each piece comprises several separate slabs.

“They are like pieces of a puzzle,” she said. “I number them on the back when I take them apart because if not, I will forget. That happened once and it took me a long time to figure it out. It was 35 pieces.”

She then dry sands and fires each piece before tracing them and placing them together in a frame.

“The wet and dry sanding takes a long time,” she said.

Most of Marchand’s pieces are white because she likes to keep them neutral and let the buyer choose the color.

“Colors have so many preconceptions,” she said. “Red makes people think of passion and love and blue is like water. Every color has a preconception tied to it.”

Her preference for white is also the result of a black-and-white photography course she took in college.

“I wanted my pieces to be like that,” she said. “Sharp lines, whites, shadows and everything in between. White absorbs color and the lights on my pieces make sharp shadows.”

Marchand has been married to her husband, David Wheeler, for seven years. Wheeler is an Iowa native and former events planner who now works placing international students in universities.

Marchand first came to Mitchell County in 2000. Just as many other artists do, she came to take a class at Penland School of Crafts. She returned as a core student in 2001 and except for 2006-2008 when she went to Michigan to complete her graduate degree, has been in Mitchell County since.

“After I met David we were going to live in Chicago,” she said. “But, we decided Mitchell County would be a better place to raise our children.”

Marchand and wheeler have three children all under age 10.

Before building her studio about four years ago, Marchand worked out of space at the Cross Street Commerce Center and before that out of potter Cynthia Bringle’s studio.

“At that time, I was pretty much living in my studio,” she said.

Byproducts of her art have also become art. Tiny white balls of clay fill bowls around her studio as do clay spikes and stones.

“When I cut the clay, I pull off what’s left on the spring and roll it into little balls,” she said. “At first, I did it to count the number of cuts. The spikes are a result of dry sanding while I think about sea urchins. While creating art I like to think about nature, the ocean and how things integrate in the universe.”


Upcoming Exhibitions

“Kindred Materials: Glass and Clay”

Sept. 7–Nov. 4

Opening Reception: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 7

Artists’ Talk: 7 p.m.

Methodist University and the David McCune International Art Gallery present “Kindred Materials: Glass and Clay,” an invitational exhibition featuring the works of Jennifer Bueno, Thor Bueno, Jeannine Marchand and Pablo Soto, at the William F. Bethune Center for Visual Arts at Methodist University in Fayetteville.


Spruce Pine Potters Market

Oct. 14-15

Cross Street Commerce Center



Jeannine Marchand is a Puerto Rican studio artist based in Spruce Pine. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Joseph’s University and her Master of Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art. She was a resident artist at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, Colorado, and a Core Fellow at Penland School of Crafts. In 2009, she received a Cultural Envoy Grant from the U.S. Department of State to teach, lecture and jury the National Ceramics and Sculpture Biennial in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Her work has been exhibited nationwide and can be found in public and private art collections internationally, including the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts and the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art.

The MItchell News

Mailing Address: PO Box 339 
Spruce Pine, NC 28777 
Phone: 828-765-7169
Fax: 828-765-1616