A passion for clay 3 Girls and a Kiln

Island-inspired mobiles, hanging ornaments, bowls, birdhouses, plates and pitchers made from earthenware clay and glazed in different colors have become the hallmarks of local art collective 3 Girls and a Kiln. 

Thanks to a shared passion for ceramics and upcycling, Claire Rohleder, Aimee Randolph and Deborah Richey formed the collective at the end of 2012 after discovering their shared passion for the art form. Weekender sat down with the artists to find out more.  

How did you get started as an art collective? 

“It all started out doing ceramics at a mutual friends home,” Claire said. “Aimee and myself were both spending time at Alan Darvill’s studio, dusting off our ‘throwing’ chops on his pottery wheels when the whole thought of ‘Hey, do you think people might actually want this stuff in their homes?’ conversation came up.

That was also when we joined the Visual Art Society – and the rest is history. Without VAS and coming together over our love of ceramics, 3 Girls and A Kiln wouldn’t be around. Debs was later recruited when she and Aimee started working together at John Gray High School. She then later joined VAS and hopped onboard the 3 Girls and a Kiln collective team.”  

What’s your art background? 

“I grew up in the Cayman Islands my entire life and studied English literature, graphic design and ceramics at Louisiana State University,” Claire said. “After living between Louisiana and Michigan for a couple years, I returned home. Currently, I’m working at Acorn Publishing. However, I love that I have a digital and a physical creative outlet. I have to admit that there’s such a unique satisfaction that comes from making something with your hands.” 

“I grew up moving around the U.S. as a kid,” Aimee said, “finally settling down in Texas. I have a BA in art education, with an emphasis in ceramics and photography from Pittsburg State University in Kansas. I have been a teacher for seven years, currently molding the minds of my students at John Gray High School. Meeting Claire and Debs has been the best part of my time here in Cayman because it has allowed me to do something I love with people who love it as much as I do.” 

“I’m from the U.K. and moved to Cayman in 2012,” Debs said. “I have a degree in animation from Staffordshire University and my teaching qualification from Cambridge University. Currently, I teach art at John Gray High School alongside Aimee, and in my free time I ‘zentangle’ everything in sight because I have the patience of a saint!” 

Where do you draw your inspiration from? 

“I draw a ton of inspiration from nature,” Claire said, “from seagrape plate sets to the rose wine corks. I also love the concept of upcycling (a concept quite prevalent in 3 Girls work) and using someone’s castoffs in a new way. The Cayman license plate birdhouses/mugs came from finding a random plate at the roadside. The corks in the rose wine corks are also all donated/used corks that I sterilize and re-purpose. And yes, I am always on the search for corks … hint hint ….” 

“My inspiration comes from the people we interact with as 3 Girls in a Kiln,” Aimee said. “We have the pleasure of meeting people from all over the world at various VAS art events and through our Facebook page. Ceramics, for me, is a very tactile experience; being able to share that with others is my true inspiration. I get to share a piece of my work with the world, sharing in the same moment. I get pleasure knowing my work is brightening someone else’s home or day.”  

Debs said, “I grew up doodling all over my school books, so later in life when I discovered zentangle, I was hooked! Zentangle is a form of controlled doodling that luckily lends itself well to ceramics.”  

How would you describe your artwork?  

“We all have such different styles that it’s difficult to tag it with one word,” Claire said. “Debs’ zentangled work is so intricate and crisp that the creativity and skilled drawing style shines through on each piece. Aimee is great at identifying design trends and implementing them into her work. The coral plates, bowls and tags are one of our best sellers and show off her delicate hand and attention to detail. My background in design is quite prevalent in my work, from the graphic feel of the chicken on my ‘Cayman Problems’ collection to the varied use of fonts and type. 

“As a team, we also hand-make upcycled owls. Every bit of our owls are made from various items sourced from thrift stores in Cayman and are hand-designed and hand-sewn by us ladies. No two are ever alike!” 

What are some challenges?  

“Our biggest challenge is definitely time,” Claire said.

“This is a hobby for all of us, so finding time to fit in our various projects and implementing our vast amount of ideas on top of juggling our day-to-day working lives can be tough. Luckily, VAS is phenomenal in planning art shows and making sure there are outlets for Cayman artists, which makes our lives that much easier.” 

What are some of the most popular pieces of artwork? 

“Amazingly, we all seem to have a best seller,” Claire said. “Aimee’s coral pattern is always a big hit. Debs’ zentangled prints are a huge seller for us, and finally, my roses are a always a popular item.”  

What do you think about Cayman’s art scene?  

“Cayman’s art scene is great because it’s always developing, but the small scale of the island and relative tight-knit nature of the community of artists keeps it so lovely and friendly,” Claire said.  

“I know we feel like the VAS community is almost family at this point. It’s also awesome at how the amount of artists has grown in just the last couple years.  

“Now, we just need more great venues and opportunities to exhibit the art scene that’s so prevalent here.” 

Finally, where can people buy your artwork?  

“We currently have select pieces on display at The Cabana, Lilly Pulitzer store in Camana Bay, the National Gallery Shop, our 3 Girls and a Kiln Etsy page, and last but not least, various Visual Art Society holiday sales, where we always have new fun things fresh out of the kiln,” Claire said. 

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The rose wine corks are a best seller.

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A zentangle ceramic heart.

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Claire Rohleder, Deborah Richey and Aimee Randolph of 3 Girls and a Kiln at last month’s Visual Art Society’s arts and craft show. – Photo: Joanna Lewis

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‘Cayman Coral Tags’ by 3 Girls and a Kiln are a popular piece.

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