Rockne Roll/News-Register##Mya Clover-Owens sits at the pottery wheel in the McMinnville High School art room. She fell in love with ceramics and other forms of art at Mac High and won a national competition with one of her vases.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Mya Clover-Owens sits at the pottery wheel in the McMinnville High School art room. She fell in love with ceramics and other forms of art at Mac High and won a national competition with one of her vases.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Some of Clover-Owens’ ceramic work, including the inclined head planter.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Some of Clover-Owens’ ceramic work, including the inclined head planter.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Clover-Owens won a gold-level award in Scholastic’s annual writing and art competition with this vase, made with both wheel and hand-building techniques. The vase is part of a two-year, nationwide tour of student art.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Clover-Owens won a gold-level award in Scholastic’s annual writing and art competition with this vase, made with both wheel and hand-building techniques. The vase is part of a two-year, nationwide tour of student art.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Clover-Owens’ sketchbook. She enjoys creating characters, “lots of weird little men,” she said.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Clover-Owens’ sketchbook. She enjoys creating characters, “lots of weird little men,” she said.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Stopping By: Faces and vases

A head inclines, curious or thoughtful, forming “Crazy Man.” It’s a hand-sculpted clay planter she made at the beginning of her senior year at McMinnville High School.

Stopping By

Starla Pointer, who is convinced everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996.

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Another head-shaped planter, which sits in her parents’ kitchen, stares boldly at the viewer. Leafy green shoots stick up like hair, adding to the piece’s whimsy.

The countenances usually don’t belong to particular people, Clover-Owens said. She just likes creating characters.

“Lots of weird little men,” she said, looking through a portfolio of both ceramics and two-dimensional work.

Here’s a teapot, eyebrows and a nose emerging from one side. The nose might be sniffing the cookies that will be served with the tea, or maybe choosing which teabag to use. Darjeeling? Orange spice? Earl Grey? 

The latter would mirror the glaze Clover-Owens often uses, a grayish white that puts the focus on shape rather than finish.

Another 3-D face peers from a tall, slender gray vase. This character has an extremely lengthy nose, a little twist of a mouth and eyes that shine with surprise. “You’re going to stick flowers in my head?” he might be asking.

If the vase guy knew how important he was, he’d have a big smile on his face. He’d be proud that he helped his creator become one of the top student artists in the nation.

The young artist’s face vase won gold awards at both the regional and national levels in this year’s Scholastic Art & Writing competition.

That qualified the piece to go on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, then be included in a two-year traveling show. It also qualified Clover-Owens for an awards ceremony in Carnegie Hall.

After raising money to cover the trip, she and her parents, Nate and Megan Clover-Owens, flew to New York in early June — just days before her high school graduation ceremony.

While in the city, the family visited art museums and other attractions. One of the high points for the young artist was meeting  arts activist and consultant Arthur Cohen.

Clover-Owens also loved hearing from fashion design instructor Tim Gunn, star of “Project Runway.”

He talked about the importance of thinking for one’s self and experimenting as an artist. He encouraged Clover-Owens and other students to take risks and soak up every opportunity, she said.

“The trip was so amazing!” she said. “Now I really want to go back to New York.”

Clover-Owens has been making art for as long as she can remember.

“I think I always drew,” she said. “I always got art supplies or art books for gifts when I was little.”

Born in Montana, she lived in Arizona briefly before moving to Oregon when she was 5. She started kindergarten at Grandhaven Elementary School. 

Inspired by children’s authors and illustrators, such as Shel Silverstein, she drew many pictures during her grade school days. She liked to draw her dad, other family members and, even then, invented characters. Unlike her classmates, though, she rarely drew animals.

People complimented her on her work. “But that’s what you tell kids: That’s great!” she said.

By middle school, she realized she had a real flair for art. That led her to fill entire notebooks with drawings.

“Art was something I did a lot, so of course I got better at it,” she said.

She enjoyed art then, but only casually. When she started high school, it became a driving force in her life.

Ironically, Clover-Owens didn’t even sign up for art when she registered for her freshman year classes. She planned instead to continue band.

She played the clarinet in middle school, but wanted to switch to drums. When she discovered that wasn’t going to work, she dropped band and signed up for 2-D exploratory art.

“I’m so happy I switched!” she said. “That was a great moment.”

She was experienced in drawing and painting, but still had a lot to learn. So she set about polishing her techniques.

“It was more technical than creative,” she said, explaining she needed that solid base on which to build. “I was super into it. I wanted to prove I was good.”

She learned stippling, or creating an image from thousands of dots. As she took more classes, she experimented with creativity in different types of art, including collage, printmaking and mixed media.

She loved it all, she said.

Clover-Owens signed up next for 3-D, which includes pottery and sculpture. As always, she was smitten by each new medium she tried.

Her teachers pushed her to try new things and get better.

Christine Kinney Garrison, who joined Mac High when Clover-Owens was a sophomore, helped her find her artistic voice, she said.

“My voice is still developing, of course,” she said. “Everyone’s voice is constantly evolving.”

Her pottery teacher, Dan Willis, helped her expand her multi-dimensional thinking and creating.

She has made many pottery pieces, including the vases, teapot and mugs. She still considers herself a learner, though, especially when it comes to centering clay on the pottery wheel.

Clover-Owens recalled one of her art breakthroughs, when her technical skills connected with her imagination. She drew a half-man, half-snail — “Sman” — with distorted proportions.

“That was the start of things,” she said.

She no longer felt confined by the rules. Now her artistic vision could lead the way.

“As an artist, you have to please yourself, your vision,” she said. “If I didn’t like a piece, I wouldn’t sell it; I wouldn’t want it to represent me.”

She first heard about the scholastic competition during her junior year. She entered a couple paintings, which won honorable mention ribbons.

At the beginning of her senior year, Clover-Owens was determined to enter again -- and this time, win a major prize. She wanted to create a challenging ceramics portfolio that would represent all she’d learned and done. And she wanted to win scholarships.

“On the first day, I was in there working,” she recalled.

While she was determined to follow her own muse, she also needed to make her portfolio stand out for the scholastic judges. So she looked at photos of past winning pieces.

“I wanted to do something different,” she said.

She had already started making her faces, and she didn’t see anything from past years that resembled that style. That boosted her confidence.

The fact that she was in her senior year of high school also contributed to her work, she said. It’s an emotional time, and that’s reflected in her art. 

“I was in the art room every day,” she said. “It was therapeutic, and it made the work more authentic,” she said.

Clover-Owens said she usually starts a piece, whether a ceramic vase or a drawing or painting, with a complete vision in her head. She knows how it will look when she’s finished.

Sometimes, though, she creates on the fly as she did one recent evening she refers to as “a really crazy night.”

“INANIGHT,” a series of mixed-media work, features three small pieces in similar colors. The painted elements were done in a mix of water-based acrylics and oil-based pastels.

The piece also features layered images and backgrounds from dictionary pages. Each is different, one with a face-like shape growing out of the drawing of a vase, another a character with odd dimensions, and  still another two faces inspired by the artist and her father.

She said she used a technique called “blind drawing” to create her self-portrait. In other words, she looked into a mirror as she drew, but didn’t look at her hand to control what she was drawing.

The self-portrait is one of many.

Sometimes it’s just easier to use herself for a model, she said. “Others don’t want to sit still for long periods,” she joked.

One self-portrait shows her with herself. “It’s to remind myself I enjoy my own company,” she explained. 

Although Clover-Owens traded band for art class, music remains a big influence. She turns on tunes whenever she takes out her pencils and paint.

She likes indie rock, especially the Bear Hands and Jack Johnson. She also likes mellow instrumental music as a background for her creativity.

Now that she’s graduated, Clover-Owens is looking forward to starting college. 

She will study art and minor in environmental science at the University of Oregon this fall.

She’s already planning how to decorate her dorm room. “I’m going to take this piece of art, and this piece, and this piece,” she said, choosing from her many completed works.

She considered going to an art school, but decided on the university because she wanted a broader education. She knows she has the drive and passion to pursue her art, she said, so she would be able to do that at any school.

She did consider Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, though, as the school offered her a $15,000 scholarship. It was a great incentive, she said, but would still cover only about one-fourth of her total yearly outlay.

The University of Oregon offered her a full-tuition scholarship, so she’ll only have to come up with room and board.

She chose environmental science as a minor because she hopes to incorporate the subject into her art.

Besides, she said, she cares about the environment. “Everyone should,” she said.

Studying other subjects along with art also will give her a broader perspective on the world. And that, in turn, will help her as an artist.

“There’s nothing truly original,” she said. “Every idea comes from connections you’ve made, connections based on your knowledge. 

“The more experiences you have, the more connections you can make. Then you can create your own images.”

Starla Pointer, who is convinced everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. She’s always looking for suggestions. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or spointer@newsregister.com.

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