By Lee Noles
MARVIN – Most people Lambeth Marshall’s age are enjoying the slower pace of retirement, but not Marshall.
This grandmother of seven’s boundless energy has her teaching painting workshops while maintaining a gallery and studio at her Marvin home. She also has the distinction of displaying her pottery and artwork in prominent places like the Mint Museum and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
“I do have a lot of energy. I might be a grandmother, but I have a lot of energy,” Marshall said. “And it shows in my paintings. The dance and the movement. My paintings aren’t dull. My colors are bright … And that is the thing about abstract art is the energy.”
Marshall’s art career didn’t develop as some grand desire for expression but more of a way to alleviate the stress of running a landscaping design business.
Knowing she needed a break from her job in the 1980s, Marshall enrolled in pottery and painting classes at the Penland School of Crafts. Located in the North Carolina mountains, the school’s mission is to support artistic growth through a variety of disciplines.
“You have no distractions,” Marshall said. “My husband ran my business and let me go up there for a month. It was wonderful not having to do any housework. I just did artwork and pottery. No distractions. You are just up there with other artists.”
Marshall met noted potter and teacher Cynthia Bringle at the school. Bringle mentioned the idea to Marshall about combining her strengths of pottery and painting into one form.
The advice began a journey of self-discovery that culminated with Marshall developing a style involving a propane kiln. She allows the piece she creates to burn at 2,000 degrees before removing it with a large metal tong and thick welding gloves. Marshall then places the piece into a trash can with paper and sawdust. When finished, the process draws out iridescent colors that cannot be achieved in other kilns.
“It gives it an entirely different look,” Marshall said. “Each piece of pottery is different. I don’t have that much control because of the atmosphere. But each piece is a work of art because when you do it in electric kiln or dinnerware, those are duplicated. These are one of a kind.”
Painting started much earlier as Marshall followed in her mother’s footsteps and won several awards as a child for her artwork. As an adult, she incorporates an abstract approach by starting with a blank canvas before using charcoal or black paint for large marks and shapes. Acrylic washes are added through layers before Marshall places on heavier paint. She ends the process by going back to add marks with pencil, crayons and more paint before letting her work sit for days or even weeks. The dormant period on a certain piece allows Marshall to return with a new point of view.
“Most artists may think they are finished when they are not really finished at all,” Marshall said. “When you leave it alone and come back with a fresh mind you then see something that is not quite right.”
Marshall believes an artist needs to continue to push themselves and she is using the stay-at-home orders over the past month to paint 30 pictures in 30 days. Her main influences during this time derive from nature with air, water and sky serving as the more common occurrences in her abstract paintings.
“This is inspirational to me,” Marshall said. “Even though I paint abstract, it is something that influences me.”
Teaching has also inspired Marshall. She taught at Queens University of Charlotte for two years and the Weddington Activity Center for four years. She currently teaches painting to adults and teenagers from her home.
“To see the excitement of the students is great,” Marshall said. “They are puzzled at first and they do not know what to do. They may say they have no talent but everyone has a talent. Then when they realize what they want to do, it is really a nice feeling.”
Want to learn more?
Find out more about Lambeth Marshall’s work at www.lambethpottery.net.