FARMINGTON — Despite living hundreds of miles away in Henderson, Nev., ceramic artist Michelle Gomez Houk has a personal connection to the Farmington's newest art studio, Studio 116.
Her uncle, Greg Gomez, completed the studio's interior design. Now, a couple of months after the studio's opening, Houk will be the featured artist at Studio 116.
Houk's work will be displayed at Studio 116 during the Gallery Walk from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.
"I really like the organic feel of her pottery," said Studio 116's owner, Karen Ellsbury.
She said she likes the bright colors, the shapes and the high-quality craftsmanship, as well as the Day of the Dead theme.
Houk said a lot of those qualities have been influenced by her travels.
Until Houk was 5 years old, she lived in Bloomfield. When her father took a job in the tunneling industry, the family began to travel. Houk, her brother and sister were homeschooled during that time.
Houk says that she has lived in at least 10 different states and noticed that art and culture vary from state to state. She has also lived in South Africa, and her family took an extended vacation in England.
"I've had the chance to grow up and see a bunch of cultures," Houk said.
Houk continued traveling as an adult. She married a man in the tunneling profession.
As for her art, Houk said she gets a lot of inspiration from religious iconography, South African colors, masks her mother collected and Día de los Muertos.
But her New Mexico roots have remained strong in her art. Organic colors of the southwestern art inspire Houk's pieces.
When Houk was 15, the family settled down in Arizona, and Houk was enrolled in classes at Central Arizona College, where she learned jewelry and silversmithing. The ceramics class was located next to the jewelry and silversmithing classrooms. Seeing the students' work inspired Houk to enroll in the ceramics class the next semester. And she has been doing ceramics ever since.
While studying ceramics, Houk was introduced to raku firing, which she still uses. Raku firing involves removing the pottery from the kiln when it reaches a certain temperature and doing post-firing reduction to bring the metal out of the glaze. Houk said raku is one of the few firing processes that gives control over the glazes.
Now, Houk owns her own studio and set-up in Henderson, Nev. While she enjoys having her own space to work, Houk still enjoys going to classes and other studios and working with artists. Getting input from other artists, she said, has helped her become a better artist.
"My career in the past year has begun to snowball," she said.