Clelia Hand: a life lived artistically

Hand, many others featured in small works show
By Stina Sieg | Nov 18, 2011
Photo by: Donated image Clelia Hand's "Angel," a copper enamel piece, is one of the many, many works of art at the Haywood County Arts Council's "It's a Small, Small Work" show, currently at Gallery 86.

Nothing brings a wider selection of art and artists to the Haywood County Arts Council’s small works show. Every year, it includes work from painters and sculptors, jewelers and potters, young and old, professional and amature. While the work the work is wildly diverse, all the pieces at “It’s a Small, Small Work” have at least two things common: size. Each piece is 12-by-12 inches or smaller — and each is ready to be taken hom as a gift. The show will be up at Gallery 86, 86 N. Main St. in Waynesville, through Dec. 31. A reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, during the last “Art After Dark” of the season.

This year, longtime art teacher and lifetime artist Clelia Hand is one of the 100-plus artists featured. Her copper enamel pieces are colorful, with soft images making sweet, somehow comforting scenes. Hand, 79, laughed when she was asked the first time she knew she was an artist. “When I was born,” she replied, before happily describing a life spend making, teaching and loving art.

Below are excepts from that conversation.

When you were growing up, how did your parents feel about you being an artist?

I was one of three girls. They just encouraged us to do anything and everything, and they were always telling us how wonderful we were and how they just always knew we would always make the right choices about everything. My father used psychology before anybody knew what psychology was, I think. But they were always encouraging, and everybody was always encourared me. I never had anybody put me down, ever.


Did you feel that teaching art was a really important part of you being an artist?

I did feel that and not only did I feel like I was passing it on to others, but I felt like I was getting more probably myself from it than they were, because I felt like I was learning, too, as I was doing. Sometimes a student would want to learn about something. When I was at First Baptist, I had a student who had been to Disney Land and had seen their movie-making equipment, and he was interested in it, and so he asked me about how to do some of that stuff, and I didn’t know how, but I said I’d find out, and just about then somebody came along with a workshop for me, and I took it and learned how. And then we went into filmmaking. And we made films for four years, and we were doing animation and special effects and all kinds of stuff, and we won five award one year at a young filmmakers festival.

Is there one kind of art you feel most drawn to?

I loved wood carving. I just loved wood carving. And I’ll tell you, I had sort of an epiphany when I was a child, when we were having vacation Bible school one year, before I was even in school, somebody was out there in the yard of the church with a saw, and he was cutting out little, I don’t know, little wooden shapes for the children, Mickey Mouses and things like that. And when I saw that, I just felt like, ‘That is my thing. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing.’ I know, somewhere in some past life, I had done that.”


Why do you think it’s important for people to learn to make art?

 Because it’s creative. Everybody needs to have some sort of creativity, because if you’re not creative, you’ll probably be destructive. I know I saw that so much with a lot of the children that I taught. I thought if I can just teach them to get joy out of creatinging something, then they won’t go out and want to destroy something. You know what I mean?


Looking back on everything that you’ve done artistically, is there one thing that you’re most proud of?

I guess the teaching, really, the students. The things my students did, I think meant more to me than anything else.


When you people look at your work now, is there anything that you hope that they take away from your pieces or they feel from your pieces?

Well, I’ll tell you, most of the time, what I try to put into my artwork was a feeling … something about the way the universe is, the way God has made things, the way he has set things up in the universe. And I’d like to say something to people about that. I have one copper enamel finished that I did that I just cut out pieces out of, real odd pieces, and copper enameled and put them on a board, and they looked like leaves flying around, and I had one piece that was down at the bottom, that was not with all the others. Even a single fallen leaf is mourned. Even a single fallen leaf is mourned, which means that every single little thing in the whole entire universe is important. It all means something, and it all affects everything else.

For more information on “It’s a Small, Small Work,” contact HCAC at 452-0593, visit or on Facebook. Gallery 86 is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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