Some artists are born with brush in hand and achieve early success, but Linda Fahey’s path was not easy or straightforward. The ceramicist’s artistic career began in earnest when she was an adult and laid off from her corporate marketing job in the late 1990s. “Although I went to the Academy of Art University, I didn’t pursue art after I graduated,” she says. “But I never left it completely behind either–after work I would go from my boring cubicle to a ceramics studio three to four times a week.”
It was a good thing she developed her artistic skills during her marketing stint, because when she found herself suddenly without a job, she was able to rapidly transition from corporate to creative. “Going from marketing assistant to artist is a big leap,” she allows. “But as I tell my friends who are facing big decisions, if you aren’t scared to death perhaps your leap isn’t big enough.”
Fear turned into good fortune relatively quickly. “Back in those pre-Instagram days, scouts from big companies would come to art fairs. I had only been working as an artist for two months when people from Anthropologie discovered me at such an event,” Fahey explains. Within weeks, she was making ceramic pieces for the bohemian-chic company.
She describes the experience as “intense,” but the four years she spent making tableware for Anthropologie honed both her focus and her craft. “What I do is hard to categorize–I like to try new things and pursue different directions. But almost all of my pieces are functional, be it tableware or tile.”
Whether she’s creating a long serving platter or a tall, architectural vase her process involves building. “I rarely throw on a potter’s wheel. Instead, I cut out shapes from a clay slab and piece them together,” she explains. “In many ways, what I do is like sewing.”
She then adorns many of the pieces by carving or painting them–and watery, organic forms are a common theme. “I live near the ocean in Pacifica,” the artist says. “I see the water every day, and I walk on the beach nearly every day. The waves, the surf and the weather on the coast are deeply embedded in my life, and a lot of my work has that vibe.” In fact, Fahey’s probably best known for a wave pattern that’s similar to a Japanese woodblock print.
Although art is traditionally a solitary pursuit, Fahey feeds off connection. That’s why her studio is located in the rear of Yonder, her Richmond District shop carrying selectively curated handmade goods (the space is also home to Studio Choo, a floral design business). “I’m a people person,” Fahey says. “In my 20s and 30s I worked as a bartender and having a store adjacent to my studio allows me to have similar people-watching experiences.”
Fahey’s latest act involves collaborating with interior designers to create bespoke tile installations for luxury homes and high-end restaurants. “I’m attracted to the challenge of difficult projects,” she says. “There’s something stimulating and fun about coming up with a new idea for specific–and tricky–space.” For this late-blooming artist, the more difficult, less travelled road has proven to be a path to success.