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Angel of Love

Jo Pate has always enjoyed creating art. From painting in watercolors to working with clay, making art is her passion.

“I have always played with art from the time I was a child until I was a grown up, but I’ve never had any formal art education,” Pate said.

Around Selma, Pate is known for her clay angles. Each angle is unique with different hair, clothes and more and each one has a meaning.

It wasn’t until around 2000 when Pate started getting into clay and making nativity sets.

Pate’s mother-in-law passed away in 2000, and her sister-in-law was going to toss out her kiln when Pate asked if she could have it.

“That’s really when I got into art,” she said “She had a kiln that she used for China paint. I didn’t want to china paint, but I thought goody, goody, I can play with the clay.”

Pate started out in clay by making the nativities, something she herself enjoys collecting.

“I started playing in the clay and it was so much fun,” Pate said.

“I collect nativities, so I thought, ‘I’ll make a nativity.’ And that is how I got started.”

Pate made a nativity and took it to a local consignment shop to see if the owner liked it.

“She loved it, so I really started making nativities. I don’t know how many nativities I’ve made,” Pate said.

The lady asked if Pate did anything besides nativities, and though she didn’t, she decided it would be a good opportunity to do so. That’s when she started making angels.

“The angles were a hit because they were different with the different items that they held to represent whatever angle they were,” she said.

For family reasons, Pate stays home, and she said she needed something to do during the day while she was there.

“You can only read so many books,” Pate said. “So I stay home and play with the clay.”

To her, making an angel is not only fun, it is a special experience.

“I pray with the angels as I’m making them. It may not be verbal, but it is a very spiritual experience,” Pate said. “One reason I like to make angels is because I have not met an angel, but I definitely believe there are angels around.”

The angels have wings, arms, hands and even hair, but they do not have faces.

“I don’t put faces on them, because I don’t know whether angels have faces or not,” she said. “But I feel like they’re more ubiquitous without a face to identify them.”

Because they are handmade and made as ideas and inspiration come to her, each angel is different from the next.

“They’re very unique,” Pate said of her angels. “I can make 20 love angels, and none of them will look alike, even though I’ve made them right in a row. They are definitely unique.”

Pate has sold her angels for several years in Selma, and said it’s a great feeling when people continue to come back for another one or tell her how much they love the one that they bought.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s been extremely well received. I think I have sold an angel to everybody who lives in Selma,” Pate said jokingly.

“It makes me feel very good. It is very satisfying to have created something that somebody gets pleasure from.”

Pate said she really just enjoys working with the clay and creating as she’s inspired to do so.

“I like the way the clay feels. It’s not gooey, it’s very malleable, and you can just express yourself with it,” she said. “I love it. I love to dig in the dirt in the yard, and it’s an extension, I think, of playing with flowers and dirt.”

To create an angel, Pate begins with a 50 pound block of clay that she cuts to get the amount needed for one.

She then uses a kitchen rolling pin to roll out the clay to a desired thickness. Once she gets the clay ready, she digs through her box of materials to find just the right one to make the angel’s clothes have a texture.

Then it’s time to begin cutting out the form.

Pate then creates the arm, head and whatever symbol the angel is supposed to stand for. Then it has to dry. After many days of drying, it’s time to glaze the angel.

“All of my glazing is done by a paintbrush,” Pate said.

Pate said after glazing, she lets it dry, then puts another coat of paint on it, and lets it dry more. Then it’s time to fire it in the kiln. It’s very important that the clay is dry before putting it in the kiln, because it can actually explode if it’s not dried properly.

“I have actually exploded a few things in the kiln, and oh, it’s just wonderful,” Pate said sarcastically. “You get a whole bunch of things in there and it’s got an air bubble or something and it’ll go boom and you got a big mess.”

Pate said when that’s happened, she’s ended up with clay pieces everywhere. But that doesn’t mean they’ve gone to waste.

“I have turned the [broken clay] into tile and I’ve tiled pieces of furniture. I don’t like to throw things away. I tend to be extraordinarily frugal. My children tend to laugh at me,” Pate said laughing. “I’ve made them stop on the side of the road before to pick up things because you never know what you can use.”

Of all the angels she has made, Pate has only kept one. The angel of faith that she created using the raku method, a different way of firing the clay.

Overall, Pate said she just enjoys spending time with her craft and making things that will bring joy to others.

“It’s just fun to see what I can come up with,” she said.

“I just enjoy the process and I do think it’s a spiritual experience for me and for the people that buy them.”