It's no secret that Knoxville has been working to cultivate its art scene.
Events like First Friday and various farmer's markets have allowed local artists to show off their creations and share their work with the city.
Amidst the growing artist community, Amy E. Hand, a local sculptor and potter, has been creating bowls and figures and sharing them with Knoxville for the past few years.
Originally from Wellsville, N.Y., Hand earned a bachelor's degree from Houghton College in 2003 and received her MFA in Ceramics from the University of Tennessee in 2012.
Hand originally started her education with the intent of becoming a teacher before realizing her true passion.
"I started working with clay in undergrad," Hand said. "I was supposed to be an education major, but I ended up taking a painting class, which then led to a ceramics class, and immediately I fell in love with hand building and figurative art."
Hand had the unique opportunity to study ceramics in Cyprus and Egypt through an undergraduate study abroad program. In addition to cultivating her zeal for pottery and sculpture, Hand said she believes that her experience overseas solidified her future career aspirations.
"I got to go to Egypt and around Cyprus and see the figures that I had only ever seen in books before," Hand said. "Because of the lack of restrictions in those areas, especially at that time — it was in 2004 — if you wanted to, you could reach right out and touch them, which is a huge no-no, but I got to do it anyway. There's something about picking up a piece of pottery and knowing that it's really old and that somebody's touched it and made it and put this energy into it.
"It gives me chills. I think that's when I really realized that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life."
Most of Hand's bowls, dishes and vases feature a technique that allows images to be transferred to clay from newsprint.
Although she enjoys making these pieces, Hand's creative spark flairs when she is handbuilding her signature wide-eyed, cartoon-like human sculptures.
"I love making pots, and they're very special to me, but they're to pay the bills," Hand said. "When I get the opportunity to make a person, that's when I'm in the zone.
"Some people call it the 'god-factor,' the need to create people. The human figure is so universal that, on some level, everybody's going to get it."
In ninth grade, while her family briefly lived with her grandparents awaiting the completion of their new house, Hand stayed in a room where her grandmother kept her porcelain doll collection in a closet. The eerie band of figurines struck a chord of inspiration within Hand's imagination.
"If I left my closet door open, the light from the hall would just hit their eyes in the most creepy, but intriguing way," Hand said. "I think that's what I'm hoping for with my figures. There's a childlike quality to them. They're kind of cute, but they're kind of rude, or kind of strange or potentially creepy. There's a Japanese term for it: 'kawaii.' It's creepy-cute."
In addition to her own work, Hand teaches handbuilding, sculpture and throwing classes at Mighty Mud, a locally owned and operated studio and ceramics supply store. Hand said she believes she's found a place where she can combine her passion for her craft and her love of teaching.
"I love seeing people, whether they're 8 years old or — I actually just had an 80 year old woman in my class — getting it," Hand said. "It's really cool to see somebody else take that excitement and that knowledge and then move forward with it."
Ultimately, Hand said she believes in sharing her artwork with others.
"When you're an artist, you can make a lot of work, and it can sit on your shelf in your studio," Hand said. "You might put a picture of it on your web page, but it collects dust. If people can't enjoy it, then it's just for you. Art is for sharing, ideas are for sharing, and techniques are for sharing.
"If you're going to sit in a closed studio all day and nobody sees what you're doing or how you're doing it, then the joy is just your own, and it's smaller because of that."