Ameila Stamps was born in the pottery-rich state of North Carolina, where her father threw pots and her mother decorated them.
They had a pottery shop in Pinehurst, her mother also had a jewelry gallery, and Stamps had an uncle, a cousin and a grandmother who were painters.
“I grew up around people making stuff,” she says. “All our friends were craftsmen and artists, and I think that gets in your soul and becomes a part of your makeup.”
So it’s no surprise to find Stamps in her home-garage studio doing what she has been doing in mid-August for the better part of the past decade: Getting ready for the Woodland Art Fair, which is Saturday and Sunday in Woodland Park.
This is something of a pivotal Woodland year for Stamps, who comes into the festival as the reigning “best of Kentucky” award winner at the 2016 event, and she will be moving her studio to Manchester Street after the event.
“We’ll use it like a working studio and have events and sales,” Stamps says. “People like to see where you work and look at the kiln and your dirty tools and get the feel of a working studio.”
Stamps would like to build a more active community around art and pottery, similar to what she experienced growing up in North Carolina.
“I was one of those craft-fair kids who would run around and buy stuff with my allowance,” she says. “I bought my first pot at a craft show, when I was like 12 or something. I just had a love for handmade, at that young age. That’s because you know it’s special; people put so much energy and work into it, and they’re willing to tell you and educate you.”
Even as she grew up in a pottery family and happily absorbed the craft culture, Stamps didn’t initially see herself becoming a full-time artist and thought she might go into teaching.
“I loved art and loved kids, but then I discovered I didn’t have much patience,” she says. “I got more into pottery in college. My first year, I took my art classes, and you get in the studio and you get in that zone, and you just get lost. I loved that.”
She earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, and she served a few apprenticeships to learn the business side of being an artist. Marriage brought Stamps to Lexington: Her husband, Hunter Stamps, is an associate professor of ceramics at the University of Kentucky. The couple doesn’t work together much, but she says they made a ceramic mural for a pool in Little Rock, Ark., that they like to visit whenever they get back there.
Stamps looks forward to the greater exposure that a Distillery District location will afford her, but she doesn’t want for work. Asked about the word “Etsy” on one of the papers on her order board, Stamps admits that she hasn’t made much of a foray into the online marketplace popular with many craftspeople and their customers, in part because she has plenty of business from customers in town.
She can easily walk out her back door into her studio, but she has a pretty full life, with two daughters and other obligations.
“I’m busy enough. I feel like I’m juggling kids and PTA and the house and the puppy. ... It’s plenty.”
Not to mention that she goes to 10 to 15 Woodland-style events each year. But they are events she enjoys.
“Some are indoor and some are outdoor, but usually they’re similar to Woodland, where people get so excited,” she says. “That’s what I love about these events. It’s a community event where people get really excited every year, and it’s such a vibrant arts scene.”
If you go
Woodland Art Fair
What: Annual juried art market with more than 200 artists, live music, food, drink and family activities.
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 19, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 20
Where: Woodland Park, 601 E. High St.