Artist in the House

– Ventura Blvd Magazine | By Anne M. Russell –

It isn’t every little girl who begs for a toy potter’s wheel for Christmas, but Moye Thompson had been enchanted by clay ever since she happened on potters at work during a third-grade field trip in her hometown of Atlanta. “It was like magic to me,” she says.

She got her toy wheel that holiday and “made a lot of clumpy things,” she recalls. But it wasn’t until after graduating from Harvard, spending a year in Cairo, and then starting work as a magazine editor in New York that Moye rediscovered her vocation. In 1988, a then-boyfriend gifted her a 10-week class at the Upper East Side studio, Earthworks Pottery. “I see that as my life’s turning point,” she says.

In 1996, Moye met her husband-to-be, architect Doug Suisman, which led to a move to the West Coast the following year and a pottery studio of her own in Santa Monica Canyon.

Her latest works are deceptively simple spheres, some about the size of a human head, others the size of coconuts. “I was inspired by a thing called a ‘spirit orb,’ but I just call them ‘word balls,’” says Moye.

The orbs begin as tall vases that close in on themselves under Moye’s hands, but not before she drops two small, solid balls of clay inside, which after firing, can be heard rattling around. The walnut-sized balls may have a name or secret message on them that—as long as the sphere doesn’t break—won’t ever be seen but is known to the owner.

The orbs, which Moye painstakingly stamps with individual letters to form words and sentences, have been a big hit. Jamie Lee Curtis is one of her repeat customers, ordering custom orbs with messages for friends and family. Nonprofit Heal the Bay is a regular client too, using the word balls (redubbed “beach balls”) as awards.

Moye’s current orb-making efforts are focused on the United States Constitution and she recently inscribed the entirety of the First Amendment on a large sphere. She works in a brightly painted studio, but her own creations tend to be glazed in subdued monochromes or black and white. The orbs are exclusively bisque colored with a crackled-glaze effect that Moye developed through experimentation.

The artist is meditative about her work, both the process and the result. “I feel that it contributes to joy in the world,” she says. “There are these little moments of joy.”

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Photography by Michael Becker