‘You can get the expression in my sculptures’

Lewiston artist found passion in sculpting after art show, tries to make them unusual and quirky



Other than Santas, Mary Lou Wayne also creates fairy sculptors that are just as quirky.


Mary Lou Wayne, sculptor and owner of Characters in Clay in Lewiston, always tells beginning artists to never stop trying. She encourages artists to experiment with different mediums until they find their niche.

Wayne has been sculpting for 25 years. Before sculpting, she participated in macrame, dried flower arranging and cloth doll making.

At an art show in Boise, Idaho, she said she saw a woman hand sculpting Santas and was intrigued. She bought a box of clay on her way home from the show and her fascination only grew from there.

Wayne always knew she wanted to be an artist and drew a lot as a child. She didn’t think she was any good though, Wayne said.

“I picked up the clay and was like … wow. This clay is so great because I could leave it sitting for a month and it would stay. It doesn’t harden, you can scrape it up and start all over. You can get the expression in them,” Wayne said.

She started out with sculpting Santas, then grew into creating other characters as she learned. She likes to create characters such as fairies, elves and gnomes. She said she likes the unusual, old and quirky, but does not try to make them pretty. She strives to make them all have different personalities and does not want them to look the same.

“My first ones looked like alien babies; they were awful,” Wayne said. “Twenty-five years ago, there was no YouTube — no self-help on the internet. It was trial and error, and some of them were big errors.”

Wayne strives to learn more and do better, and she said she doesn’t think anyone should really ever stop learning because there’s so much out there.

In addition to making the clay faces and hands, she constructs their sets and clothes. Wayne said she rarely buys fabric, instead preferring to shop at thrift stores where the clothes are worn and softer. Women’s scarves work well as they are thinner. For the Santas, she likes to use vintage quilts.

Wayne said her friend encouraged her to join Artisans at the Dahmen Barn, so she began to display things in the shop. She now shares a studio in the barn with her friend Carole Galloway, who is a jewelry maker. Wayne has been in that space for three years.

One of Wayne’s biggest influences has been the other women she works with in the barn. She said she strives to be an artist but can feel like just a crafter on occasion. The ladies at the barn have encouraged her and made her feel like an artist.

“We come up here on Thursday and work. And at 2:30, we have wine hour,” Wayne said.

They go downstairs and have wine and snacks. The artists have social distance restrictions, and laugh and have a good time and just enjoy each other, she said.

Before Wayne joined Artisans at the Dahmen Barn, she said she worked other various jobs.

Wayne worked in retail but did not last very long because she would get bored. Sixty years later, she found her dream job at Patt’s Garden Center.

“It was an absolutely wonderful job, and [they] were the best people to work for,” Wayne said.

Wayne was laid off from November to early March so she could focus on her craft shows, she said.

She said she would love to use her passion for gardening and join it with her passion for clay to make garden art.

Wayne loves being able to express herself. She said she wants her sculptures to bring smiles to people’s faces. She wants people to enjoy them when they see them.

Being an artist is part of a person’s makeup, she said, and she could never quit doing it.

To see some of Wayne’s work, check out her Facebook page Characters in Clay or visit Artisans at the Dahmen Barn.