Art Elements Monthly Theme: Nests

Welcome to my blog post for the Art Elements Blog Theme for Nests (March 2018).

I think about nests in a few ways:

My nature brain thinks of the place where critters can safely rear their offspring.

My mother brain swirls about trying to figure out how to balance my life with kids and making art – nurturing both.

And my creative brain likes to have little collected items around in cubby nests to comfort and inspire me.

Little cubbies with objects from friends and loved ones…

In 2007 I lost my mom to Leukemia when I was 6 months pregnant with my daughter. I never thought I would go through losing my mom like that, and becoming a parent without my mom there with me. After Chloe was born, and I got my feet under me, it was time to look upon my creativity. I was super frustrated. So I grabbed some clay and a soft rubber tipped tool and just started making spirals.

Marsha Neal Studio Spiral Clay Texture Plate

Turned out this was a beginning of a whole new line for me. Some of the first pieces I made reminded me of nests. And since I was struggling with my “mom” nest and my “creativity” nest, I though of bird nests.

I asked my friend Nikki Thornburg to make me some glass birds with the wire coming out of the bottom so I could epoxy them into my little nest forms so I could put these into small house plants to help inspiration grow for anyone who happened to glimpse them.

Small side note: My mom is the person that introduced Nikki and me at a bead show we were both selling at. She was super excited to see all of her beautiful glass beads, she had me go over and look and meet this delightful lady. To this day she is one of my best bead family friends ever (a sister really)!

Bird Nests – Glass Beads made by Nikki Thornburg.

And I started making beads from these texture plates. Small beads, donut beads and lots of other fun things.

Marsha Neal Studio Texture Plates and Reverse Glazed Pieces

I do enjoy rolling out clay and just squishing it. It is quite therapeutic. Having this spiral texture gives the glaze a place to puddle in the final piece. Using my thumbs and hands I was able to form the flattened forms into these curved nest bead forms.

Nest forms and flattened spiral beads.

I am still working out ideas on how to suspend these nests forms. I was having fun just putting beads in the middle and waxed linen with knots – but there will be more (thinking of wire forms).

Marsha Neal Studio Nest Beads

Another thing I like to do is make these little footed bird nests. I usually make beads that are cone shaped – and I can expand them to make them hollow or spiral and squish the end and stick them to the bottom of the nest. Some people ask what they are supposed to hold. Thinking about this I often say tiny objects. But if you really think about it, they can contain big ideas and imagination.

Little footed nest forms.

Thanks to Cathy for picking out this theme for us to create work around. Check out these other artists that are participating in this months Art Elements “Nest” theme (make sure to see about the upcoming April theme tomorrow on the Art Elements Blog).

Guest Participants-










AE team members-








Marsha (you are Here)


23 Responses to “Art Elements Monthly Theme: Nests”
  1. Thank you for your comments about expressing the loss of your mother in nest forms in clay. My dad is currently on his final journey toward death. This is a very difficult journey for me too. I wonder how I might express this creatively? Clay comforts me and helps me be in the moment. But beyond that, I don’t know yet.

    • Thanks for your kind words Linda. I am sorry that you are going through a difficult time with your dad right now. It took me a while to find creativity again. And just now – over 10 years later, I feel like I am getting to relax a bit into who I am again (I guess having 2 kids and life coming at you like a pissed off grizzly bear will do that to you…). You will find your inspiration and spark when the time is right. Just remember to be open to it.

  2. Laney Mead says:

    How difficult to lose your mum at such a time I am so sorry for your loss but also interested to read that her passing caused you to find something in which to express yourself, your work is amazing. I particularly love the little footed nests at the bottom of your blog, they would look wonderful in a dolls house.

    • Thank You Laney! I thought those little ones were funny – and in my mind I remembered listening to one of the Narinia books – and the island of the magician and the big one footed beings living there. It definitely takes me to that imaginary place :)

  3. Kathy Lindemer says:

    I am so glad you are part of this group. I know I will enjoy seeing your creativity. I love your little footed bird nests. Your idea about putting wishes or thoughts in them appeals to me.

  4. I have been drawn to your spiral beads since the first time I saw them (and have a small cherished collection). Knowing the personal story behind them makes them even more special. Those footed nests look like miniature bird fountains. And I especially love your ideas for what they may contain.

    • Thank You Tammy! I loved your post and cannot wait to click on more links as I am completely taken in by paper wasp nests and for that matter – many insect nests and egg masses. :)

  5. Creativity has such a therapeutic effect on us. I am glad it helped with the loss of your mother. I imagine every time you create your spiral components it makes you think of her.
    I love your spiral donuts and beads but those little nests you create are fabulous! I think I need to get some of those;-)
    Thanks for playing along this month.

    • Thank YOU Cathy for hosting this months theme. It really makes me be a bit more present in where I am when creating instead of just being in a production mode (days can seem to go there fast: Kids – Work – more Work – Dinner – Homework – Kids – Bed). I look forward to more of these and seeing how creativity greets me or runs and dunks her head right into the garden bed… :)

  6. Anita Rao says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, and glad that you got through difficult times by being creative – it is indeed therapeutic.
    I love your nest forms, especially the footed ones! (Well, I too agree that they don’t necessarily have to hold physical objects – not everything that’s created has to have a mundane use! ;) )

  7. Alysen Chappell says:

    Love your eloquent words and the sharing of life’s losses. If you go on any of our sites, you’ll see that I returned home to the U.S. a year ago to help caregive my 95 year old Mom. This permitted me to concentrate on my newfound art form of wire wrapping & Jewelry. I love all of your nests and would like to see the final products …

  8. Claire says:

    I enjoyed seeing all the different pieces you created and they are even more special reading about your thoughts, your mom, and all the meaning behind it. I also lost my mum to cancer and while it is already a long time ago, I still just miss her. If I could chose that things would be different, I would. But I also take the good parts of every hurt and it taught me to really know my own priorities in life.

  9. Caroline says:

    Clay is wonderful for getting us through difficult times, so sorry to read your story Marsha. Happy that you’ve found yourself through your creativity again though. I love your clay/glaze combinations and these little nests are wonderful!

  10. Lindsay M Starr says:

    I love how this theme is so personal for you, it really emphasizes the nurturing and protective purpose for nests. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  11. Jenny says:

    Marsha- thanks to you for sharing this. Even though I knew the basics- I had no idea that is how you and Nikki met! Wow. I love your spirals, and the textures, and the way you get such amazing glaze combos/ puddles.

    And umm. Your muse dunking her head in the flower bed. HAHAHAHAHAHAH

  12. Difficult times shape us more than happiness. Like you said, we have to be open to the good that comes after them. I love you inspiration nests and the spiral donut beads that evolved from the spiral plates. Your creations are unusual and free formed, so beautiful and natural looking!

  13. Lesley Watt says:

    Your spirals are some of my favourite pieces in the clay community as I love the texture, form and colours and knowing how they came about makes them all the more special. I am also very taken with you ‘cubby’ nests – I might be borrowing that idea! Welcome again to the team.

  14. Niky Sayers says:

    What beautiful pieces, I love the texture and the organic look of your pieces they look so tactile, stunning work!

  15. I’m sorry about your mom but I’m glad the clay gives you comfort. I love your work, and those clay nests are a fantastic idea!

  16. Sarajo Wentling says:

    Thanks for sharing the personal story behind your spiral beads… that makes them even more special to me! I love how you’re turning them into little nests… especially the way you’ve paired them with Nikki’s birds. Sorry to be hopping so late!

  17. BestMarta says:

    I have noticed you don’t monetize your website, don’t waste your traffic, you can earn extra cash every
    month. You can use the best adsense alternative for any type of website (they approve all websites), for more info simply search
    in gooogle: boorfe’s tips monetize your website

Leave A Comment