Hi!! My name is Teresa Mandala. I’m a multi-media artist, currently working in ceramics, living in beautiful Saint Petersburg, FL. Let me share with you my story – how I got here.
I grew up in the Midwest in a manufacturing town called Rockford, IL about 1.5 hrs Northwest of Chicago. For the last several years it was ranked as one of the top violent places to live. I’ve known several friends that never made it out alive. In many ways my childhood taught me survival skills and how to adapt to a changing environment. Growing up I often found solace in nature and in drawing. Whenever I couldn’t handle difficult emotions I leaned into creating.
At the age of 17 I became a single mom to my beautiful daughter. In many ways she transformed my life for the better. A year later I was accepted into the Kansas City Art Institute with a partial scholarship, so I decided to take a leap of faith and moved my daughter and I to Kansas City where I attended college.
It was an extremely difficult and rewarding time. I ended up losing my scholarship the first year due to my gpa not remaining high. My professor told me the odds were against me and I would most likely not graduate. This resistance gave me the energy to propel myself forward and to not give up. It was a pleasure to see his expression on graduation day when I walked up to receive my diploma.
After college I worked as an Art Director for a Kansas City advertising agency for 8 years, then started my own virtual advertising agency where I’ve worked with national brands for the last 15 years.
Throughout this time I constantly painted and built 3-D designs, but in the beginning I never showed my fine art work. I felt too vulnerable and exposed. Then life brought me to a very difficult time in my life and I sought out spiritual fulfillment. I joined a meditation group which helped me connect to life in a way I never had before. I saw the beauty in my pain and it allowed me to connect more deeply. I began to create from a place of expansive compassion. Which allowed me to open up to show my work to the public. I showed and sold a variety of work in galleries in Kansas City and taught painting classes at my al mater.
Over time and as my confidence grew I navigated to clay. I’ve loved clay since the class I took at KCAI. At first I made the worst looking pots you’ve ever seen, but this didn’t stop me. It brought me back to childhood and I indulged in the act of play. Opening me up to new creative ideas and new avenues of patience.
I soon became exposed to sgraffito, which reminded me of my graphic roots – linocuts. I loved the idea of combining drawings and paintings into 3-d forms. Teaching myself this technique I took note what other sgraffito artists were doing – sticking to black and white imagery. So, I decided to add more color.
My work got noticed and I was asked to teach a workshop and show in the gorgeous Belger Crane Yard Gallery in Kansas City. After the success of this show I decided to take a trip to Saint Petersburg, FL to look for galleries and a new place to settle down. I’ve always wanted to live on the coast minutes from the water. It’s what inspires a lot of my work.
This trip proved to be fruitful. I managed to find a gallery in St. Petersburg AND Key West, FL to show my work on a regular basis. I took this as a sign and five years ago decided to make Saint Petersburg my home and I’m happy I did.
My work is a combination of ALL of my life’s experiences – the struggles and the joys. Finding connection through nature. I hope you will follow me on my journey.
View My Work Online
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