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Government of New Brunswick

Elsa Valiñas

Elsa Valiñas
Elsa Valiñas

Born and raised in Mexico City, Elsa Valiñas is a multidisciplinary artist trained as an industrial and interior designer.

Her work reflects the lively and diverse essence of Mexican culture, blending ancient traditions with modern influences. Elsa sees design as a core part of her identity, and clay is her favorite medium to work with. Clay’s willingness to be transformed makes it a perfect medium to express the way she perceives the world.

In 2017, Elsa made Canada her home where she studied Ceramics at The New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. After graduating, she moved to PEI to gain experience in production pottery. Now back in Fredericton, with her own brand called Clay Corazon, she fulfills her lifelong dream of crafting exquisite, one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces that seamlessly blend functionality with aesthetic beauty. Because functional can also be decorative, unique, and memorable.

Watch Elsa compete for the title of “Best Amateur Potter in Canada” at The Great Canadian Pottery Throwdown airing on CBC.

What led you to become an artist?

Back in Mexico, living as an artist is synonymous with struggles. Art has been around me all my life; I have loved drawing and painting since I was a kid. Growing up, I had my first encounter with an art school, but making that my reality seemed extremely far away at that time. I moved towards a profession where I could still use my drawing skills; I studied Industrial Design at UNAM in Mexico City. This is where I met clay for the first time and fell in love. After graduating and working on designing furniture for commercial spaces, I decided to explore more and went to Australia to study Interior Design at RMIT in Melbourne.

Back in Mexico, the stressful lifestyle started to take a toll on my health. I decided to pause and rethink what I wanted for my life. With my family’s help, I was able to come to Canada, and that was when clay came back to me. In my research, ceramics kept popping up, and I thought that was it, it was meant to be. Finally, after so many years, working with clay and living as a ceramic artist became my reality.

1 elsa valinas clay corazon aqua lantern
Aqua Lantern. Thrown on the Wheel using red stoneware, hand carved and finished using a cone 6 aqua glaze.

How did your training and experience help you to create and innovate in your artistic practice?

All my life, I’ve been extremely curious. I’ve taken so many random workshops, always trying to find new ways to unleash creativity while working with my hands. These diverse experiences, coupled with my design background, have helped me look at clay in a different way. I know how to improve my processes to make them more efficient; ergonomics is ingrained in my thinking. I am trained to be a problem solver, which in ceramics is a must. I have studied colour psychology, screen printing, mould making, and each of these disciplines have improved my practice in so many ways.

What stimulates you most about your practice?

What stimulates me the most about working with clay is the willingness of the material to be transformed, how easy the medium is to work with, but also how demanding it is. There are so many things that can go wrong in the process that you learn from the beginning how to deal with failure and loss, but you must be strong-minded to keep trying. Clay teaches me every day about patience and being present. It’s like a journey from soft clay to a finished artwork, reminding me that every step is special and rewarding.

What motivates your creativity?

For me, what motivates my creativity is learning, always finding new ways to explore and create. I love colour and texture. I still feel like I am in diapers with all the things that one can learn about ceramics.

How has living and working in New Brunswick helped and/or inspired you on your journey?

Living in New Brunswick has helped me enjoy everything around me. Coming from Mexico City, one of the most populated cities in the world, living in Fredericton and its slow-paced life feels like a gift. Being surrounded by nature is a dream come true. It gives me the calm that I need to create.

4 elsa valinas clay corazon aqua coffee mug
Aqua Flower coffee mug. Thrown on the Wheel using red stoneware, hand carved and finished using a cone 6 aqua glaze leaving the carvings bare to contrast with the glaze.

How does your creative process unfold as you create an artwork?

When I’m creating a new ceramic piece or sculpture, it’s like stepping into a magical world of endless possibilities! My creative process unfolds with excitement and curiosity as I explore new ideas, textures, and motifs. When inspiration strikes, it’s like my mind zooms in, and everything else fades away. I pour my heart and soul into the piece I’m creating, losing myself in the flow of my creativity. Working with each piece of clay feels like a dance, guiding me toward bringing my vision to life. It’s a journey filled with surprises, discoveries, and pure joy as I watch my artwork evolve and come alive before my eyes.

What is your long-term vision and what do you hope to achieve?

My dream is to turn ceramics into my full-time job. I want to keep my hands busy creating beautiful pieces until the very end because I’m convinced that staying creative keeps your mind sharp, young and curious. Eventually, I picture myself enjoying a peaceful life, where I can afford my own cozy home, complete with a studio where I can let my imagination run wild. I want to share my passion by teaching others because I’ve learned so much from the wisdom of others, and I’d love to pay it forward.

Why do you think it’s important to make art and pursue an artistic career?

Making art and pursuing an artistic career are important because they allow us to express ourselves in unique and creative ways. Art gives us a voice to share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences with the world. It’s like painting a picture of who we are on the canvas of life! Plus, being an artist lets us explore our passions, follow our dreams, and create something truly meaningful. Whether we’re painting, sculpting, dancing, or making music, art brings joy, beauty, and inspiration to our lives and the lives of others. So, let’s keep creating and spreading a little more magic in the world through our art!

2 elsa valinas clay corazon blueberry lantern
Blueberry Heart Lantern. Thrown on the Wheel using red stoneware, hand carved and finished using a cone 6 aqua glaze.

What have you learned about yourself and the artistic community through your work?

Something that I’ve learned about the artistic community here in Fredericton is the unconditional support. As an immigrant, making your art noticeable is hard. My community consists of artists from ceramics and other disciplines, and they’ve helped me in so many ways, they have made me feel welcome, they have helped me make connections; they have helped me in knocking on doors that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve learned that you are your only competition, that each mind and each pair of hands is so different, and that art has so many possibilities, so nobody should fear sharing and learn from each other.

5 elsa valinas clay corazon vanilla coffee mug
Vanilla Flower coffee mug. Thrown on the Wheel using red stoneware, hand carved and finished using a cone 6 vanilla glaze leaving the carvings bare to contrast with the glaze.

What do you think is the impact of artists’ work on communities?

Artists bring communities to life by adding colour, culture, and connection. Through their creativity, they weave a tapestry of shared experiences, making neighborhoods livelier and more welcoming. With their art, they inspire us to see the beauty in diversity and work together for a brighter future.

Describe what you are most proud of in your career.

Leaving my family was not an easy decision, but finding a place where I feel safe and where I can support myself through my art has made it worthwhile. Now, I have food on my table and a roof over my head. My art has even taken me to places I never thought I would be, like being a contestant on The Great Canadian Pottery Throwdown.

What advice would you give to emerging artists?

Don’t let people plant their fears in your mind. When you find your purpose, it will be hard, but it will be worth fighting for. Trust your inner voice; don’t try to please anybody but yourself, and most importantly, the only person you need to compare yourself to, is you. And don’t stop learning; look at life with creative eyes.

Where can we follow/see your work?

Love NB arts and culture? Share your favourites. #inspiredbyNB