Courtney Mattison, artist and ocean advocate from the United States. Photo © Amanda Brooks

1.Tell us what you do and your beginnings.

I am an artist and ocean advocate who creates large-scale, intricately detailed ceramic sculptural works inspired by the fragile beauty of coral reefs and the human-caused threats they face—namely climate change.

I’ve always felt that the sea is full of secrets and have vivid memories of first discovering some of them as a young child, peeking inside crab traps strung along the piers of San Francisco Bay with my mom. Both sculpture and the ocean fascinated me from an early age, so it felt natural for me to start studying marine biology and ceramics as a high school student.

Revolve, detail. Photo © Mark Olencki for Wofford College

That first marine biology class sparked my passion for marine science, and where I learned the basics of field research and dissection. That’s also when I first felt the urge to sculpt sea creatures out of clay because I found that it was easier for me to understand the anatomy of organisms I was studying if I recreated them in three dimensions.