by Addie Ladner
photography by S.P. Murray
There’s now a touch of the Deep South in Bridgehampton, New York. Among the talents of sought-after tastemakers and artists, a 5×5 mixed media oil on canvas painting hangs as a focal point in the lounge of Traditional Home’s Hamptons Designer Showhouse. Tones of muted lavender and dusty blue are flecked with glossy white porcelain flowers and butterflies. The piece offers a feminine, warm, and calming touch to a luxurious room of gold accents and fur throws. It was carefully and delicately created by Raleigh-based artist, Caroline Boykin.
“It was a great opportunity to be seen out of the South. It’s such a beautiful room and it was a dream commission for me,” Boykin says of the career highlight. Boykin, her husband, and their two daughters Leavie, 4, and Alice, 1, live in Raleigh, where she works from her home studio that was fittingly once an old garden shed. Boykin says she is most inspired by the natural beauty of both her present-day life and her past, centered and rooted in Southern hospitality and strong, Southern women.
While her portfolio is varied, Boykin’s artistic style is consistently feminine. White and cream colored ceramic vases adorned with porcelain peonies, gardenias, and roses are used to chill a bottle of champagne for brunch or house a bouquet of hydrangeas. These objects are inspired by the many memories she has of her mother and grandmother entertaining with flawlessly set tables. “I wanted to make vessels that could be a part of those table settings and memories,” Boykin says. Southern women take a huge theme in her work, no matter the age. Her “pout paintings” are inspired by her four-year-old, Leavie. The oil on canvas paintings of abstract faces are topped with ceramic noses and pouty lips. They’re whimsical yet elegant, and explode with charm. “She is just full of sass and has so much personality,” Boykin says. Earth and pastel-toned hares, nude figures, and floral landscapes are inspired by the lushness of North Carolina.
Between growing up along the shores of Alabama in the charming, art community of Fairhope, to family trips to the spirited city of New Orleans, it was only natural that Boykin would cultivate an appreciation for art at a young age, then go on to create her own. She studied painting at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, and while Boykin always knew she wanted to be an artist, she never planned on becoming a potter. Now most known for her ceramics, she initially took a ceramics class as a requirement and remembers having a difficult time learning the ropes of a pottery wheel. “I was so bad at throwing. I’d make these little ceramic flowers to cover up my imperfections,” she recalls. Those flowers have become her trademark and can be seen as a three-dimensional element throughout most of her work. After finishing college she returned to Fairhope, Alabama, to showcase her senior thesis. Her show sold out, which gave her the encouragement to pursue a career as an artist. Boykin used the money from her show to purchase her first kiln. While her art draws from her distinctly Southern upbringing, it now attracts the eyes of individuals all over the country, selling out online, at shows, and receiving commissions weekly. “It’s fun getting to see where all my work ends up, I’m all over the country—East coast, West coast,” says Boykin. She credits her success to honing in on her inner confidence. “My subject matter has always been the same, but as I developed more confidence and found my voice as an artist, I became more successful,”
Boykin approaches her work with strict attention to detail and thoughtfulness, wanting to incorporate art into people’s everyday life. “Since I’m working in clay, I don’t want my pieces to be so utilitarian, it’s important to me that people are still able to use them,” she says of her ceramic vessels. And for her abstract floral landscape paintings, she chooses calming yet inviting shades of muted blues, greens, and yellows, wanting viewers to draw on a memory or sentiment. “I intend the viewer to feel emotions through the colors, texture, and shapes,” she says. While her work may be different and emerging, Boykin looks to classic artists for inspiration, such as the color choices of Claude Monet, Ellsworth Kelly’s shapes, and Mark Rothko’s color fields. “Caroline’s work is unique for us is in that we don’t have anything else like it,” says Koren Ayers, gallery director at Charlotte’s Anne Neilson Fine Art, a gallery that hosts over 50 artists from around the world. “Her pieces are fun but fresh and stand out in a room. The sculptural aspect on the paintings with the porcelain tied in together, it doesn’t fit one category,” Ayers says.
She hasn’t limited her artistic talents to just her ceramic works and paintings, either. A savvy business woman, Boykin has collaborated on home décor items, children’s apparel, and recently started taking on interior design clients, who all want to incorporate her work into their home. “There are so many different things I’m interested in, in the art world. It helps keep you sharp and your creativity floating,” Boykin says.
This month, she’s gearing up to host her annual “Caroline Christmas” event, a week-long, online art show just in time for gift-giving season. Last year, Boykin hustled to produce well over 200 pieces in one week for the sold-out event, and donated 10% of the proceeds to charity. This year, she’ll donate the proceeds to Raleigh Rescue Mission. Attendees can expect something different each day—holiday-themed ornaments one day, bud vases another, as well as ring dishes, floral abstracts, and pout paintings to name a few. With Southern generosity intertwined in her work and life, Boykin says she will create things she doesn’t normally during the week of Caroline Christmas, and makes sure to offer items at various price points. “It’s Christmas and my heart’s in it.”
Boykin’s work can be found locally at Vita Vite in both their downtown and North Hills locations, and in Charlotte at Anne Neilson Fine Art.
Her first Caroline Christmas event will be December 2 from 2-5 p.m. at Vita Vite Midtown. caroline-boykin.com