Sometimes life really does imitate art, and what we perceive as a mistake turns out to be one of our biggest discoveries. Just ask Raleigh-based artist Caroline Boykin, who learned that lesson in her first college ceramics class at the University of Mississippi, where she received her BFA in 2010. “I was absolutely terrible on the wheel, so I created little buds to try and cover up my imperfections. They were the first place that I really found a way to speak my voice through art,” Boykin says.
Call it flower power. Today, those amazingly intricate porcelain petals that adorn her artwork and home are among her signature pottery pieces. Boykin uses the beautiful buds on mostly cream and white vases and dishes, designed to be not only pretty but useful, too. Her portfolio also includes acrylic and oil paintings and mixed media created in her home studio. Boykin’s work is fresh, feminine, and happy; inspired by her post-college studies in Europe and her Southern upbringing in Mobile, Alabama.
“I grew up gathering around a big beautiful table of silver and china and packed with beautiful floral arrangements. As an artist, I wanted to create artwork that could be used on and around those Southern tables,” Boykin says. “As Southerners, hospitality is ingrained in us from an early age, and I strive for my paintings and pottery to have that same feeling of warmth and comfort.”
Boykin’s paintings feature large swaths of color–inspired by nature in the Carolinas and the landscapes she fondly remembers seeing in Italy–many in varying shades of terra-cotta, blues, and yellows. Her subjects also include French dancers and abstract, whimsical hares - a cheeky nod to her grandmother’s love of collecting bunnies. And then, there are what she lovingly refers to as her “pout paintings” — a series of oil paintings created around her older daughter. “She is full of sass and charm. The lips and noses are handmade porcelain, and I love that each painting has its own personality.”
Caroline Boykin originals can be found in several Southeast art galleries, and are incorporated prominently in her own home, which truly is a Maison d’art — a house of art. Her white walls serve as the perfect backdrop for her cheery canvases, further elevating each room’s airiness. The rooms have a feminine touch, but are not so “overly girly” that a man would feel out of place. To that, she enthusiastically says, “Thank you!”
“It’s important to have a mix; a mix of metals, time periods, and fabrics,” Boykin says of her decorating approach. “For example, a French chest next to a velvet upholstered chair and a glass side table with a large ceramic lamp. Having a layered look creates depth and a lived-in look that’s approachable and inviting.”
One can’t help but notice that throughout the artist’s home are perfectly balanced, eye-catching vignettes, reflective of Boykin’s many talents. She says the key to achieving the look is using layers and collections of things. “I personally enjoy collecting vintage art books, rose medallion pottery, and silver. It’s so fun to style those objects!”
As a wife and working mom of two girls, four-year-old Leavie and one-year-old Alice, Boykin has learned to balance her studio time with family time. She typically uses mornings, when the kids are at preschool, to create in her studio - often accompanied by the family’s eleven-year-old bulldog, Gus Man - and then sneaks back in a few nights a week, after her husband, Will, tucks the girls into bed. She says, “My family is my first priority, so it is such a blessing that I get the opportunity to create and fulfill my dreams while working at home.”
Boykin describes her current artistic style as a balance between feminine and utilitarian while always incorporating elements of architecture and nature. While she says her artwork is ever evolving and growing, her core principles and themes remain the same. Asked to pick her favorite medium, Boykin laughs, “That’s like asking me which of my children I love more! They are different in the way I use my hands and creativity, but I find that they very much feed off each other.”