Juanita Frazier gently places a tiny porcelain box on her kitchen table. The box, small enough to hold pennies or bobby pins, is painted with a swirl of flowers in vivid yellows, lavenders and greens.
A single brush stroke is impossible to detect. Frazier, who crafted the box herself, credits her precision to letting the brush do the painting for her.
“People come in and say, ‘I can’t even paint a straight line,’ ” she said. “No artist can paint a straight line. You let the brush do it for you.”
Frazier, 85, has managed Frazier Ceramic Shop, 8601 SW Williston Road, in Gainesville since 1971 after marrying her third husband and the shop’s founder, Ray Frazier, who established the business in 1951.
She said she first became seriously involved with ceramics in 1949 while living in Detroit. She started small, specializing in making jewelry and porcelain elves. In the early 1960s, she honed her ceramics skills in Texas under the tutelage of an instructor in Fort Worth.
After the deaths of her first two husbands and years of travel, living in Michigan and Texas, she returned to Alachua County, her hometown. Then she connected with Ray Frazier, a friend of her mother’s.
“Ray was a bit of a psychic,” she said. “We were drawn together — we were soul mates.”
In January of 1992, Ray Frazier — a lifelong smoker — was diagnosed with lung cancer at 79. He died that September, just short of 80 years old.
She said her upbringing on a farm in Lake City taught her to be especially adaptable to changes in life, including the deaths of her husbands. Farm life instilled in her a sense of self-sufficiency, and life after Ray Frazier, she said, had to keep moving.
“My first two words were ‘butterfly’ and ‘flower,’” she said. “So I guess I was just rooted in the soil.”
After her husband’s death, she became the primary shop owner and has since been a resource to Gainesville potters and sculptors of all skill levels.
Her warehouse-style shop is filled wall-to-wall with glazes, clays, clay molds, unpainted sculptures and statues, brushes and other specialty ceramics supplies. She also offers free art lessons.
In her decades of running the shop, she’s seen generations pass through rounds of art lessons. An influx of regular customers keeps the shop running, and she loves teaching new people the craft.
“Everyone is artistic,” she said. “You’re born with it. You just have to fertilize it.”