Lynne Hobaica was studying art history at Syracuse University and needed an elective. Rickie Barnett was taking painting and drawing classes at California State University, missed the registration deadline for an elective he wanted, and the only remaining option was a clay class.
Neither was serious about ceramics then. But both were immediately drawn in by how welcoming and close-knit the other students in their respective classes were, and it was that warm atmosphere that made them decide to stick with it.
After she graduated in 2010, Hobaica did two clay residencies before accepting a job as a nanny in Austria for a family friend who happened to have a pottery studio. She ended up attending grad school at the University of Art and Design in Lintz. “It was a conceptual sculpture program,” she says. “[I wanted to] push myself out of what I was comfortable with.”
Back in the States, she did a residency at Syracuse for a year, followed by a two-year residency in Seattle.
Barnett had gigged in various bands — “I was traveling around making music until I was 25” — before enrolling in college. After graduating in 2013, he did extended clay residencies in Taos, New Mexico, and Seattle, decisions also motivated by a desire to push himself out of his comfort zone. When he got a job with local fine-art sculptor Cristina Córdova, he moved to Western North Carolina in May 2017.
Fate intervened in March 2018, when they both attended the annual NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) conference in Pittsburgh and were hanging out with Seattle colleagues.
Moments after Hobaica told a friend she wouldn’t want to date an artist, she met Barnett, and they instantly connected. Their long-distance friendship turned deeper, but she admits the deal closer came when she found out what he was paying for a house with studio in rural Bakersville. She left Seattle and joined him in North Carolina in 2019.
Here, less than ten miles from the esteemed Penland School of Craft, they have purchased a home, adopted a dog, are building a studio, and have settled happily into a close-knit community of artists working in multiple mediums.
Sharing studio space means sharing a kiln, materials, and tools, and it segues easily to collaborations on pieces for group shows. When Penland Focus Gallery invited them to do their annual two-artist exhibit, the couple accepted, and titled the show Two Headed Diver.
“We wanted a name for our collaborations, and thinking of an art practice as a pool of unknowns you dive into, we came up with that,” Hobaica explains.
She describes her work as functional pieces that she draws on — expressions of joyfulness and darkness. Barnett’s standing pieces and wall hangings lean to quirky sculpted “creatures and critters.”
When collaborating, they pass works in progress back and forth from his side of the table to hers. “Our hands and minds both touch every piece many times through the process,” Barnett says. “We talk about them all the way through.”
Lynne Hobaica and Rickie Barnett, Two Headed Diver, Bakersville. Hobaica and Barnett have a joint exhibit at In Tandem Gallery (20 North Mitchell Ave., Bakersville, intandemgallery.com) running Wednesday, Dec. 1 through Friday, Dec. 31; the exhibit features collaborative and individual works. The pair are also represented by Penland Gallery (penland.org). See twoheadeddiver.com for more information.