By Jennifer Meers Jones ’08
Five years ago, Elena Abercrombie ’09 was a stay-at-home mom who had never worked with ceramics.
Fast-forward to May 2010, when Abercrombie opened the doors of Elena’s One and Only Art Studio for the first time. The walls of the Temple studio are lined with shelves of creamy white ceramic animals, vases, and seasonal items, just waiting for eager artists to come paint.
Abercrombie has thousands of ceramic molds, which she pours and fires herself. People of all ages and levels of art expertise visit the studio to paint the ceramic pieces. Abercrombie then fires their handiwork in an on-site kiln, and a few days later customers can take home their own work of art. All of this, Abercrombie said, would not be possible without the education she received at Mary Hardin-Baylor.
“The ceramics class I took with Phil Dunham had a huge influence on me,” she said. “I had never worked with clay before. Phil taught me to just jump in and give it a try; it doesn’t have to come out perfect. Little did I know that I would not only grow to love ceramics but I would also make a living at it.”
As a child, Abercrombie lived in a number of cities in Florida and Texas. Her father was in the construction business, so the family moved wherever the building boom took them.
“I was born premature, and then I did everything slow. I didn’t talk until I was five or six. And because we moved around a lot, I was extremely shy. My mom put me in art lessons because she thought that would be a good way of expressing myself.”
After high school, Abercrombie enrolled in college with plans to major in biology and become a doctor. Then life took over, and finishing her degree was put on hold. She met her husband, Gary, and together they now have four children, Garry III, 17; Thomas, 16; Meagan, 10; and Brian, 7.
When her youngest son was in preschool, Abercrombie decided to go back to school.
“Even though I tried a couple of times to go back to college, I just never felt comfortable,” she said. “What I gained most from attending UMHB was definitely the confidence that I could do it. With Mary Hardin-Baylor, it all came together, and I graduated. And once I graduated from college, I just thought, ‘I can do anything.’”
About a year after graduating, Abercrombie opened Elena’s One and Only Art Studio in Temple.
“One thing after another, opening the studio just fell into place.”
The studio offers a diverse selection of classes and private lessons, including ceramics, painting, stained glass, mosaics, and welding. The studio can also be reserved for birthday parties, which Abercrombie said has been one of its most popular features.
Abercrombie hopes her studio will attract a wide variety of artists.
“My concept is ‘art for anybody.’ We want both those who have no art experience and those who have done art all their life to be able to come in, feel comfortable, and create art.”
Looking around the studio, Abercrombie reflected on the results of a dream made reality.
“Without UMHB I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. It was the small atmosphere that made all the difference.”