Homer artist Alyssa Morgan creates custom pieces from clay

When stay-at-home mom Alyssa Morgan found herself spending a lot of time scrolling on her phone, she realized that she needed to put her hands to work and stimulate her brain with something other than taking care of her baby. What began as a hobby, playing with clay in her parents’ living room, has turned into a thriving home business making and selling jewelry, and more.

Hand-mixing her own color palette to make neutral colors that are not commercially available, Morgan’s signature polymer clay technique includes marbling clay with gold or silver foil and finishing with a resin that gives the clay a high gloss and durable finish.

“People often ask me if the clay is stone because they have a very natural look to them,” she said.

While she makes necklaces, hair accessories, key chains, magnets, wall hangings and Christmas ornaments, the most popular items are her earrings. Incorporating design elements inspired by her Native heritage, she describes her earrings as fun, bold and classy.

“I love the statement jewelry that our Alaska Natives make,” she said. “When I was playing around with profiles, I wanted them to be both whimsical and timeless. Many of my pieces are quite large and since the clay is so lightweight, women can wear these really fun, large pieces in colors that would never occur in nature, and forget that they’re wearing them. I want my jewelry to stand out, but also be classy.”

Working in small batches, from making the color palette to curing, adding edges, drilling for assembly, finishing with resin, putting the backings on, assembling and placing them on display cards, a batch can take up to eight hours spaced out over a couple of days.

Having never worn polymer clay or seen it in person, Morgan said her initial inspiration came during the pandemic when as a young mother herself, she noticed other stay-at-home moms working with it.

“I was desperate for a creative outlet and I thought clay was something I could try,” she shared.

Purchasing supplies at local craft stores and then online, she taught herself through trial and error. Immediately taken with the clays’ affordability, malleability, and being a forgiving medium, Morgan began scouring Homer Spit beaches for design ideas for her earrings.

“I started going to beaches that my mom and I frequented when I was little, and collecting shells,” she said. “I wanted my earrings to look and feel natural and organic, like something you might find on the beach, and have a bit of whimsy and personality to them too.”

Sharing her work with her family, she incorporated their feedback and, with their encouragement, decided to approach her earrings as a business, rather than just a hobby.

Morgan sold her first pair of earrings on Instagram soon after posting them, and was motivated to create a Facebook account for business, inviting family and friends to follow, like and share her pages. Within just a few days, her pages had amassed hundreds of likes and followers. Inspired by the response, she posted photographs of herself wearing her earrings to social media and built a website, uploading her inventory. She sold out the day she launched, mailing earrings to customers around Alaska and the Lower 48.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me early on,” she shared. “I’m proud of how far I’ve come with what I’ve learned to make and I’m excited that I’ve come up with something I’m passionate about that people really connect with.”

Some of her most popular designs are custom floral bouquet earrings, often commissioned by brides to wear on their wedding day to match their bouquets, and by husbands as gifts for their wives to depict the bouquets from their wedding day. Requiring an intricate process of shaping each petal by hand, Morgan said her work is a labor of love.

Describing herself as very methodical, she is committed to continually improving the quality of her work, both in the materials she uses and the techniques she learns and incorporates.

“I get really intimidated by the endless amount of things I could be making with clay — different styles and colors,” she shared. “I’ve learned to trust myself and to trust my instincts, to know that it’s OK to make things that I don’t want to sell, and that sometimes I make things I don’t love in order to get to the things that I do. I’m learning how to get through that process.”

In Homer, her clay creations can be found at Northwind, Happy Closet Co., SeaGlo Spa, Tackle Shop and Hands of Alaska on the Homer Spit. And online, on Instagram, Facebook, and her website under her business name, Emlynn Clay, with Emlynn a derivative intended to honor her mother, MaryLynn, who has long been her creative influence.

“Growing up in Homer, my mom was always adding bits of whimsy and fun to everyday activities,” Morgan shared. “At the beach, we built fairy huts in the driftwood using rocks, moss and seashells. When I lost my teeth, she put glitter under my pillow and told me that was from the tooth fairy visiting. She has always been creatively charged.”

With a passion for beading and quilting, her mom shared with her not only her own creativity, but her crafting supplies, with some of her oldest beads incorporated into Morgan’s early jewelry.

Due to have another baby in March, Morgan’s short-term goals include getting through that transition and continuing to make earrings. Her long-term goals include selling out of a commercial storefront on the Homer Spit and translating her business logo, which features numerous mountain peaks, onto apparel.

With her husband pursuing a career in aviation, the young family migrates between Homer and Georgia where she pursues selling at pop-up markets and craft fairs, as well as continuing to build her online presence. Whether north or south, Morgan shared that she is grateful for her Homer community where she was born and raised and whose community members have supported this creative venture from the beginning.

“So many women in Homer have been buying my jewelry and it takes my breath away to be so supported,” she said. “To see people excited about my work, it’s really inspiring and humbling. This clay has been a lifeline from the chaos of kids and is fun, rewarding, and incredibly fulfilling.”

From a hobby in her parents’ home to a business in her own, Morgan encourages others to trust the process of their own creativity and the network of people around them.

“Trust your community because they will be what inspires you, encourages you, and connects you to the bigger opportunities,” she shared. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”

Alyssa Morgan on the Homer Spit modeling a pair of her polymer clay earrings, March 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Walker of Photos By Kenz)
Earrings by Alyssa Morgan, March 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Walker of Photos By Kenz)
Alyssa Morgan models a pair of her clay earrings. (Photo provided by Alyssa Morgan)
Alyssa Morgan on the Homer Spit wearing a pair of her polymer clay earrings, December 2021. (Photo by Goldie Shealy, Gold Portrait Co.)
Alyssa Morgan on the Homer Spit modeling a pair of her polymer clay earrings, March 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Walker of Photos By Kenz)
Earrings by Alyssa Morgan, March 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Walker of Photos By Kenz)