She was still working in her ceramics studio, and getting settled into her country place on
Her ceramics studio had begun, she told me, right here on
I met Sonya over thirty years ago, when suddenly her early line: a honey-bear honey jar and her famous piggie with personality blossomed into a whole Studio Menagerie line of critters. In practically no time and much work, these ceramic sculptures were being sold in both cutie retail shops and marketing giants like Macy’s and Bloomingdale's. It seemed like everyone loved her work. For me, they were charming and elegant and yet accessible.
She engaged me to help her establish accounting systems to handle the growing workload, and then to file her first Federal Income Taxes as a sole proprietor business – this, after years of smaller scale distribution as individual. (Yes folks, long ago I “did numbers”.)
I got to peek into Sonya the Creative Dynamo and to watch Studio Menagerie’s growth. Other friends worked with her in production. It was inspiring as a business alone, yet was much more than a business. I will skip those adventures for now, except to share that Sonya was a “Warrior in service to the Queen.” Another time, so many stories! She's my favorite personally known feminist.
One time many years between then and now, Sonya called me in to help draft a short biography for sales work, about her artistic background. It was fun to learn her stories: of Vashon Island and silk screening; of much Beat Era San Francisco glory and mornings-after; of rooming with Janis; of working with developmentally disabled youth; of her glamorous modeling days; of her many roles in Hip consciousness, including the Diggers; and so much more.
Sonya’s ability to stagecraft and to create fashion trends in the ‘60s -'70s is legend. From a look at her scarf and hat collection, I have to believe she never quit those forms of artistic creativity, carrying this gift from stage and street theater troupes and through her personal style.
Sonya was very serious about her work -- both as artist and as a woman who became a success. She spoke of the losses in knowledge as crafts and artisan skills from her generation will be lost in death.
Sonya also left a body of commissioned works, mostly intricate sculpture, and many more popular ceramic pieces than I’ve described above. I heard her describing her three foot tall garden angels to her grand-niece with pride, just a week before she passed on. A friend has one of her “Three Faces of Woman” hanging garden figures. My daughter and I each have one of her round-belly pitchers from the early ‘80’s she made – I love it.
She inspires others more than she
probably could know while alive. But this is merely one old gal’s point of view. I can hardly wait to see who shares the stories about Sonya’s “political” art, as if anything in her universe wasn’t.
Sonya’s nephew, Alec Tsongas, is collecting stories about her, talking memoir. I’m launching this blog “early”, in hopes of helping him find those stories, because we who care about aesthetics may want to keep Sonya’s memories alive. For the brightening of our own lives.
If you know Sonya, or treasure any of her works, I hope you'll want to add to this page about Sonya Ann Magill. I will promptly share with Alec. If you leave contact info I will send it his way, too.
A memorial celebration for Sonya will be held at a future time: friends and family anticipate gathering somewhere near her incredible Studio and the Pacific Ocean she loved. I can post details as they emerge.