For nearly 45 years, the work of Margaret Lorraine Hudson has been showcased throughout the Central Valley.
Most notably, through numerous exhibitions and life-size sculptures adorning the grounds at Valley Children’s Hospital and Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
The clay creations aren’t hard to recognize as they take the form of animals that are native to the Central Valley.
Hudson started her collection with mainly critters — including owls, squirrels, bears and birds. Today, her collection features a mix of animals, people and various decorative pieces.
Hudson, a native of Fresno, celebrated her 90th birthday on Friday, Jan. 6. Although Hudson can’t be present at the art studio, known as Earth Arts Studio, she oversees her collection through the eyes of six employees.
“It has grown. I think she started with 100 designs,” says Inez Tilden, her assistant of 25 years. “Now, there are 600 designs.”
Nestled in a quiet neighborhood, the art studio invites the community to see the dedication and devotion that goes into sculpting her collection.
Each of the clay creations is handcrafted by Tou Senesamrane and Lydia Buciok.
Senesamrane uses a mold to cast and sculpt the shape, and Buciok adds intricate details with utensils. The backyard patio features two kilns for firing the sculptures, which are made with high-fire clay.
The art studio also serves as a storefront. There are shelves stocked with the clay creations that are available for purchase — ranging from 6-inch-tall animals, angels and gnomes to whimsical sculptures for gardens.
The art studio accepts custom orders for special events like weddings, graduations, anniversaries and funerals.
Without a doubt, Hudson has been instrumental to the success of the arts in the Central Valley. She started by working with mud in the backyard of her childhood home on Thorne Avenue.
“She kind of developed a liking for the arts as a child,” Tilden says.
As time progressed, Hudson and her husband moved to Korea. Together, they raised four sons. After returning to Fresno, her husband became very ill — prompting Hudson to start making and selling the clay creations as a means to support her family.
Soon after, her name became known throughout the community. She built two sculptures, including “Mama Bear,” at Valley Children’s Hospital and a series of bronze statues, called “Climbables,” at Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
“She was very big on supporting the arts and the community,” Tilden says.
In 1980, Hudson bought the art studio that currently stands on Swift Avenue.
Beyond the backyard patio is an area of trees that used to host students during field trips. In the 1990s, after taking a class at Fresno City College, she started painting pictures of vibrant, colorful flowers — they’re housed at the gallery, which is located next door to the art studio.
Her list of achievements extend to earning prestigious awards and holding numerous exhibitions in California. But most importantly, Hudson is known for her commitment to and support for the arts.
Happy birthday, Margaret!
Earth Arts Studio - Margaret L. Hudson and Friends
1946 E. Swift Ave., Fresno
Details: (559) 222-2420, www.margarethudson.com