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Conversations with Christina Bertsos

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Bertsos. 

Hi Christina, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
One thing I have learned is that one plans a life based on their dream and one day these dreams do come to fruition, just not in the way one expects. And they can be even grander than originally imagined but only if one keeps the essence of the dream alive in their heart. 

Since my earliest memories, I have wanted to become an artist, a foreign career to my parents who did not deny my talents, just the practicality of my choice. I went on to appease the practical by receiving a BS degree from Loyola University to pursue a medial doctorate but soon after graduation could no longer deny the tug of the creative world, which led me back to school to study fashion design, where I was sure I would find my happiness. While at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and then a semester studying haute couture in Paris, I was completely immersed in the joy of discovering the glamorous and exciting world of fashion and creating my own designs. I majored in haute couture where art meets fashion and the creative doors felt wide open. Working in the industry, however, proved less satisfying creatively and I felt I had to face leaving that world to have a sustainable and reliable income. I chose to work in health care but always kept one foot in the art world making art and studying many different mediums within art as of often as I could. Now that the pressure of money was removed, I was free to just explore. 

There were times that I denied the importance of art in my life, but those times were also met with a degree of sadness and a sense of feeling untrue to myself. Then one day I picked up a catalog from a now beloved local art center, The Dunedin Fine Art Center, and curiosity led me to a course in stone carving. Hmm, I said. That sounds interesting so I took the course. 

From this jumping-off point, I stuck with it and remembered one day deciding to just focus intently on teaching myself how sculptures are created out of rocks. I had to give myself the time and the patience to learn something completely foreign and new. I took to it right away. It opened up a whole new world of wonderful people, places, and experiences that I never would have dreamed of. I didn’t know where this would take me but I also didn’t care. To be immersed in a new creative world made me a happier individual in my professional career. Both were receiving the energy they needed but it took discipline and commitment. 

An incredible gift was finding a real stone sculpture studio with amazing sculptors to work next to, practice, and learn from. The Sculpture Studio in Clearwater, Florida has been a haven for a group of sculptors with a passion for stone for the past 30 years. It’s been my home away from home and second family for the past 10 years. 

Coasting along and still enjoying the experience, back in 2017 I decided to enter a members show at the DFAC with one of my pieces. And to my complete surprise and delight, I ended up winning first place. This began my journey prompting me to bring my art out of the studio and into the community. Experiencing the reaction of people to my work and the curiosity it sparks is just so rewarding! It has taught me that it’s not just about me making the art but it’s about sharing it with others that completes the circle. And It’s not about making my living from the art but it’s about honoring this God-given gift by simply doing it. 

Since then, I have received more awards and my art has been accepted in many shows as well as a solo exhibition in 2019 at the St. Petersburg Art Exchange. I have received a generous Emerging Artist grant and overwhelming support from a local arts organization, Creative Pinellas and I have begun to sell my work. 

If there is anything that I hope to convey with my story is that it is important to honor your dreams and to just stick with them. It may happen in an unlikely way but it will happen. And to look for the little gems in your own backyard to support and nurture those dreams because they are out there just waiting for you to discover. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The one and only obstacle is one of my perceptions. Is this pursuit worthy and am I willing to make the commitment to myself? These are the questions that came up when I had to choose between doing my art or not. With years of experience under my belt, I now see life as continually posing opportunities disguised as challenges, growth disguised as setbacks. Working with stone has taught me to keep an open perspective and to let go of things that are weighing me down. A stone sculptor removes stone to create the sculpture, to free it from the stone. And if something breaks off unintentionally, I have to accept it and move in a new direction. 

The biggest challenge is that stone is heavy, most times much more than I weigh, and I have had to figure out how to move it. I have had to learn that I cannot do it by myself and have to rely on the generosity and support of my wonderful friends, family, and people I meet along the way. It continually expands my world to include the people in my community. I couldn’t do it without them. They truly are my greatest gift! 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?

I am a sculptor that uses the beautiful medium of natural stone to connect with my inner world through the stone and create a sculpture that acts as a bridge or messenger to share those thoughts and feeling with others. My hope is that my Love for the earth, nature, and humanity come through with the creation of my sculptures. 

I work with all different varieties of stone including marbles, alabaster, and limestone to name a few. From tabletop works to monumental, the work always begins with the stone and my intention to show its magnificent qualities. Decoration and design also play a big role in that I want the piece to enhance the space it inhabits and give its beauty and joy to the owner for many years to come. 

Each work is done entirely by hand and a wide variety of sculpting tools from start to finish. I find the machine is not a replacement for what the hand can achieve in individuality. Intricate detail is all-important as is the finish of the piece. Some works take months to finish. 

Any big plans?
It’s important for me to do something in life that I am passionate about. Something that gives me the freedom to express my creativity, my joy and give that back to others. 

I see myself continuing on the sculptor’s path and the mastery of my medium. And also exploring bronze which I find really fascinating and beautiful. My hope is to continue to keep the Sculpture Studio of Clearwater, Florida alive attracting new sculptors and preserving this local gem for years to come. 

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