Romney Dodd

by Amy Newman

Romney Dodd’s life as an artist was driven by a mother’s love. That, and the need for a new set of dinner plates.

With three months of maternity leave after the birth of her oldest son in 1991, Romney began painting ceramics while he napped as a way to pass time.

“It was design, decoration, colors that just came to me,” she says of the floral-patterned mugs, platters, pitchers and vases she painted in her home.

Friends and family soon began buying the pieces and helped Romney sell even more through word-of-mouth. The timing was fortuitous; being home with her son made Romney realize she had zero desire to rejoin the workforce.

“I had him, and there was no way I was handing that baby off to anyone,” she recalls. “It (the ceramics) completely was a labor of love. It came from a mommy not willing to give up the baby.”

A fourth-generation Alaskan who was born and raised in Anchorage, Romney has no formal art training and is completely self-taught. She “always had a huge appreciation of art,” but never considered herself an artist until she sold that first vase to a friend for 20 dollars.

Since then, Romney’s career has been defined by her willingness to “go there” and try new things. “I’ll paint on anything,” Romney says with a laugh.

When she says anything, she means it. Romney’s portfolio contains the pieces you’d expect from a ceramic artist, as well as the odd furniture piece, which she’s recently expanded to include interior doors.

But her choice of canvas soon began to lean toward the unconventional, including the hand-painted Dansko clogs, first spotted by Skinny Raven Sports owner Daniel Greenhalgh. She had 18 different designs and was filling orders, not just for Skinny Raven, but also Nordstrom and Dansko itself, before a change in the leather made the ubiquitous clogs unpaintable.

Now, her canvasses are focused on fish mounts and trophy heads. Like her other projects, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Commissioned in 2017 to create a salmon similar to Anchorage’s “Wild Salmon on Parade,” Romney contacted a taxidermist friend in search of a mold. Instead, she was offered an old skin-mount fish.

She quickly realized she’d hit on something special.

“As it evolved, it became very clear to me that this was incredibly cool to paint,” she says. “It was very unique and fun. I mean, who knew?”

She bought 150 mounts, which she affectionately calls “my dead fish”; the salmon, halibut, grayling and trout now hang along the wall of her G Street Studio, waiting for Romney’s paint to breathe new life into them.

“Every single one is different,” she says of the fish. “Every single face, their little teeth; they’re just unique. Every single one of them.”

She added an assortment of old trophy mounts– bears, birds, and other Alaskan wildlife – when the Anchor Point Wildlife Museum closed.

“They’re really my rescues,” she explains. “No one wants someone else’s trophy, so what does the world do with animals that have been hanging on someone’s wall? I’m repurposing them and honoring their lives as art now.”

If anything can account for the evolution of Romney’s career, it’s the passion she says her art brings out in her.

“There’s something that works through me and then the end result is even something that I’m at times astounded with,” Romney says. “The passion that comes out in the process is totally what fuels me; that’s the energy that creates the art.”

As for that set of dinner plates she set out to make almost 30 years ago?

“I’ve never done them,” she says with a laugh.