Interview with Amy Davis Roth

SW:   How did you get started making ceramics?

ADR: I first began working in clay by helping my mother, Charlene. At the time, my mother had a small home business that made porcelain awards for horse shows. I was really, very influenced by her work even though I probably didn't know it early on. Her highly detailed work has without a doubt influenced my artwork today.

As a young woman I opened an art gallery in North Hollywood, California. During the time I had the gallery I began making and selling small ceramic necklaces. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to run an art gallery and after a short stint and an unfortunate series of events, I ended up literally bankrupt. I had no car and no place to live. I had failed.

I got very depressed and I stopped making art.

A year or so passed by.

Then, I got a job as a waitress to try to start saving money to start my life over. I remembered how much I enjoyed making the ceramic jewelry in my mother's studio so I started making necklaces and wearing them into work. I had moved into a tiny one-room apartment and I didn't have any space to create. The necklaces were small and I could make them in my mother's backyard ceramic studio. It was perfect. It was during the same time period that I started learning about science and a few months later I found out about the skeptical community. During this educational period in my life I was able to find something that my artwork had been lacking, a purpose and a message.

At work, people fell in love with the jewelry. I had people buy them right off my neck! I literally couldn’t make them fast enough. Surly-Ramics was born! Within a few months I had started a new business, one that championed secularism and critical thinking and I no longer needed to wait tables.

I got a second chance.

I now work as an artist full-time. I design jewelry that advocates education and science and that celebrates the brave, emerging society of freethinkers, feminists and humanists that I find myself a part of. It’s nice to be able to carry around a small piece of art that represents the rational ideals that are helping to make this world a better place. I try to give back as much as I can to the community that has given me wisdom and so much inspiration to work from and so I use my art to fund-raise for many secular organizations, charities and various grant programs. Every year I use my jewelry to somehow help people or animals in need.

SW:   How do your secular and feminist ideals impact how you work and your final products?
ADR: I try to look at the entirety of my jewelry project as activist art. The people that wear my jewelry become active participants in the project.

It's all about the spread of information, learning and the joy of being part of a community of freethinkers. For example, if a person wears a piece with a scientific symbol or a mathematical equation, and a stranger sees it and asks about it, that opens up the door for sharing information and educating the public in unlikely and casual situations. That can have a real impact.

The same goes for the pieces I design that represent feminist and specifically secular or atheist ideals. The realization that your friendly neighbor is an atheist or a feminist and that they cherish those ideals, and wear the symbols in the same way that the religious folks wear crosses or a Star of David, often can have a very real and positive impact. We aren't like what Fox News or Rush Limbaugh wants you to think we are. We are just like you, only we think about things a little bit differently and base our decisions on empirical evidence. And again, it simply opens the doorway to a conversation and allows us to share science-based information. I'm always happiest when someone asks. "What does that symbol mean? Your necklace is lovely, can you tell me about it?"
Amy Painting Heisenberg

SW:  What are some new designs that you particularly like?
ADR: I have to admit that this time of year I often get sucked into the glory of spring and find myself wanting to paint and draw a lot of flowers but at the same time the re-boot of Cosmos has really got me excited and inspired. I'm really happy with all of my astronomy themed pieces and I have quite a few new pieces in the works.

Ceramic pieces featuring multiple planets

Cermaic piece featuring the words "Made of Star Stuff"

SW:  Can you give Secular Woman a sneak peak of what you are bringing to Women in Secularism?
ADR: This year for WiS I created a series of "We Can Do It" necklaces to give as a thank you gift to all of the wonderful speakers and volunteers at this year's event. And I will have a table set up with all of my regular designs as well, so if you are at the event please stop by, take a look and say hello.

Rows of ceramic pieces featuring Rosie the Riveter and the words "We can do it"

SW:  What projects are you working now?  How can everyone support them?
ADR: I am happy to say that I am really, very busy these days. I am always working on my jewelry and you can support that project by going to my shop here:

I am also in the process of designing a bunch of space themed paintings for the party room at SkepchickCon. SkepchickCon is what we call the science track at Convergence. Each year Skepchick organized an educational and fun filled science activity track and we have a four night party. This year rhe theme for the party room is 'Space lab" and I am helping with the decorating. More info on that event and info on how I am paying for a few passes for people to attend can be found here:

And in very exciting news, I just formed the Los Angeles Women's Atheist and Agnostic Group that will be meeting monthly at CFI West. The group will plan and execute art and activist projects in Los Angeles and be a friendly and safe space for women who are leaving religion and want a support structure. The group is still in it's planning stages but will begin meeting at CFI West the first Tuesday of each month starting in June. And I'm very excited to say that Skepchick and Secular Woman are signed on as official sponsors of the group. We also have our first activist art exhibit planned, but I can't release any info on that just yet. It's still top secret. 😉

I'm also planning on launching a Patreon this summer in the hopes that I can paint some large format paintings that are based on various aspects of science. I have recruited quit a few actual scientists and science communicators to help me insure that I am getting the science "right" in the paintings and that I am sending sending accurate messages. So my art will actually be peer reviewed in a lovely merging of art and science. As soon as I find the time I will launch that.

Speaking of art and science, I am also the managing editor of Mad Art Lab. Mad Art Lab is a sister site on the Skepchick Network and focuses on the intersection of art, science and secularism and there are some brilliant contributors there. Check out to see for yourself!

A strand of DNA on a yellow background surrounded by roses

SW:  What is the biggest challenge you are facing in the atheist/secular/humanist community?
ADR: Without a doubt, the biggest challenge I have faced is the blatant harassment and bullying that was directed at me because I dared to speak up about sexism in the skeptic and atheist communities. I am obviously not alone in this experience, and have witnessed many other outspoken women with an online presence get attacked and targeted with multiple year campaigns of hate. While this primarily happens online, I have seen it seep into the conference spaces and it certainly affects the targets in their daily lives. It has been a challenge to get the community to take notice and actually do something about it and those who have stood up against online harassment, sexism and bigotry have sometimes experienced significant backlash. Something as simple as creating a code of conduct policy for events has caused an uproar in some cases. I have seen many wonderful women simply leave our communities, just walk away over the past few years, because of the negativity and harassment they have seen. Most leave silently but their absence is certainly noticed. My hope is that organizations like Secular Woman, Skepchick and my new meetup group will create safe and spaces that will empower women and encourage them to want to participate more fully in the secular communities moving forward.

SW:  What inspires you?
ADR: Everything inspires me. But my true love will always be the interaction of science and nature and the beauty it reveals.

Interview with Ania Bula

Ania Bula is an artist and member of Secular Woman. You can shop for her items at Ania Onion Creations. She will also have a table at Women in Secularism 3 where you will be able to view and purchase her work.

SW:  What is your creative background?
AB: I became interested in art in part due to my best friend when I was 5. She was five years older than me and I worshipped her. I wanted to be just like her, and so I started drawing and sketching. I got pretty good over time, and particularly got interested in sketching portraits. I also dabbled in painting to feel closer to my aunt Grazyna in Poland, who is a celebrated artist. This past Christmas, since we were desperate for money and really couldn't afford to get everyone great gifts, I decided to paint some simple wooden boxes with Fantasy themes and give those away. I had a great time and people seemed to love them, so I decided to try selling them. After that it was only a matter of time before I moved over to canvas and started painting more than just boxes.

In addition to my visual art, I have also always been a writer. I used to tell stories even as a child and always promised myself that I would write books. I am in the editing process of my non-fiction work "Young, Sick, and Invisible: a Skeptic's Journey with Chronic Illness" which is a book detailing my life with disability as well as essays on the intersections of feminism and atheism with disability justice. I am also working on a Fantasy themed novel which I hope to actually get done someday.

Although I did study English literature at university, I never officially studied art.

SW: What is the inspiration for your work in your Etsy store (Ania Bula Creations)?
AB: I get inspiration from a lot of different sources. A lot of ideas come from when friends post photos and my mind immediately creates some sort of fantasy portrait from it. I also get some of my ideas from fantasy novels I read, as well as just ideas that pop into my mind. I like making people think and also breaking some accepted ideas. For example, a lot of portraits, especially in fantasy, deal with white characters. While some of my portraits do have white female models, I am also working on finding a lot more women of colour and using them as models for my work. To wit, this portrait of Heina Dadabhoy

Colorful Portrait of a woman
and this one of a woman whose picture I found at a PoC slam poetry night.  
Colorful portrait of a WoC with Waves for hair

SW: How does your secular feminist perspective impact your creativity and final product?
AB: I like to subtly critique religion in a lot of my work. One painting is of an angel holding an apple with fire in his hand, on a sunrise background. To general appearance, the painting looks like just an angel, but knowledge of religion paired with the title light-bearer would let those familiar with abrahamic religions realize that the subject is actually Lucifer, God's Light Bringer and the Devil.

I have another painting with a woman wearing a blind-fold made entirely out of bible pages.

A lot of my models for my fantasy paintings are secular women who do a lot of great speaking and social justice work. I love creating something beautiful using these incredible women. I also want to create more artwork that celebrates the amazing women in our community. I also love having religious paintings and fantasy paintings in the same exhibition, to show how the two are ultimately from the same source: human inspiration.

SW:  What are you most looking forward to about Women in Secularism 3?  
AB: I am definitely looking forward to the amazing talks and also the atmosphere of people who understand the need for social justice. I learn something every time I am there and it often feels like a safe space.  What I am looking forward to the most however, is the chance to see some of the people I love and care about in person. I don't get a chance to see them in person very often and this conference is one of the few places where I can.

SW:  I understand you are tabling at Women in Secularism 3, can you give a sneak peak of what you are bringing?
AB: I will be bringing everything that you can see in my Etsy shop. I am also trying to get some money to be able to print some of the paintings onto t-shirts. I am also making some soaps, lotions, and fizzy bath bombs. I am also looking into getting some note cards and buttons printed up. If you are going to WiS and you want to make sure that a T-shirt is available, you can order on Etsy ( and save on shipping by using code WISROCKS and pick up the order at the event. I would need the order ASAP. You can also donate to my fundraiser to help me earn money for T-shirts here:

SW:  What other projects are you working on?  [if nothing, let's not include this one]
AB: I would like to do more paintings of secular women in fantasy settings. I am prevented from doing as much as I want based on my money situation. Art supplies cost a lot of money, so until sales pick up I am limited in what I can do.  
Image of an Angelic Figure
I also want to finish a fantasy novel I am working on where the main character is a woman who has a mild disability and a bisexual man of colour.
Image of a blind folded woman

SW: What inspires you?
AB: Everything! A lot of my inspiration will come just as I am falling asleep, while I am reading a book, or even from other paintings I just finished. Sometimes when I am working on an idea, I come up with different versions of it, which I want to try. I choose my favourite as my first attempt and save the ideas for later when I have time and money to explore further. I get inspiration from my writing as well. Sometimes a story I am working on will have a really interesting visual that I want to paint.