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 Karen Stollznow

SW: How did you get involved in skepticism?

KS: I’ve had a deep fascination with the paranormal ever since I was a kid. From a young age I loved reading and writing stories about ghosts, aliens, and psychics. The only problem was, I didn’t believe in any of it! Years later I approached the Australian Skeptics and asked if I could do work experience with them. This led to a project in which I went undercover as a patient and had consultations with a number of alternative therapists, including a homoeopathist, an iridologist, a naturopath, and an aura reader. They all told me I was sick with a variety of illnesses, although no two diagnoses were the same. Then I went to a medical doctor and underwent a battery of tests, which disproved all of the diagnoses of the therapists. I’ve been hooked on doing investigations ever since!

SW:  What is the most interesting thing you have investigated? Why?

KS: Certainly one of the strangest things I’ve investigated are the claims of Braco the Gazer. I thought I’d heard of everything until I came across him! Braco is a sort of faith healer who is believed to cure disease, cause miracles, and bring good luck to people by merely gazing at them! I also investigated many weird religious beliefs and practices for God Bless America, including Voodoo rituals and demonic possession and exorcisms. Living in the States I’m never short of interesting things to investigate, and I urge other skeptics to get out there and become involved in investigations too! Why not go and see that psychic show and write a post about it? Or visit a local “haunted” location and vlog about it?

SW:  Do you feel you were treated differently in skepticism because you are a woman?  If so, how?  Any examples?

KS: As far as opportunities are concerned, my answer is no. However, I’ve had some unfortunate personal experiences as a woman in skepticism. Within the community I’ve encountered sexism, and have been the victim of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I think many men and women are aware of these problems within skepticism, if they haven’t been affected personally. Unfortunately, a minority of skeptics prefer to look the other way, reinterpret this behavior as flattery, or dismiss it with, “boys will be boys”. Some are even denialists, but these people are often the culprits. I’m hopeful these problems will disappear with a greater awareness of these issues, an inevitable changing of the guard, and as skepticism matures over time.

SW:  You talk about "supernatural language."  Can you explain what you mean and give some examples?

KS: Language is the main tool used in the paranormal and pseudoscience. Many topics within skepticism involve supernatural claims about language, whether it’s speaking in tongues, spells, graphology, or J.Z. Knight claiming to channel a 35,000-year-old spirit. My forthcoming book Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic explores a wide range of supernatural claims about language, including chain letters, prayer, monster and alien languages, hidden satanic messages in music, and voices of the dead.

SW:  What projects are you working on now?  How can the community support these?

KS: I’m working on a new book about alternative therapies called Not What the Doctor Ordered. I intersperse my research with investigations into “haunted” houses, psychics, religions and cults, and various pseudoscientific claims. If the community would like to help support my projects I’d be very grateful if people would check out my books and get in touch with me about topics they’d like me to investigate.  

SW:  What do you enjoy doing outside of skepticism?

KS: When I’m not cooped up in my office or writing in a coffee shop, I like to go walking, hiking, and to the gym or the beach (just not when living in Colorado, obviously). I enjoy traveling, art, music, cooking, and trying out exotic restaurants. I love reading about anything to do with language, history, and culture. Most of all, I adore spending every second I can with my husband, Matthew Baxter, who is also a skeptical paranormal investigator, which means there’s little I do outside of skepticism!