Posted 16 February 2012 - 09:08 AM
This is probably more than you asked for. I am 56 years old and have done a lot of things over the years, and most of it seems to have lead me to work in clay. I loved art as a kid, and out of high school wanted to go to art school but my parents thought it was a waste of time. So, I became a cop in the Air Force instead. After six years, a bad marriage and one son, I got out of the service and went to college on the GI Bill, studying graphic design. While going to college I worked as a cake decorator, which I loved, but always hated that it was so transitory. The "art" I worked so hard to create was eaten and gone in a matter of hours. In my first year of college I took a ceramics class as an elective and loved it. I only did hand building, as I tried the electric wheel once and thought it was too hard. Well, after college I became a manager of an art supply store, then a graphic designer at a sign shop. Later, I moved to a very small town to be with my wonderful new husband, and there were no graphics jobs to be had, so I got a job doing CAD drafting (which I taught myself).
A time came when I was going through a particularly heartbreaking and stressful time with my teenage son (drugs) and my husband suggested taking a class at the college to relieve stress. I chose ceramics. From the minute I walked in the door I was hooked. It felt like I had finally found what had been missing in my life. I planned to just do handbuilding, but the clay room had lots of kick wheels, which somehow seemed more manageable to me. I felt more in control of the process somehow and loved it. After a couple of semesters I built my own kick wheel and turned my garden shed into a studio. I searched the internet and books for everything I could find about clay, subscribed to all the clay magazines, went to workshops, and totally immersed myself in clay - while keeping my day job as a drafter. Eventually I outgrew my garden shed and moved into my half of the garage. Meanwhile, I developed arthritis in my knees and bought an electric wheel, and was surprised at how easy it was. Then, I moved into my husband's half of the garage. Soon after that, he decided it was time for me to get a real studio so he could park in the garage again. I bought a small old ratty building downtown and made a studio in the back with a small gallery. (The front of the building is a commercial rental space, which is currently rented to a mexican grocery store. That income pays almost all my bills in the studio, like electricity, gas, insurance and taxes.) I have two electric wheels and a big electric kiln. And in a corner of my gallery is a desk, from which I continue to do lots of drafting as a freelancer. I have a big open house event in December every year which is a lot of fun. The place is packed with people buying stuff, so I really like that. I'm planning to start having a second open house in the spring. I live in a very small town, so sales are not what they might be in a bigger city, but people are finding me more and more, and coming back again and again. So I'm happy with that. I do a couple of art fairs a year, but the older I get the harder that is. I like selling from the studio better. I keep meaning to try selling online, but can't seem to get that going. Maybe this year...
So, I have been in clay now for 19 years now. Several years ago some friends and I started a local potters group, so we could get together for lunch and network and that sort of stuff. It has grown to a full-fledged organization with 2 group shows/sales every year and this past year we did two juried gallery shows as well. I continue to take a continuing ed class at the college in Joplin, which gives me access to a gas kiln. All in all, it has been great so far. I'm hoping that this is something I can do for the rest of my life. I like learning new things and mastering new skills. I'm not a production potter and don't want to be. I go through about 1500 pounds of clay a year and that's plenty. I'll never be a famous potter, but that's OK. This is what I need to be doing right now, and I love it.