On Tuesday, February 21st I finally worked up the courage to say "yes" to myself. I quit my full-time job as a Strategist to become a full-time potter.
I thought this decision would be wrought with big emotions, but mostly I feel this incredible sense of peace, almost like an exhale after realizing I'd been holding my breath. I have integrity with myself for the first time in a very long time.
So why pottery? This story begins during my dark-ages, when I was between the ages of 13 and 22. Most of the memories I have from this time are painful to recall. I have spent the last ten years trying to understand what happened and why. I continue to unlearn the maladaptive behaviors that had once been my strongest survival skills, set up boundaries and structure so I can thrive, and perhaps most challenging, forgive and let go.
I credit my survival of those "dark-ages" to two art teachers at Naperville Central High School, Mrs. Funke and Mrs. Mancuso. Mrs. Funke was like a real-life Mrs. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus... bright and mysterious. I fondly remember her many pairs of readers strewn across random nooks and crannies of the jewelry & metal-working classroom, and the Where's Waldo game of locating a pair when she had misplaced them. She was nurturing and encouraging, yet pushed me to stretch my ideas further. I so wish I could have a conversation with her now, and personally thank her for the impact she made on my life. She tragically passed away a few years after I graduated.
Mrs. Mancuso's ceramics classroom was connected to the jewelry room by a small office. It was there that my hands found clay. Mrs. Mancuso was firm and challenging, a take-no-bullshit-but-I'm-really-proud-of-you approach; and the defiance and anger in me needed that. Their complimentary approaches working in tandem, a dance between both classrooms and mediums throughout the day, provided me sanctuary. Sanctuary from the heartache of my broken home, from the crushing pressure of knowing I didn't truly belong to any particular group of friends, and mostly from the shame of purely existing. Working with my hands allowed me to both creatively and physically express the hard emotions that until then, I had no healthy way of dealing with.
If I recall correctly I took thirteen art classes in high-school; electing to do math during the summer so I could spend more time in the studio during the school year. I arrived early before school, ate my lunch there, and stayed after school whenever allowed. I knew concretely by my freshman year of college in 2008 that I wanted to run my own pottery studio one day; to create the same safe space for the community to explore, laugh and heal the way I'd experienced.
I suppose you can summarize the next fifteen years of my life as a strange collection of experiences. We'll leave it at that for now.
Twice before I have attempted to start a pottery business. The first was in 2017. A few times per week after my day job working at a marketing agency I taught pottery classes at the park district near where I lived at the time. A perk of teaching these classes was free access to the studio. After work and between teaching classes I'd get lost in the meditative and therapeutic act of throwing on the wheel.
After accepting a general management position at a new company, teaching became impossible as the demands of my new job meant I needed complete schedule flexibility. Wistfully I stepped away from my part-time teaching position and the only studio access I'd had since graduating from North Central College in 2012.
I had worked myself to the bone at my new job, and the idea to open a pottery studio had persisted despite my complete exhaustion. I asked my dad in the spring of 2018 if he'd help me finance the opening of the studio. He agreed! In the spare minutes I could find throughout the week I worked furiously on a business plan. Alas, these details weren't too difficult to pull together as I'd been collecting them over the years.
When my dad passed away unexpectedly a few months later, grief consumed me.
Five years had passed when I finally enrolled in a pottery class at the same park district I'd taught at in 2018. My first class was on June 2nd, 2022 and "elated" doesn't begin to cover the emotion I felt pressing my fingers into the clay again. I'd re-awakening a forgotten piece of my identity. I was acknowledging and honoring a fundamental facet of who I am. I became more complete.
What happened next was a whirlwind that I can only attribute to The Lord Almighty Himself unlocking all the figurative doors. My partner and I were in Costa Rica a few weeks later for a friends wedding, and upon our return I'd been granted the corner of a barn to set up a private studio space. By July we were spending our weekends setting up shop.
For the next six months every day that I wasn't driving 40 miles north to my job, I drove 40 miles southwest to Ottawa to work in the barn.
Then, I burned out.
A new lucrative full-time position presented itself to me in December and after a lot of hemming and hawing I accepted. Long-term it would mean that I was closer to home, which meant perhaps I could squeeze in some more studio time without running myself ragged again. I began on February 1st.
What changed between February 1st and February 21st? The realization that I was spending my short life building someone else's business (again) and the unshakable curiosity of what could happen if I channeled all that energy, love, time, creativity and attention into the dream that had kept my heart aflutter for fifteen years.
So what's next?
My next batch of functional ceramic work will be available for purchase on March 20th with the option for pick-up in either Plainfield or Ottawa; or to ship anywhere in the US or Canada. You can subscribe to receive emails from me if you wish to be notified when the shop is updated and available.
I'll be teaching private lessons to those who want to give throwing on the wheel a go!
The rest will be shared one detail at a time as the puzzle starts to come together.
Thank you to my community for supporting me! I am so grateful.