Friday, May 21, 2010

Finding My Way

Not to be narcissistic, but perhaps I should tell you just a little about myself and how I got involved at Rowantrees.

I am 51 years old. Some would say that is old enough to know better but too old to care. I disagree. I have a lot to learn and have never stopped caring about most things. That is why Rowantrees was such a perfect fit for me when I was first starting out.

Let me explain.

I was pretty fortunate while growing up. While nobody makes it though childhood without a few scars, I think I reported for adulthood in pretty good shape. I was always a bit unusual in that I drifted from one interest to another, learning quite a lot about each and then moving on. While I never excelled academically, I was above average.

My interests while growing up tended to the artistic. I played piano and violin, was active in music and drama at Bangor High School, drew, painted, and studied dance among other things.I made pocket money as a magician doing birthday parties at $25 a pop. I did have an interest in science, but it was more tangential. Medicine was an interesting field though I chose not to pursue it as a profession.

I attended the University of Maine, studying music and theater, and graduated with a BA in performing arts. Oddly, I never thought to make a career in theater and was honest enough about my abilities not to try a career in music. It was a typical case of following my bliss without really knowing where it would lead me.

My parents, while supportive, were understandably concerned. I had a lot of interests, but no real focus.

At least, it appeared that way. When I was quite young, I saw for the first time a potter shaping a mug on a potter's wheel and was enthralled. I had to try that! An associate of my father's had a potter's wheel in his cellar, and one evening, I watched him throwing pots for a while. He offered to take a group of us to the University Craft Center so that we could all try it. I had a lot of fun, but no success. Seems ths process was harder than it looked.

I forgot about pottery for several years until my second year at the University of Maine. You see, my family summered in the little town of Wayne, Maine, and while attending the annual summer fair one year, I chanced to meet Molly Saunders of Wayne Village Pottery. Molly had discovered an enormous vein of native Maine clay running through her back yard. Maine clay is particularly fine, plastic and smooth, making it wonderful to work with. I stood and watched as she threw several pieces on a wheel she had brought to the fair for demonstration purposes.

I was hooked. Not only was it captivating to watch, but the whole idea of digging clay right out of the yard and turning it into objects of utility and beauty was intoxicating. When I returned to the university the next fall, I decided to try my hand again. The Craft Center was still there, and I set to work learning how to throw, trim, handle and glaze pottery. It wasn't straightforward, but I learned a lot very quickly. For starters, I found myself far more capable than I had been the first time I tried.

Maybe there was something in that!

Pottery consumed me almost as much as my other interests. In my final two years of college, I started showing my pottery in small galleries and at craft shows. I took an actual class in ceramics taught by the director of the Craft Center, who had studied at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University.

It was during that class that I first heard about Rowantrees Pottery. The teacher of the class had spent some time as an apprentice at Rowantrees and told us several stories of the time she spent there. Here was yet another pottery that followed the same idea as Wayne Village Pottery. The clay came directly out of the local ground and was shaped into wares for everyday use. Rowantrees had been around for a long time, having started in the 1930s, so they certainly had a handle on the process.

I was intrigued. Could it be possible to make a living as a potter? I certainly was in love with the idea. On a whim, I decided to look into it.

More in the next installment!

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