A Big Change


In 1971 and I was a tween, my mother started a commune with her best friend. This was a rural “Intentional Community” in northern Wisconsin.

Instantly there were a lot of people in our lives. We were living with 2 other families with children. Suddenly I was the oldest of 7. Many college students would come and stay for the summer, other people for a year or two. We became acquainted with other people living in the area who were also trying out alternative ways of living.

Throwing in the barn at 17

As a result of these connections and my interest in pottery (which is a whole other blog entry) when I was 16, my first job was working part time for a potter. I sifted straw ash, pugged clay, sat up during wood firings, washed his dishes (I loved doing that because all his dishes were handmade pots- many by Warren MacKenzie, his teacher, mentor and friend) I also met and spent time with a few of his potter friends.

Somewhere in there, I think I assumed I would become what I now call a “country potter”.

I didn’t think about it consciously. I didn’t even realize at the time that there were “city potters” I just loved the people I knew who lived out in the country in these funky cool houses and made pots for a living (sort of – there were auxiliary sources of income like teaching and employed wives and insurance settlements).

I went off to college at the U (Minneapolis) took ceramics, met my husband there and eventually moved to Chicago. After about 5 years living here in Chicago (and not making pottery), I met a potter at an art fair who told me of Lill street. I called there that afternoon and was signed up for a class that week, teaching there within months.

That was in 1989 and I’ve been there ever since.

I met so many “city potters” and saw the great benefits of belonging to a large community of potters where we could see each other’s work every day and in process and grab anyone to discuss technical or aesthetic problems as they arose. Resources could be pooled, glazes shared, firings happened 2-3 times a week, test tiles came back immediately. I learned a huge amount.

Most of all at Lill, I learned I was a teacher. That I loved teaching, loved imparting information, loved the challenge of finding the best way to help someone understand how to do something. Teaching is an ever-changing, ongoing endeavor as you adapt to your students and their age and the environment in which they are learning. At Lill I came to realize I truly had something to offer people.

And now, I’m choosing to leave.

It’s not that I actually want to leave Lill it’s more that I have never completely let go of my dream, my image of myself as a country potter. Of my children growing up in the country. Of open sky and forests and the freedom of space you get when you live in the country and so we are moving back to Minnesota. Most likely to Northfield where my family is from so we can be near aging mothers and other family.

I will be tackling such challenges as setting up a studio and, most worrisome for me, figuring out how to continue firing my pots to cone 10 reduction. I don’t know if I will build a kiln or buy one or share an existing kiln. I hope to connect with a small community of potters in that area and perhaps find a place to teach again. I have some friends and connections left over from my college days and also some transplants from Lill who have inspired me. I will be excited to see them again.

I look forward to sharing this whole journey with the readers of my blog.



Lastly, in between selling our house and moving to Minnesota, we will be traveling to Nepal!!! I am sure I will want to post about the potters there because I have always wanted to see in person, those potters who throw off a massive hump on a hand-turned wheel set in the ground; the fruits of their labors spread around them drying in a sunny courtyard.

57th St. Art Fair- How it went.

That was SOME FAIR- unfortunately I don’t mean I sold out or anything like that. We had a lot of dramatic WEATHER with dramatic results.

Overall I felt we were pretty lucky …until the end.

I was mostly worried about the morning load in. We purchased this hand truck (the R10) just in case we weren’t able to drive to our spot.  It’s a great item, recommended by our good friend Judy who was also in the fair. She is pretty much my go-to gal for Art Fair tips. She’s been in the biz for 20 years and can take down her tent before you can say “Jumping Jehosaphat!”

But I digress.

We were in the “alley” behind the school and were able to drive to our spot…. if we were stunt drivers! Inching through other artists’ vans and trailers we finally got close enough to unload. Then we left our 10 year old to guard everything while we went off to parallel park in the streets of Hyde Park. There were rumors of an artist parking lot- attested to by our neighboring artist but hotly denied by one volunteer manning a street barrier.

After my husband helped me maneuver the UHaul cargo van into a parking spot we walked back and began to set up.  The sky got darker and darker.

After we got the tent erected and had even put a tarp from the back of our tent over the fence behind us to make a kind of back tent area-

(you can see the moisture on the ground)

and after we got everything assembled and inside, it POURED.

We were dry and protected.  So I felt lucky.

Then, magically, at 11 when the fair opened, it stopped raining!

Unfortunately the damage was done, we had pretty low traffic that day.

I also felt lucky that both of the artists on either side of our tent didn’t show up! We could open our walls up and have a lot more visibility.

So we spent some of the time getting to know our nearest neighbor, a beautiful young woman who makes incredible glass and metal sculptures.

I was really happy to see so many of my friends who came to visit and look at my whole set up. It was the absolute best part of the fair for me.

Near the end of the day, rumors of high winds went from booth to booth. We passed on the information and my husband began strapping down the tent to the fence in back and doubling up our 40 lb. sandbags to the front poles.

At the end of the day I took everything down and packed it into the boxes and put them all on the ground- no stacking of boxes. This is pretty much standard procedure. Then we zipped up the tent and drove the UHaul home.

I was asleep by 9:30.

Sunday dawned absolutely clear and cool- none of the steaming humidity that made us all sticky the day before. It was going to be a great day!

We parked and walked the 4 blocks to our tent, passing our glass sculpture neighbor’s tent and were horrified to see shards of broken glass spilling out from under her tent.  High winds had blown her tent into her display and knocked down a lot of it on one side. Many pieces were irretrievably broken.

We opened our tent to find that indeed, high winds had knocked our shelves down but nothing was damaged. We  put the shelves back up and began to set out the work. When our neighbor arrived she was devastated.  The entire artist community felt terrible. Everyone wanted to help. A fellow glass artist came and helped her sweep up the carnage. There was an outpouring of sympathy and support for her.

Being the amazing person that she is, she rallied from losing perhaps one third to half her inventory and within an hour, her booth looked amazing again.

We had a lot more traffic on Sunday, more friends stopped by and I had a fairly steady stream of customers.

After the example of what wind could do (of course rain doesn’t hurt my work!) I was very skittish every time there was a gust; but the wind only blew over a vase that had flowers in it – the flowers made it top heavy- and the vase didn’t break (because my work is sturdy!)

There was a sudden cloudburst and all the fairgoers simply dashed into the nearest tent. It was kind of fun to “host” a small group of people during the short shower.

At the end of the day we had to take everything down before we could get a ticket to drive in and load up. We felt pretty good because we had packed up in about an hour or so- everything was stacked and ready to go but when I pulled in I was unable to park and there was probably 15 minutes of screwing around and waiting for various people to move their vehicles before I could finally pull up.

And then, KASPLOOSH!  A deluge!  Now we’re throwing our shelves in (they can’t get wet- the POTTERY can get wet, but not the shelves!!) helter skelter and trying not to swear at eachother. In retrospect, we had a tarp there – we should have just covered everything and waited a bit.

When we got home and unloaded we were utterly exhausted; my darling 10 year old son wiped off every shelf bless him! And we used that hand truck and it was great!

I am really looking forward to the Krasl.