I am not quite sure why I am struggling to write here. I think, in reflection, part of the issue is that I am spreading out too thin. It feels like I have gotten myself down to a single cell unit spread over a wide span of life. Talking with David the other day, I noted that I often feel so overwhelmed with trying to remember all the things for the different parts and needs of our life. I have post-it notes, and lists, and to-dos on so many different platforms right now and remembering where those are is a job! Trying to be efficient, inspiring and supportive in the classroom for 8 hours a day, then cooking a nutritious meal for dinner, playing with intention and focus with the kiddos, connecting deeply beyond a “How was your day?” “Good, you?” “Good,” with David, and then somehow also fitting in time to teach/expose H + O to how to ride bicycles, swim, know their colors and letters, and have robust experiences and grade papers and give feedback and design lesson plans for school, and try to build my pottery studio is often invigorating and defeating simultaneously. I try to remind myself that all of this is like the breathing process. You take a deep breath in and find wonder in how expansive you can get your capacity but then you breathe it out and contraction is an inevitable part of the process too. I am not sure where in that “in and out,” I am currently. Half of my head says “contraction” there is not enough hours in the day or sleep and rest being carved out, the other half is fighting against the contraction and hoping to suck in more and more air but is somehow gasping still. It is not like I can change very much though. I want to be all the things, but I think I need to revisit some of my structures and processes too or maybe it is more my mindset and just giving myself a mental break from time to time, like taking a bath or not listening to podcasts every drive in to work so there is a little space of nothingness in a full day.
Don't quit your day job!
How many times have you heard or said that phrase? Probably many dozen of times for me. But, lately I have been wondering if the idea of quitting my day job could be something to pursue. This would not be an immediate cast-off because I love it and am fulfilled in it, but potentially I am chewing on a slow-paced shift. After attending a workshop this past weekend with Rat City Studios, I am thinking about dreaming more, practicing harder, and reaching out to a few network opportunities. My BIG dream is to open up a multi-purposeful studio space equipped for classes, cafe sipping, and pottery making. And in order to get to that dream in the next couple of years, I have to practice at the wheel and work on some business strategies to make opening Foster & Feed Studio viable. It is an incredibly exciting feeling to think that maybe when "I grow up," I can make some excellent mistakes and mompreneur the heck out of my life and change what a day looks like for me and my family.
Sitting in the workshop surrounded by 24 other women in cozy knit hats and coffee mugs in hand, I felt like I was around my people. It was a morning of being future-focused and I took so many notes for day dream. The artist shared a number of excellent insights that I have been processing since:
"Your hands are your best tools"
"By sitting in this class, I know you have the stamina to do this"
"Pottery, as a craft, means you are willing to take risks already, it means you are playful and that you are able to live with the results of your risk-taking."
"Managing a studio is a creative process, it requires a teacher who understand how to design an experience and how to invite the community in to teach and learn alongside one another."
If those statements were all one needed in order to rent a space and flip the sign to "Open," I would be ready. But what I am ready for is sustaining my interest in learning all that I can of this art, learning about glaze chemistry and kiln operation, and small business ownership. There is this space in my town on the Main Street, that I have my eye on. With big windows and flooding light, easy parking and some vintage fixture features it would be a quaint space for a community & creativity building studio.
Today is the last day of the Fall Term at my school. It is exciting because it ushers in the holiday season and students (despite taking final assessments today) are in pretty awesome moods knowing that today is the end of the first third of the school year and the last day before a week break and the end of these courses. When we come back to school in 8 days, students will start all new classes, with teachers, and with new classmates. It is like the first day of the school year all over again and while some of the logistics on the teacher end of this can feel overwhelming to grade and finish one set of courses while prepping new courses, it is also a fresh start for everyone and a new chapter. So it is an exciting day and it is snowing! Yes, the last day of the Fall term is letting us know hard that today marks the beginning of the Winter season and I am totally ready for it. With cozy times and more festive spirits, I cannot wait to spend time in my little studio making pottery in-between the family and school moments. I am busy making orders for Naomi Mugs, ornaments, platters, and berry colanders, and I love love love making these items knowing they will go to someone's home and become a part of their daily landscape.
My pottery shop went "live" yesterday. It is going to have incredibly humble beginnings, but I'm excited that it is now a public dream and it truly does feel like the start of something ...,,,
This morning, I spent a little time reading about the seven mistakes all new crafters make when they open up an Etsy shop. It has been on my mind this fantasy of having my own little studio but could I really? Would anyone be interested in pottery made by me in an overly saturated market or when a trip to Target could easily yield some cheap and cheerful pieces? My friend, Lyndsay, suggested yesterday that I think about making my pottery and sharing it with the world (or at least with those in the world willing to bring misshapen ceramics into their lives). The mistakes in starting a craft shop are many including: not having enough pieces in the gallery, not utilizing search engine optimization, not having consistent or clear branding, not taking photos that are staged well and, therefore, not allowing the created pieces to shine. I am about to make all of those mistakes. You might have noticed that there is a new tab at the top of the blog called "pottery shop." I am about to make all the mistakes here in branding and making my shop a presence in this fast-paced world of social media. BUT I also feel like having been a teacher now for almost ten years (WOW, how is that even possible), has demonstrated countless times the power of learning by doing. So here we go. I am going to do a lot of changes to that tab's format, layout, structure, but the heart will always be the same to share these little pieces coming off the wheel.
My latest obsession has been imagining that my home is outfitted with its own pottery studio space. A tab open on my computer has the kiln I would order and a second has the wheel. There is a list next to my desk with a few other items needed: a small table topped with canvas and another with plaster, some glazes, and a shelf or two for holding the creations in their various stages of complete, as well as, some funky tools for trimming and styling the pieces. If I close my eyes long and hard enough, I can see our basement workshop space transformed into a bright and sunny studio all my own.
One of the appeals of our home was that the previous owners built an addition. Not only is the upstairs space our favorite with its fireplace and windows and lofted ceilings, but beneath this bonus room the sellers added a workshop. There, the previous owner held some heavy-duty wood shop equipment. His hobby was wood craftsmanship as evidenced by the elaborate ceiling he installed in the room above. When we toured the house, David and I dreamed about using the space to house our future hobbies as a family. A corner for the boys to set-up a "maker space" for designing and engineering. A corner for David to set-up a tinkering space where he can hone skills from electrical work to engineering projects and all sorts of hobbies to come. And a corner for me....for what? When we bought the home, I had nothing in mind. It hurt my heart a little to think that there would not be a corner for me filled with something I was excited and passionate about.
David always said it would come to me. I just needed some sleep, some space to think, and an opportunity to try new things. It never felt like I had time for any of that, let alone actually digging into a hobby. It is amazing what a year's difference can reveal. Pottery is definitely a hobby I am enjoying. It is embarrassing to admit that I want this studio space in the workshop, that I want to invest time, money, and effort into making that space into a reality. This pottery thing is still so new to me. I am so naive about it. Shouldn't I just keep my head low about the whole thing? But, I want to do it all the time and want to be able to slip downstairs into a space I made to do it. Something close so I could work more often on the craft with some cafe-like music. Never someone who likes to be "alone," I want to be alone in this hobby but also inside the walls of our cozy home. Should I really be harboring these ideas? Open studio sessions and classes have showed me that I have SO SO SO SO much to still learn, but I also have a little dream now and while it might seem silly to be scaling up my hobby to the realm of dreams, I am going to keep on dreaming!
The first session just ended and tomorrow night begins round two of this new hobby. It was hard to step away from my studio hours for the two weeks in China but when I got home I was able to pick up some of my early makings. There is a lot of noticeable progress from the first misshapen messes to the latest "phases" of my work but there is still so much practice and learning to be had. Starting this session is very exciting but a little intimidating. There has yet to be a hobby that engaged my attention or energy level for this long but despite my typical hobby trends, I have a feeling this one is a little different. There is something about throwing mug after mug after mug that just feels so satisfying and relaxing and engaging. It makes me feel strong, and creative, and uncomfortable. All things we could use more of! Maybe the next session I should dedicate to replacing some dishes and bowls but it will be hard not to throw at least a few mugs.
After weeks of anticipation, the misshapen first products of this new potter are that much closer to coming home for "use." After throwing, centering, drying, trimming, pulling handles, adding handles, stamping, firing, glazing, and firing again, the end of the pottery term of classes is coinciding with the completion of 8 creations. I say creations because when you see the final products, they clearly represent loose interpretations of bowls, mugs, vases, and plates. And there is definitely an "evolution" of "skill." But even if they are childlike in their execution, I am pretty proud of them. It felt so exciting to learn a new craft and to see tiny improvements each week. Getting jazzed about Tuesday nights and accessing a part of myself I haven't explicitly connected with in too long shifted my mindset and perspective all week long. While I might have been tired on Wednesday mornings after crawling into bed at 11PM on Tuesday, it felt oddly rejuvenating to just do something different and to have something tangible to bring home in exchange for stepping out of that comfort zone. When registration opens for the Spring Term, I am for sure going to sign up for this venture. Some big life goals now are to replace all my mugs at home with ones I have made and to be able to feel like being called a "potter" is a just label to be assigned through my practice and dedication to honing and throwing clay. An even bigger idea that will take time building towards might even be to open a little booth in a summer-of-the-future's farmer's market in town. It feels really rewarding and enriching to get my hands messy and to make. And I am hoping keep on keeping on.
It might only be about two weeks into my new craft, but I am completely smitten by it all. Less than two miles from my home is this tiny white antique home whose first floor is entirely dedicated to pottery making. I ran by this little quaint home so many times when I was training for my half-marathon this summer and always wondered what exactly went on in the Center of Arts. When researched, it became clear that this little home was the cultural center of our town where kids and teens and adults flexed their creative muscles in classes from watercolors and acting to wheel-throwing. Immediately, I was intrigued! Could I take a class here? Could I make it work within the busy schedule of a full-time working mom? While the idea flirted about in my mind for months, it never felt like it would really work out. Between grading and little ones and wanting to connect with my hubs, when would I hone a hobby? Then on my 33rd birthday tucked into my birthday card, David smiled as I opened the piece of paper that said, "Surprise! For the next 3 months Tuesday nights are YOUR night to get creative, meet new people, and make new things." It was awesome!
David is the king of hobbies and interests. He always has something cool cooking in his head from bread baking to the guitar to programming arduinos and chess, he is never short on ideas on how to hone his mind and entertain his spirit. I on the other hand have major struggles in this department. When we were dating, we googled "What are people's hobbies" to help me look through an extensive list of what people get into in case there was something for me to get behind. I chose knitting and while that was fun, I suffered from narcolepsy whenever I settled into an afternoon of knitting and purling. Maybe it was too relaxing? Maybe I was not really ready for hobby and my body was like, "What are we doing something for ourselves...shut systems down!" It only lasted a season. Then my free time was mostly being a teacher. There is so much to bring home when you are a teacher that nights can easily be consumed by lesson planning, curriculum development, and grading. Oh, the dreaded pile of grading! Then came the babies and I was doomed to lose sight of creative exploits that I had yet to even really grasp.
Now that Owen is closing in on that two year birthday and Henry is 3.5, things just feel really different. We are all sleeping, they are eating well, and are so easy these days too. They play and pick up and go and life just feels lighter. My mind is so much clearer as it no longer is consumed with baby-logistics like: When will I breastfeed next? What do I need in my diaper bag? What toys and gear should we have? Where will the boys nap? How do we get home in time for naps? Do we just do a car nap? When will I cook dinner? How will I fold laundry or take a shower? Our routine these days is so simple and easy and I just love so much this stage of life. It literally feels like a light has switched on and I am able to look up out of the trench of early motherhood and look around a bit.
So getting that gift certificate to become a potter was the most exciting thing! On Tuesday nights, I kiss the littles and hold tight to David for a moment longer before putting on some cozy clothes and a pair of clogs (for some reason, I feel like as a potter I should wear clogs), and head to class. What I have learned so far is that I have a deep, deep need to be teacher's pet. I also have false expectations about how easy it should be. When I made my first misshapen pot and beamed with pride, I turned to the woman beside me and saw her perfect Roman vase and thought, "damn this is hard stuff." But I find that while I am not a prodigy of pottery, I am loving to learn and learning a lot from being a student, from being vulnerable, and from taking this risk on my own and going way out of my comfort zone. I have never been a maker but have secretly always wanted to make. I am hoping this journey teaches me how to make mugs, plates, and bowls but also how to have fun, learn a craft, believe in myself, learn a new discipline and a new patience, and build a long commitment to being a potter. I have this fantasy too to replace all the mugs in my house with ones I have made. So, if you would like me to make you something drop a line below because I am planning on going through all the clay in the studio and would love to share my misshapen (maybe one day shapely) creations with you too!