“It’s never too late to become what you might have been.”
I became a professional ceramic artist not far from my 50th birthday. I had no formal art training, beyond a few throwing classes, and had the optimism of the blessedly ignorant. It was a time of change for me: loss of a long-term career, end of a long-term marriage, and a sense of urgency to “find myself”. Clay became my source of re-birth. It became an obsession. A last chance to prove to myself I had something worthwhile to offer the world.
Animals were always an integral part of my life. My mother was very tolerant of my expanding menagerie. I don’t remember her ever saying “no” to a request for a new pet. My father taught Ecology at SUNY Brockport, and people in town frequently brought young or injured wildlife to him, which he delivered home to be raised or rehabilitated. There was a more or less constant parade of ducklings, baby woodchucks, rabbits and squirrels, even a screech owl and a sparrow hawk. My patient mother allowed them all space in our home.
I’d always enjoyed art as a child. I drew constantly, painted in oils, and as a young adult did some woodcarving. My subject matter was always animals. No surprise that when I tried my hand at clay, I leaned more to sculpture. Throwing on the wheel has always been a source of frustration, but as a production artist I need to make work quickly, and so the pots get made, and anointed with an animal. The tile work came along after watching a friend work on a bas relief tile. I teach myself techniques as I go, finding what works and what doesn’t.
I currently work in the Rochester NY studio of ceramic artist Richard Aerni. We both are obsessed with our own work, and do some collaborative works as well. He has been a mentor, friend and partner in work and life. My career, such as it is, would not be where it is without his guidance. Like most artists, I work long hours for little pay, but I’m content. It’s never to late to become what you might have been.