Being the potter that I am.

I will be 40 at the end of this year. I'm finding myself very self-reflective, I don't know it is because I am approaching "that age." Or the fact that I may spend too much time alone. Whatever the case- I am {finally} coming to terms with who I am as a person. And part of who I am, is the fact that I am a self-employed, full-time potter.

I often think about being "successful," and what that means. It varies so greatly from person to person. I used to believe that it meant being published in the pottery magazines. Or getting invited to gallery shows. And that is what it means to some potters. And I love those potters. They provide loads of inspiration and I'm lucky enough to own beautiful pottery from some of the people I admire.

I am not that potter.
And I am okay with that.

I make pottery that is accessible to people outside of the academic/gallery world of pottery. I make pottery that when people see me at a craft show, they stop and say "it's so girly!" or "it's so pretty!" I think I used to be offended by that. But honestly, I would not be a full-time potter if it wasn't for that reaction. It is that reaction that brings them into the booth or browse the etsy shop.

And I appreciate that so much.

Sure, I am not be the most advanced potter. I am not pushing any new, revolutionary techniques. I am not exploring any unknown glaze chemistry.

I'm just making pretty pots.
And I am so lucky to be doing just that.

It is important for aspiring potters to know that you don't need an MFA or a residency* in a well-regarded facility. You can be a potter without those things. To be a potter, you need to make pots. {Make LOTS of pots- practice your craft. Learn to make a good pot. Learn to fire a kiln. Learn how to mix glazes. Thank the internet for youtube videos, how-to articles and potters willing to share.} To make a living as a potter, you need to make pots that people want in their life. And for people to want them in their life, they have to know you exist.

Make pots.
Make LOTS of pots. 
Show your pots to people.
Show your pots to LOTS of people.

*I am in no way disregarding MFA programs or residency. I believe that they are useful for development as an artist. It never was a real option in my life. And maybe it never will be. Or maybe it will. Who knows? My point is simply that you don't need it. You can make good pots without it. If your goal is to sell pots so that you can pay your bills, you can do it. It is not as romantic as it sounds. But, I've got to say, it is a pretty life.


HeidiMCF said...

Well said Jeanette! I've felt/feel the same as you. Thank you for writing what was in your heart. This is very inspiring for potters at every level.

bridgmanpottery said...

AMEN!!!! Right there with you, sister. Let's make lots of pots to make peoples' everyday lives more enjoyable, shall we? oxo

Prairie Decorative Arts said...

So good to hear your thoughts out loud.

I'm ready to be a potter and have no formal training. I have inspiration. Now I need to take a class.

amy h said...

This was so good to read! As a late starter with pottery, it's a little hard to go off on residencies or start an MFA while trying to care for three small children. So this is the sort of potter I will be, I imagine, and I think it will be a great and challenging thing to be.

Lilyweeds at Augusta Kent Studio said...

Thank you. I am a happy bead potter. Your post gave me the boost I needed.
~diana welte

DirtKicker Pottery said...

I'm here at my computer whooping and cheering this blog post! Your work is gorgeous.
Happy 40th :)

DirtKicker Pottery said...

Oops.. Sorry, I mean happy 40th at the end of the year :)

carter gillies said...


Great thoughts! Thanks so much for sharing.

Keep up the good work! And have a great 40th. Your adventure is just beginning!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this!

Prancing Pony Pottery

jeanette said...

Wow! Thank for such great responses! I am so glad to know that it resonated with you. It verifies that I am not alone in this "struggle."

HeidiMCF and BridgmanPottery- thank you for all the online friendship and support! I really cherish my other potter friends- and I definitely count you both among them!!

amy h- it IS a great and challenging thing to be! Have fun!

lilyweeds- the most important word- "happy." As long as you keep being that, you are doing something right!

DirtKicker- haha! yea- let's not rush this thing. I'm going to need the rest of the year to wrap my head around the idea that I'm not actually 26.

Thanks Carter and Prancing Pony!

Unknown said...

Ah, what is success? It is contributing to others' lives, doing no harm and whatever else "floats your boat."

Work Of Our Hands said...

Nice post ! I am at the make lots of pots stage :)
I am at the next stage of life 60 ! and at this age success is about passing on to others and leaving a legacy , so I'm most of the year in Africa :)

Kathryn Mitchell said...

Oh Jeanette, THANK YOU! I've got people in my ear saying 'go get a degree' and I really don't see the need. Let's keep MAKING!