My journey to the West was complicated. I had a van built out specifically for a couple, but was its only occupant. My mother died suddenly only a year after she and my father retired here to Salt Lake City. Then, staying with my father in Salt Lake the following Autumn and Winter, he was diagnosed with early Pancreatic Cancer. So, late 2016 was a real hat-trick of personal tragedy and trouble, and staying with my father that following winter and spring through his cancer treatment, and helping him through it, was just more on more. Here I was in a city that frankly I didn’t much like, in the middle of a tornado of pain, wounds, baggage and personal crisis. Naturally, I turned to pottery.
I first found the potter’s wheel in high school, under the expert tutelage of Heather Kranz, an erstwhile student of the venerable Toshiko Takaezu. It would be more than 15 years later I met Jessica and Judy of Mean Mugs Pottery. Somehow by just showing up often enough and with a smile and ready hands, I was able to trade studio and kiln space for simple labor and tasks, clay pugging and my amateurish carpentry. I don’t know what I would have done to get through 2017 without them and that space. Turning pots there, and spending time with such amazing people truly saved me. I think it’s no mistake that I ended up working with and sharing space with three incredible and loving women, after losing my own mother. The energy in Mean Mugs Pottery is nothing short of amazing. The welcome, the openness to ideas and personal expression, the small community of that building, all helped me enormously not only to work as hard as possible at my own pots, but to help the healing and coping process as I stumbled through the hardest time of my life.
Over the months I think my attention and ambition showed through, and I was even turning MMP mugs for the business. The learning generated from the opportunity and the practice of throwing and trimming three or five hundred mugs a week sent my own work running. There is no way I would have progressed as fast without the extra work, and the small community of makers and expert potters around me. Soon my study of pottery forms progressed to three foot tall greenware, and removing the lids of the bisque kilns to fit the pots inside! I just simply couldn’t have done it without them, and I rest assured their spirit will always be imbued in my work. The story of my pottery thus far has been mostly a story of learning from women, I hope that doesn’t change.
Judy, Jessica, Avery and Roman.
Thank you so much for showing me how and why. Thank you for the time and space, the tolerance for my impassioned ranting, the support, the guidance, the conversation, the questions, the solutions, the work and the love. I know this piece was a long time coming, but I had some driving to do.
Mean Mugs Pottery Assistant, 2017-2018