The power of a life journey is in the traveler, not in the pathway. What we can accomplish as individuals is vast and incomprehensible to the untrained mind. But nothing will come from sitting and waiting for your journey to come to you. You cannot even expect it to come halfway. The starting point is as the mountains and cannot move.
After we finished closing in and insulating the studio, we started making pots. But the learning curve didn’t just include improving on throwing pottery and glazing, it also entailed the search for venues to sell our work.
Both Ben and I started working outside jobs a little over a year after we started building. Our early work in the studio was nice, but was not exciting enough to make a living. I was working in Livingston and Ben was working odd jobs with one of our neighbors, so he had more time to work in the studio. In the fall of ‘96 he started painting the pine and wildflowers which gained us our early reputation and sold exceptionally well. A year later I quit working in town and we both started full time in the studio.
Actually, what we worked was more like time and a half. We were in the studio seven days a week from the time we finished chores until nine or ten o’clock at night and in those early years of the pine and wildflowers we sold every piece we could make in a year. Those were the days of the Clinton era, when the economy was swelling like a marshmallow in the microwave. We were flying high.
Our problem came in a strange form of success. We were so busy making pots and doing shows that we couldn’t even enjoy the few weeks of our Montana summer. Resentment started creeping in, so after several years we cut back in the studio to five and a half days a week and stopped at six or seven o’clock in the evening. We then had more outdoor time available than for just doing morning and evening chores. We balanced our lives with hiking and cross-country skiing and in 2003 we even took a vacation to the Four Corners area in the Southwestern U.S.
Now, when we look back at those early years, we’re grateful we had the fortitude to keep up the pace we did. Our pottery skills improved several fold and even though we didn’t have time to do creative work, the two of us developed a terrific working relationship and learned what it takes to make a living as artists. We still suffer a bit from burn-out at times and we learned the hard way that no matter how much we produce, being a potter will never make us well off. We’ve always admired those very old potters who still get up every day to make pots. What we finally figured out was that if they wanted to eat, they wanted to work.
But I am not complaining. It was the path we chose. And though, if we could start over, I might do things different, I don’t have regrets. I’m happy. We have so much in our lives that money could not have purchased; and we have a beautiful spot of Montana which we would never have had if we had chosen a different path. Greatest of all, our journey, as incredible as it has been, is still wide open and is far from over.
We will not look back at our lives and say, “If we had only given it a chance,” because we did it. And for that I will be forever grateful.
Our first studio, built on the back of Lori and Micky’s barn
Me, in the barn studio, preparing for our first show
Some of our early work
The Pine and some of the Wildflower designs that got us off to a good start.
Some other designs we did for awhile
Some of the fun, creative work we did for awhile
Some wax resist designs Ben created