12 Messy Life Lessons I Cracked Working At A Pottery Studio

12 Messy Life Lessons I Cracked Working At A Pottery Studio

Who knew that glaze and kilns could teach a gal so much?


In high school, a lot of my friends worked as waitresses, hostesses, at kings island, or maybe as a lifeguard. When people asked me where I worked, I got to tell them about my favorite place, Mad Potter, a paint-your-own-pottery studio. Working there, we got to do everything — from writing up paperwork, glazing, offering creative advice, loading kilns, hosting birthday parties, you name it, we did it — and I loved every second of it. The studio was my second home in high school. It wasn't a typical job though, which lent itself to some outside the box lessons learned; here are a few of them.

1. Sometimes things are going to get heated before they shine.

Erika Glover

In other words, it isn't going to be easy to get to the pretty stuff. Life is hard sometimes, but it takes those hard times to make you shine. Just like with pottery being fired before it is its brilliant finished product.

2. Good things take time. 

Erika Glover

There are a lot of steps to a finished piece of ceramic. Many times, when I told folks that they had to come back in a week to pick up their piece, there was a sense of disappointment. Little did they know, after they waited patiently, their piece would come back looking beautiful.

3. Things aren’t always going to turn how you want.

That being said, sometimes the vision isn't always the outcome. There were definitely times that customers came to pick up their pieces a week later and it wasn't exactly what they wanted. Some of the time, there was optimism attached to this surprise, that maybe they liked it better, but other times there was anger.

4. There is no such thing as ugly.

Erika Glover

I cannot tell you how many times a child brought their piece up to the counter, or I went to describe the piece for our records, and there was not much else to the piece other than a mosh of browns and greens and occasionally some hot pink. But there was something about the pride that they had for their piece that washed over that. It was theirs, it was beautiful and creative and an outpouring of their spirit. Just like you and me, there is no ugly.

5. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

Erika Glover

I mean this rather literally, paint fights and slip-n-slides are SO much fun, but also figuratively. Seasons of change amount to a lot of mess, chaos, and uncertainty — but have you ever stopped to look around you and see the people who are slipping down that slide with you, or the people who have their arms linked to yours for the long run? High school, specifically senior year, was a roller coaster for me but my coworkers were always there for a late night painting and tea-spilling session. Plus, glaze and dust get everywhere in the studio.

6. Sometimes the best memories come from the messiest times in your life. 

Erika Glover

I mean this rather literally, paint fights and slip-n-slides are SO much fun, but also figuratively. Seasons of change amount to a lot of mess, chaos, and uncertainty — but have you ever stopped to look around you and see the people who are slipping down that slide with you, or the people who have their arms linked to yours for the long run? High school, specifically senior year, was a roller coaster for me but my coworkers were always there for a late night painting and tea-spilling session. Plus, glaze and dust get everywhere in the studio.

7. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 

One of my favorite things that we did at the studio was donate the homeless pieces. Not to worry, we waited for ages to consider them homeless. It hurt our hearts to see these beautiful pieces of art work go to waste, so we took them to the children's hospital for long-term patients to put in their rooms. This one is pretty straightforward, but doing this taught me a lot about humility, gratefulness, and joy.

8. Don’t skip over the small stuff, every step of your journey is important.

This is true in so many ways. At a pottery studio, we ask that you do just a few small things purely for the sake of your piece looking it's best, other than that, it's all you. If you skip one of those things, your piece doesn't reach it's full potential. The same is for life, for you. Don't skip the sunsets, don't skimp on your "you-time," don't give up on your heart.

9. Be. Your. Self.

Erika Glover

We had samples placed all around the studio, placed near where you would pick up that bisque from the shelves to paint. No surprise, those piece were some of our most popular, it was easy to see those as a finished product and try to strive to be that. There is nothing wrong with that, that's why we put them out, but there was no doubt that the artists, young and old, who used their creative noggin and let the piece flow from their paint brush, turned out to have the most beautiful and unique pieces. Many told stories, had identity, and displayed their artists thoughts so beautifully. Be yourself.

10. You might feel dull at times, but don’t let it keep you from shining. 

Erika Glover

Sometimes when youngins' would ask about where we were taking their pieces after they left, at which case I got to do my very most favorite part of my job, tour the kiln room. I had to make them pinkie promise not to touch, and the excitement in their eyes told me they weren't going to break that promise. This room is also where we glaze the pieces. Without fail, their smiles would drop as they saw their beloved pieces on shelves, covered completely in a powder blue glaze. I would then have to explain that it was this pale, dull blue color that made their pieces shiny in the big pottery oven. Maybe this time in your life is the glaze, you'll be shiny soon, I pinkie promise.

11. Own up to your mistakes.

It happens to the best of us. We had a LOT of light pink pigs with white eyes and black pupils, and just as many green turtles, and sometimes they went home with the wrong families. It's never easy when you have beady eyes peeking over the counter but owning up to the mistake is always the way to go.

12. Laughter is the best medicine.

Erika Glover

The studio was a destination for dates, birthday parties, office happy hours, ladies nights, family fun events, a meet up for separated families, and field trips. Whatever it was, there was always something to do, and always something to laugh about — without fail. Painting cured the hurt from the dropped pieces, the hard conversations, or the workday and laughter was a requirement.

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A Goodbye Letter To My Classmates

It's been a fun journey, but now it's time to go our separate ways.

To all of my classmates,

Wow. We did it. Some of us…eh…close call; I would have lost that bet! But we did it. It’s here. It’s about time to graduate high school. I’m still kind of in disbelief myself, I mean, it feels like yesterday we were all wearing Abercrombie graphic tees and jamming to Hannah Montana and The Jo Bros on the bus ride home. I can’t believe it’s been 12 years, I really can’t believe most of us have gone to school together for that long either. I just…it feels weird that next year we won’t all be together.

In less than a month were going to eat our last ever crappy high school lunch, put in our last ever high school locker combination, take our last ever high school final, and take one last look at the high school halls we’ve walked for 720 days. In less than a month, were going to walk across a stage, look out in the crowd and see the same faces we’ve seen since we were in kindergarten: that boy you had a crush on in third grade, the girl that made fun of you for not wearing Abercrombie in fifth grade, the kid who you were blessed to sit by in freshman biology (because without his...”help” you wouldn’t have passed), the first boy who ever broke your heart, the best friend who helped you get over him, and that one kid you forgot even went here. You’ll look out to see the people who helped make you who you are. You’ll remember all the laughs you shared, the arguments you’ve had, and the “group” projects you did by yourself. You’ll look at your parents who are just thankful you made it, the underclassmen that envy you for being done, and that one administrator that made you wear sweatpants because your skirt was too short. It’s true that time flies when you’re having fun. It’s true that high school goes by in the blink of an eye. Part of me wishes I could have a little more time with all of you guys; just one more laugh together as we see the questions on the reading quiz we didn’t read for, one more discussion about how Mr. Mac is actually Bradly Cooper, and one more “Wait, is that due today?” as we walk into class.

There’s no doubt that college is going to be different than high school, but it’s time for us to go. I won’t lie, even though I’m excited as hell; I’m nervous as hell too. I think we all are… I think it’s natural to be. But, before we go our separate ways, I hope you all to know how much you truly mean to me and the memories we’ve made will last forever. I’ll never forget the Friday nights we spent under the lights, dressed in ridiculous costumes, cheering on our boys, or the Saturday nights we spent at bonfires doing Lord knows what. I’ll never forget waking up Sunday mornings wishing it was still Saturday night, and of course, I’ll never forget the only good thing about Monday's; planning it all again.

I just want to say thank you to you all, you’ve truly made my time here in high school special. It’s with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes that I say goodbye. I’ll miss you guys, and if you ever find yourself in the Bloomington area make sure you let me know!


Your classmate

Cover Image Credit: Emily Branstetter

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21 Quotes From Twyla Tharp's 'The Creative Habit' That Will Fuel Your Artistic Self

Use your half-baked ideas for good!


Twyla Tharp is a master dancer and choreographer. She's worked with the world's most prestigious artists to create works that will withstand the test of time. She published her book "The Creative Habit" as a viewing window for seeing into her creative process. Tharp offers both hard truths and gently encouraging words for both serious artists and everyday people just trying to expand their circle of knowledge about art. I compiled some quotations from the book that were profound, useful and to-the-point when it comes to examining artistic development.

1. "Creativity is not just for artists. It's for businesspeople looking for a new way to close a sale; it's for engineers trying to solve a problem; it's for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way."

You get some creativity! YOU get some creativity! Everyone gets creativity!

2. "If art is the bridge between what you see in your mind and what the world sees, then skill is how you build that bridge."

3. "Everything that happens in my day is a transaction between the external world and my internal world. Everything is raw material. Everything is relevant. Everything is usable. Everything feeds into my creativity."

4. "In the end, there is no one ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn't scare you, doesn't shut you down."

5. "Someone has done it before? Honey, it's all been done before. Nothing's really original. Not Homer or Shakespeare and certainly not you. Get over yourself."

Ouch. Toes stepped on.

6. "Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art, if it is not art itself. Metaphor is our vocabulary for connecting what we're experiencing to what we have experienced before."

"It's *literally* like this..."

7. "...get busy copying. Traveling the paths of greatness, even in someone else's footprints, is a vital means to acquiring skill."

Choose your muse wisely!

8. "You can't just dance or paint or write or sculpt. Those are just verbs. You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun..."

9. "When you're in scratching mode, the tiniest microcell of an idea will get you going. Musicians know this because compositions rarely come to them whole and complete. They call their morsels of inspiration lines or riffs or hooks or licks. That's what they look for when they scratch for an idea."

You know you look crazy, but press on, baby ideas in hand!

10. "It doesn't matter if it's a book, magazine, newspaper, billboard, instruction manual, or cereal box -- reading generates ideas, because you're literally filling your head with ideas and letting your imagination filter them for something useful."

"Alexa, play the Reading Rainbow theme song."

11. "...there's a fine line between good planning and overplanning. You never want the planning to inhibit the natural evolution of your work."

Screw this global need for instant information. You gotta just let things run their course sometimes.

12. "Habitually creative people are, in E.B. white's phrase, 'prepared to be lucky.' You don't get lucky without preparation, and there's no sense in being prepared if you're not open to the possibility of a glorious accident. In creative endeavors luck is a skill."

Twyla Tharp is really just a more Type A version of Bob Ross.

13. "I know it's important to be prepared, but at the start of the process this type of perfectionism is more like procrastination. You've got to get in there and do."

14. "You're only kidding yourself if you put creativity before craft. Craft is where our best efforts begin. You should never worry that rote exercises aimed at developing skills will suffocate creativity."

15. "That's what the great ones do: They shelve the perfected skills for a while and concentrate on their imperfections."

16. "Without passion, all the skill in the world won't lift you above your craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering. combining the two is the essence of the creative life."

17. "My heroes are those who've prevailed over far greater losses than I've ever had to face."

18. "Part of the excitement of creativity is the headlong rush into action when we latch onto a new idea. Yet, in the excitement, we often forget to apply pressure to the idea, poke it, challenge it, push it around, see if it stands up. Without that challenge, you never know how far astray your assumptions may have taken you."

19. "...there's a lesson here about finding your groove. Yes, you can find it via a breakthrough in your craft. But you can also find it in other means -- in congenial material, in a perfect partner, in a favorite character or comfortable subject matter."

20. "A math professor at Williams College bases ten percent of his students' grades on failure. Mathematics is all about trying out new ideas -- new formulas, theorems, approaches -- and knowing that the vast majority of them will be dad ends. To encourage his students not to be afraid of testing their quirkiest ideas in public, he rewards rather than punishes them for coming up with wrong answers."

This approach would've been so helpful.

21. "I began as a dancer, and in those days of pain and shock I went back to where I started. Creating dance is the thing I know best. It is how I recognize myself. Even in the worst of times, such habits sustain, protect, and, in the most unlikely way, lift us up."

Take Twyla's knowledge and have fun exploring creativity in your personal life!

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