I gave up my job teaching pottery at the Greenbelt Community Center. I couldn't make it work time-wise anymore, because of the demands of my growing pottery business. There were nights when I would come home from teaching around 10:30pm, eat something, then go back to work in the studio. Also, I had to commit to class dates six months in advance, which made it tricky to apply for shows, especially those that required travel. You might be asking yourself "but doesn't a regular teaching gig provide some steady income to an otherwise unpredictable business?" The answer is that the income for a whole year of teaching was less than I typically make in one weekend art festival.
So why was it hard to leave? Because I loved the job. I loved my students. It was really important to me. It was important to them too, and I didn't want to let them down. I tried to emulate the great teachers I had in my past, to pay it forward to someone else. I believed in what I was doing, and I was rewarded all the time in ways that had nothing to do with salary.
One of the last big projects I got to do with my Level 5 students was the Festival of Lights holiday art fair. Level 5 was my most advanced class. Again, I tried to give them what my best teachers gave me ... an environment where they could continue to stretch and flourish, beyond their considerable accomplishments. We have done a group booth in the Festival for five years, as an entryway for them to learn about the professional side of pottery. Here are some photos of our gorgeous booth, and the individual displays within the booth:
Click on the thumbnalis to see larger images and names.
This was a two-day show, and I'm pleased to reveal that we had our best Saturday ever, in terms of sales. Sunday brought a worrisome weather forecast, but despite the snow we were still busy with sales. That was until the falling snow was replaced by ice, and the show was closed down early. For the past few years, our booth has been generating sales that would make any veteran festival artist envious. Overall I'd rate this as our best showing ever, and I'm really proud of them and pleased with their success. Although this is the last time I will lead them through the process, I'm confident they have enough knowledge to go forward without me, either as a group or as individuals.
My other class was Level 4 Wheel. This class used to be called "Intermediate Wheel" but many of these students stayed with the class for so long, they outgrew the name. They were doing advanced-level projects too, some of them could have done well in Level 5 if there were available spots in that class. So the week after the Festival contained the last meetings of my two classes. We planned a Casserole Night for both classes, where everyone brought food in handmade casseroles. (This proved to be much healthier than the Pie Night we had in the spring, which I don't regret, it was worth it!) In both of the classes, my students had planned surprises for me that made me feel ten feet tall. Here's my first gift from the Level 4 class, a collage of photos taken over the years, framed with a matte board they had all sneakily signed during one of our class nights. The collage is now hanging in my studio at home (photo by Judy Goldberg-Strassler):
And here's my second gift from the Level 4 class, the "Things Mea Says" apron. Not just for me, they made them for themselves too, so they can have all of my advice and rules nearby as they continue to take pottery classes without me. Back row l-r: Quianna Douglas, Kara Duffy, Jeri Holloway; Front row l-r: Carolyn Neuendorffer, Melanie Choe, Andrea Schewe, me, Margaret Lukomska, Jenny Adams, Judy Goldberg-Strassler (photo by Lorraine DeSalvo):
Here's a closeup of what the aprons say. Yes I've already splattered mine with glaze. Some of these things are inside jokes, so they won't make sense to you:
The next night in my Level 5 class, I was greeted with a pile of small wrapped gifts! They had all decided to give me a small pot made by themselves. I cleared out a shelf in my living room to display them. When I look at this display, it reminds me of all the time we spent hanging out together, making pots and enjoying each other's company:
But they weren't done yet. There is a piece of equipment I've been drooling after for a while, a Speedball ST-1 pottery stool. It is the "luxury car" of pottery stools, hailed by all who have them. It has a bicycle-style seat, which takes pressure off your hip joints and provides thick padding for everything else. It has a real back rest. And most importantly, the seat can be adjusted to tilt forwards while you're throwing, which is a much healthier angle for your lower back and hip sockets. Behold, my new ST-1 that the Level 5 students bought for me. I will think about them every time I throw!
I haven't had a chance to be "less busy" yet. Right after the classes ended, I had my Open Studio, then a frenzy of online sales. Then all of my siblings and their families came into town for the holidays. I plan to go back to work in a few days. I can already feel the release of some pressure ... the pressure of a schedule that doesn't make sense. It feels good. At the same time, I know I'm going to feel weird, maybe lonely, on Thursday and Friday nights. It's ok, I'm confident I will see the people I care about regularly, in some capacity. And there are new adventures to face going forward. I doubt I will be bored.