My Creative Friend | Deb

My Creative Friend, Deb, works in the office down the hall from mine. We check in with each other during lunch every now and then - chatting about life, books, and creativity. I love how when I see her, the first thing she'll ask me is, "So, how's quilting?" She knows what's really important to me. Deb has her own creative life on the side as a ceramics arts, and I'm so excited to learn more about her creative practice here.

Hi, Deb! Tell us about your creative medium and how you got started with it.
I started throwing pots shortly after I graduated college and moved to New York. I had a 9 to 5 job at the time and had recently gone through a break up, so I had time on my hands. I’d always found something compelling about ceramics so decided to give it a try. My first class was kind of a dud - the instructor seemed like a talented artist but not much of a teacher - but shortly thereafter I discovered a wonderful little studio near my office, Mud, Sweat, & Tears, where I started taking more classes and got the hang of it. I’ve been hooked ever since.

What does art making mean to you?
I once saw a professional potter’s bio that read, her “pots reside in kitchens, on tables, and in cupboards across the nation.” And I love that image! I’m a fairly practical person, so I think it’s no coincidence that my creative medium is to craft functional pieces that can be integrated into people’s day-to-day lives. I give away most of my pots as gifts, and I love to think of my loved-ones drinking their morning coffee out of one of my mugs or eating cereal out of one of my bowls. I also sometimes make Jewish ritual objects like Shabbat candles, Kiddush cups, or mezuzot, and I feel so honored to think of my sister’s family, for example, using my candlesticks to light Shabbos candles. It’s almost like I’m there with them.

Candlesticks/kiddish cup
How did/do you learn and improve your creative skills?
My first three years of working with clay I just took class after class after class. (I think I took Advanced Beginner three times?) My studio in NY had a very methodical way of teaching ceramics and structured syllabi, so I just worked my way through all the projects. And after a while, I felt ready to work on my own projects without the structure of a class to guide me. (And then my friends started to get married so I had lots of wedding presents to make.) Lately, though, my friends seem to have taken a break from the nuptials, and I’ve had more time to devote to developing new skills and exploring new projects. I devoted February, for example, to teapots. It was the first time I spent awhile with just one form for the sake of exploring that particular form, and it’s been a lot of fun. I looked at lots of teapots on Etsy, and I’ve been trying to experiment with shapes and spouts and lids. I’ve been learning a lot. I’m also trying to push myself to pay more attention to texture and glazing.

Carved Bowl
Where do you get support?
I find a ton of support from the other potters and the teachers at the studio. I’m always asking for advice on glaze combinations or soliciting feedback on my handles. It’s fun and inspiring to see what everyone else is making; I learn a lot from just watching other people make their pots. I’m always peeking onto everyone else’s shelves to see what they’re up to. John, the studio co-owner & teacher, is great for bouncing ideas around, too. You can come in and say, “John! I have this idea!” And he’ll talk it out with you so you can make it happen. Every now and then I fantasize about having my own wheel & studio, but then I realize I’d be lonely. What fun would it be to unload a kiln if you didn’t get to ooh & ahh at everyone’s pots together?

Tea Pot & Cups
When you work, do you love the process or the result?  Why?
This is a tough one! I love both, but I think pottery’s helped me become more process-oriented. One of my first pottery teachers, Bob, said, “You can’t have ownership of the pot you produce. You only have ownership of your skills to make it again.” You can spend weeks making an incredible pot, only to see it crack in the kiln or get pushed off a shelf or the glaze get all wacky. There are dozens of factors out of your control that can interfere with your pot. So if you don’t enjoy the process - or you’re not open to the surprises that the process may bring you - you’re likely to be disappointed.

That being said, it’s so exciting when a beautiful pot comes out of the kiln! And the excitement goes both ways - maybe a pot came out JUST as you intended, or maybe the glaze did something funky and wonderful that you didn’t anticipate. There’s a special feeling of driving home from the studio with some pretty finished pots in my passenger seat, but I’m not sure how to name it. Pride? Satisfaction? Joy? All of the above?  

How do you make time for your creative practice?
I’m not always successful at this, but I try to make it to the studio twice a week. I find it’s hard to make good progress on a project if I go in less frequently. In some ways it’s limiting that the studio is only open 3 days per week, but in other ways that’s motivating because I need to plan ahead, and I’m less likely to procrastinate or be lazy on the nights I’m scheduled to be there.

What is your creative ambition?
There are so many pots to make! I want to make lots and lots of pots. Big ones, small ones, colorful ones, simple ones. I want to get a lot more creative with glazing and texture. I want to make my own stamps and experiment with carving. I want to try different types of firing - wood firing, raku. One day it might be fun to help teach a beginning pottery class. I don’t really have ambitions of selling my work, but I do harbor a fantasy that my very favorite bakery in Brooklyn that makes the most delicious muffins in the world would maybe sell my pots in the cupboard where they usually sell antiques.

Thanks so much for sharing, Deb!  If you're in the Providence area and interested in throwing some pots, check out the fabulous Dew Claw Studios - it's full of great folks and they offer a lot of classes & workshops. You might even run into Deb there!

**My Creative Friend is a series of blog posts featuring the creative practices of creative women in my life, posted on the last weekend of each month. By sharing our processes, my hope is that we can all learn, grow, and be inspired in our own work. If you're interested in being featured, please contact me!**


  1. YAY Deb! It's awesome to see the finished products - she is SO talented! I want the teapot and mugs! Wow. Book Club is awesome.

  2. Great Stuff! Love the teapot.
    Do you make mugs with lids?


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