My mother, a former art teacher, first saw my potential to have no ambition or worthwhile art skills whatsoever. At 13, I would mope around the house and say how bored I was and there was nothing to do. The truth is that I was bored and there was nothing to do. Since I was the youngest and her 5th child, her tolerance for parenting had already left the station. She strongly recommended I learn an art skill. Since my brother Jeff was a painter, Ross & Eliot played music and my sister Linda was smart enough to marry and get out of the house, my Mother thought I might have a chance.
Her close family friend was Florence Rubel, a really gifted artist and potter. She had this huge studio and a kickwheel. She let me come over all summer and just play on the wheel and help around the studio. I was hooked, but my pieces were just short of being comically terrible. Since Mrs. Rubel was Jewish and my Mom was Jewish they both told me I was great and the pots were the best. I of course believed them.
When I entered Miami Beach High I started pottery classes taught by Steve Austin, who was extremely patient and gave me free rein to learn all I could. I promptly found out how bad I was and how little I knew how to do. Things haven’t changed much since that realization, but I did stick with it every day before school, after school, on holidays and summers.
When I was 17, I was introduced to Eddie Weyhe, a Coconut Grove painter who was one of the finest potters I had ever seen. Eddie would make these 6’ high pots in 3 sections that fit to perfection. He would draw the piece life size on the wall of his studio, stare at it for a few minutes then walk to the wheel and throw the entire pot just like the picture. I had the opportunity to take some classes from him and work occasionally in his studio mixing clay. In return for a day of mixing clay, I received a 15 minute private lesson, but the most valuable part of the day was watching him throw his pots. Eddie had a huge influence on my sense of design and my concept of how pottery can be an art not just a craft.
I continued making pots at night during college at Florida State and hanging out with the local potter, Rusty Miller. Rusty taught me the business side of producing functional pottery. Along the way I got to collect tons of his work. He has a great following of people who appreciate his work and his friends and customers are always eager to buy more of it.
DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB
When I came back to Miami after college, I found that being a part-time hobby potter was not always conducive to raising a family and working, so I produced very little work on the wheel for 20 years. A few years ago (2004), I put together a small studio. I am confident that if I had not had a 20 year hiatus my pottery would be better, but I am not prepared to put money on that assumption.
I did have the opportunity to participate in a workshop led by Bill Van Gilder at Sierra Nevada College. He is not only a TV rock star in the vast world of hobbiest potters, but a great teacher and he passed on some really great tips and glaze formulas.
My pottery continues to improve each year which is nice for me. Occasionally I dream of the benefits of being a full-time potter: traveling from craft show to craft show in my broken down van, setting up and tearing down my booth with a sore back, and putting up with people like me who come up and say, “ Hi there, I too am a potter and I would love to talk to you about your work” and are secretly thinking “but I have no intention on buying your stuff because I can make it better and your stuff is way too expensive." Then I sober up and realize it might be good not to quit my day job yet.