In the 1960’s, a curious 16-year old boy decided to try out a pottery wheel under the supervision of a friend’s father. When the potter turned to see what the boy had produced on his first attempt, he said “You’re pretty good at that!” Enthusiastic praise from a non-parent artist was all it took, and in 1971, Rocky Mann graduated from UNH with a fine art degree focused in clay, and went on to apprentice with a studio potter in Denmark.
Upon returning to the U.S., fate chose its direction for Rocky’s work. At a party, where all he had was a pick-up truck and a few hundred dollars to his name, Rocky struck a deal for a 12-acre farm in Cherryfield, Maine with an apple orchard and a woodshed perfect for a small studio where he started his long career of “throwing pots”. It wasn’t an easy task. He worked bundled and layered up, LL Bean felt lined boots and all, and kept an electric blanket over the clay to keep it from freezing in the wintertime.
After a series of trials, hints of tribulation, and ultimately great successes, Rocky has found himself able to reinvent how he shows his work to the public and now sells pieces only in a handful of select Maine galleries, his personal gallery and workspace, and a small online shop.
Finding joy and magic in the creative process, Rocky doesn’t have a favorite style of his own work. Rather, he mindfully enjoys each piece during its individual journey from raw clay to finished product; and then appreciates the new, imaginative doors that open as a result of every finished creation. He currently focuses on slab construction so he can use the clay as a canvas, and works with various techniques including raku, saggarware, and high-fire glazed porcelain.
As for the art of making a living as a potter, he attributes financial and professional success while maintaining an enjoyment of the craft to be a balancing act of sorts. Finding a balance between the creation of pieces for personal enjoyment to keep the work interesting, and the creation of pieces that will traditionally sell well to a variety of customers can be treated like a pendulum that consistently swings between “fun stuff” and work that will sell. The pendulum can never stop, or an artisan risks losing pleasure in their craft; and Rocky has found that many times, that fun stuff is what a studio visitor will connect with and leave with.
This Maine Crafts Association member can be found in his Mt. Desert Island home and studio where he and his wife open their doors as a host family for international college-age students. He currently teaches courses at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, and instructs privately as well. With more than 45 years spent in the studio, Rocky won’t be done throwing pots anytime soon. If you ask him, he says, “Old potters never die, they just turn leather-hard.”
Read more about Rocky’s history and process and browse his retail offerings here: https://rockymann.com/
To see select pieces of Rocky’s work offered at the Center for Maine Craft, visit our Etsy page: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CenterForMaineCraft