What Maine Craft Means to Me
by Chris Breedlove
I am a potter.
Which, is not at all what I expected to be when I began my career as a chemistry teacher at a community college in Maryland. Years earlier, as an impoverished student, I purchased a honeypot at a student art sale, and I loved that little pot! Even then I was drawn to pottery and the process of making it.
In the aftermath of the Kent State student massacre, I spent an entire hot night locked in the University of Maryland ceramics studio with a friend who was finishing her senior thesis project, choking on tear gas from the students’ Route 1 blockade through College Park. And, my intense interest in pottery survived! Several years after that, I decided to learn to make honeypots for my friends to hold all the honey that, as a beekeeper, I’d been giving them. Moreover, as a faculty member, I could take classes in other academic areas (like ceramics) tuition-free! It seems I was destined to be a potter.
And so began my second life as a potter-to-be. From the very first day I loved it all: the tactile feel of the clay, watching the instructor transform the clay into a bowl, a platter, or a bottle, throwing, trimming. It was magical and wonderful! It was also a lot harder than it looked and I learned a kind of discipline and determination that was really very different from anything I’d ever needed before. I became fascinated with glazes – a lot of chemistry there, but also a lot of magic. And the big gas reduction kiln! Oh my! Too exciting! (But, still, I didn’t quit my day job for years.)
Now I am a potter. I still love just about every aspect of making pots. Working in the pottery shop on Islesford, where we have the work of a dozen Maine potters, is a treat. In many ways, that is my most favorite and memorable activity. I love that I know so many of the people who come by the shop. I love that some people actually come in looking specifically for my work. I love talking to them about my and others’ work. I love showing the children who come by how to throw a pot, explain something to them, even give them a piece of clay to make something from! I love the mail boat ride to and from Islesford. (And have become sensitized to the reality of the beauty and also the complexity of island life.) And most of all, I cherish the friends I have come to know and love as an artist. Marian Baker, who owns and manages the Islesford Pottery. Kaitlyn, a very cool person and fellow potter who is the mom of my surrogate grandson, seven year-old Bode. So many potters from whom I have learned so much both on Islesford and off-island. I’ve learned that potters, and indeed artists of so many crafts, are the friendliest, most helpful, and generous people I’ve ever known. Role models all.
And becoming a member of this fellowship of artists has so many areas fostered an appreciation of the talent, care, skill, and love that all of these artists put into their work. I love knowing the person whose work I wear or use and I feel I know them even more. I think of the artist as I use the bowl they made, the bracelet I wear, the scarf or hat I don. I feel like I am part of something special, bigger than any one of us.
I am a potter.
What Maine Craft Means to Me Essay Series invites you to explore the many intersections and layers of craft, people and time in Maine through the words of those with deep connections to our state and our field.
The Maine Crafts Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization supporting craft artists by providing educational, marketing and retail opportunities. Our ability to accomplish our mission and help artists thrive is reliant on individual contributions.