After almost 30 years as a Psychologist, I finally decided to take the advice that I had learned from Professor and Author Joseph Campbell and passed on to countless clients: FOLLOW YOUR BLISS. For me this included retiring early from a much-loved career and successful private practice I shared with my husband, David Usndek, in Chicago, moving to the Southwest and returning to my passion for the Ceramic Arts.
I received my art training at Loyola University of Chicago and fell in love with clay. For me working with the earth to create art was a spiritually meaningful and meditative experience. I practically lived in the Ceramic Studio...... often losing all sense of time. Upon graduation, I did a year-long Ceramic internship at the Evanston Art Center where I received great guidance from professional potters and teachers from The Art Institute of Chicago. My work began to sell and to be shown in galleries....... however, the financial realities of life necessitated that I pursue my doctorate in Psychology and I left the world of clay for almost 30 years.
Almost 5 years ago, although very happy with my work as a clinician, I felt a sort of emptiness in my life regarding my need to have an artistic creative focus and outlet. I found a wonderful clay collective in LaGrange, IL and returned to clay. All of my passion returned. I loved the work and being surrounded by other artists and investing in the process once again. I was blessed to have had two very good teachers who took me under their wing. One week three pots of mine came out of the kiln - the three dark brown embellished pots pictured. When I took these home and finished my work on them and arranged them together.......... I felt a dramatic internal shift. Deep in my gut, I just “knew” that this is what I must do with the rest of my life. That evening I sat down with my husband and explained to him what I had experienced and that I wanted to retire from our shared practice, pursue art and if possible.....to consider moving out west. Knowing my history and how a number of forces prevented me from a career in the Arts earlier in life...my husband recognized the importance to me and agreed that this is what I should do. He also agreed that we should explore moving out west. I am forever grateful for his unconditional love and support in general......but especially in this major life decision. I have to admit, I was scared and frightened. This was a huge decision that would dramatically change our lives. I spoke with my Sister, Susan, who has always been my best friend and confidant. Like David, she encouraged me to pursue what would make me happy. I can never repay either of them for their encouragement and confidence in me. It gave me the courage to make the decision.
David and I began looking for property in Tucson. We had traveled here for years as David’s parents had retired in Tucson. While we were house searching, a relative of a woman that I worked with at the clay studio in LaGrange came in. She stressed that before we made any decision about a house, we needed to explore a clay studio/collective south of Tucson. On our next trip, we drove down and were given a tour of the clay studio. I was sold. Shortly afterwards a home came on the market in the Santa Rita Mountain foothills....on the way up to Madera Canyon. The unobstructed views of the mountains and desert.....in addition to the style of the home sold us both within the first 30 seconds. We arrived in Feb of 2016 and I stated at the clay studio that April.
The atmosphere and fellow artists at the studio have provided me with a very stimulating and friendly place to work (not to mention great fun). Without the pressure of needing to sell my work to provide a living, I have been free to explore different styles and wherever that clay takes me. Heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts period, Asian aesthetics and Southwestern traditions, I have developed my own style. Much of my work leaves unglazed portions and I intentionally throw heavy/and thick in order to show the natural beauty and weight of the different clay bodies. Most of my work is embellished with fossils, minerals, local rocks and found objects, crystals, leather, bone, and beads from the southwest and Tibet. In the end, I want each piece to reflect my love and connection with the beauty of nature......and the ancient origins of the clay and materials used. I want each piece to provide a sense of weighted grounded-ness, centered-ness and of peace. Most of my vessels are made to be functional and can be used as vases.
I owe so much to all the friends and fellow artists that have been a part of this new phase of my life......especially my husband, sister and the members of both studios I have worked at. You are all a large part of supporting not only my work.....but also of my finding my bliss.
For those who are interested in seeing my work in person, it is being shown at Rogoway’s Turquoise Tortoise in Tubac and at The Tucson Museum of Art. You can also see more of my work on the facebook page: Stonewall Pottery. I owe a debt of gratitude and wish to thank Deb, Jackie, and Justin who as Gallery directors have been so encouraging and supportive of me as an emerging artist.