Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I oWe My SuCCeSS To THe SiZe oF My BLaDDeR

My friend Jenny and her lovely daughter Shannon asked:
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE POTTERY BIZ?

I was born the poor black son of a sharecropper. I was born the daughter of a potter. Our basement had a kiln and a kickwheel in it, and whenever the local Girl Scout Troupe needed to make something to earn their Crafting Badge, they would come to our house.

One of my first memories of clay is shaping tombstones for the various dead bees and birds I buried in shoebox coffins lined with scraps of satin in the little graveyard I built in the woods behind our house. I would etch sentiments into the clay memorials like "Here lies Tweetie, He was a very nice bird, too bad the cat ate him." or "Here lies Walter the Robin, Hopefully the glass doors in Heaven will all be Open." I artfully arranged the headstones around a gravel path I constructed by removing a portion of our own driveway. One day, my brother decided to host a neighborhood softball game and chose to use the majority of my grave markers as bases. That put an end to my backyard boneyard and clay days.

Fast forward many years, and I was working as a Kindergarten teacher when the movie GHOST was released.


Despite rumors to the contrary, it was not Patrick Swayze and Unchained Melody that lead me to sign up for classes at a local studio the next week: it was Demi Moore's HAIR. In addition to plunking down a class deposit, I chopped my own locks off that same week. You would have thought I had learned a lesson from previous attempts to emulate Farrah's and Dorothy Hammil's hairdos, but no. That's another blog about how you should Never Copy a Celebrity's Hair unless you have that Celebrity's Face and Body.

Even though I had grown up with pottery, and some could argue that I had the genes of a potter, I was not naturally good at pottery. In fact, I pretty much Sucked Eggs. I know this because every time the instructor needed an example of what "Not To Do" he would always politely ask if he could hold up something I'd made.

But I was totally hooked in a Clay under the Fingernails, Glaze in your Hair, Always Dusty Shoes kind of way. And I told myself that I would work very hard at it for five years, and that if in five years I still Sucked Eggs, that I would quit.

But I had forgotten that I was Poor, and that pottery classes were expensive. I could not afford to make doorstopper after doorstopper and give them all away to friends and family. So even though I could barely shape an ashtray, I started putting my stuff on a card table and standing on a street corner every Saturday and Sunday, hoping to make enough money to be able to afford materials and classes for the week ahead. Seriously: many of my items looked like this:


Now imagine the above, glazed BROWN.

Anyhoo: New York is a heckuva town. People love a story and love to support someone who is going after their dreams. So miraculously, I managed to sell enough brown turdy looking pots to have three years go by, at which time I started to have some basic skill at the craft. And then I had MY FIRST REALLY BIG IDEA.

I graduated to bigger street fairs and started making CONDOM HOLDERS. My most popular ones were a jar with a big gherkin on the lid that read PROTECT YOUR PICKLE CUCUMBER EGGPLANT. I could not keep those decorative bedside condom holders in stock, I'm telling ya. So then I had my second REALLY BIG IDEA and I made these out of ceramic:



These are very big in New York-they are the cups we get our coffee in at the coffee carts. They were a huge hit and basically helped build the empire that MUD is now.

And really, this blog post is getting too long so I will wrap it up. But I will say that I started in pottery full of passion and resolve, and that in the end it is those two qualities that led me to success in the field. Along the way, I met a ton of people far more talented than I (HELLO JONATHAN ADLER.) Some went on to great success (DAMN YOU JONATHAN ADLER) and some did not. I just was the girl who used to stand at the table at the street fair, holding a pee for hours, afraid to miss a sale.

18 comments:

Tricia Nugen said...

And now look at you! You write a FAB U lous blog and have a huge bloggy fan base. Not to mention great stuff. And I'm not just saying that! I can't wait to use my MUD special stuff and I'm going to do a where the MUD travels blog. It'll be coming soon!
Thanks for sharing your adventures!

Hi, I'm Amy! said...

I love the stories of people who stuck with their dreams and made it big :)

PS - You are being too humble, you are a genius.

Chandra said...

If only I had half the talent you have..I would be a millionare! I have not one talent, at least not one that could be mentioned here! LOL!

I use my coffee mug you so graciously awarded me evey morning and I love it!

zakary said...

I think you are rad plus amazing.

Oh, and when I was in 9th grade, I got a spiral perm because I thought it would make me look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

I was 14 and wanted to look like a hooker. I have always had big dreams as well.

Krëg said...

See, you should have crafted yourself a small ceramic toilet so you wouldn't have to stand around floating your own eyeballs.

Jennifer said...

How cool that you picked my question! Great story and also...I chopped my hair off just like Demi's when I saw Ghost. I was obsessed (unnaturally) with her hair and looking like that. So you weren't alone...

Debbie said...

I still dabble in the celebrity hair at times. Don't tell.
Loved the story of how you started.

The Girl You Don't Bring Home to Momma said...

who would have thought that a condom holder maker would eventually have a millionaire drinking out of her mug on TV...BRAVO (clapping) Great story :)

Racie Lover said...

I liked the 'daughter of a poor black sharecropper' story better than the 'standing on the street corner selling condoms' story better. It has that made-for-TV / Lifetime movie" feel to it but what do I know. I'm just jealous because today is the 6th anniversary of my incarceration at my present job and I don't even have a famous blog to show for it.

There is a lot to be said for living vicariously....

kwr221 said...

I had a Dorothy Hamill haircut too. I used Short-n-Sassy shampoo (and Gee, your hair smells terrific!, in case you were wondering) when I was a sophomore in high school.

Anyway, I too had a potter's dream, but instead I have some old tools, some rock-hard clay in my garage and fond memories of a class I took at the local community college in the 80's (after I had already graduated college - hey I took an Italian class too, that worked out just as well - Ciao!)

My family all have precious mud brown heavy-bottomed clay bowls and lop-side mugs that I made for them one cheap Christmas.

I think I'll just admire and covet yours. :-)

Miss Thystle said...

Um, I don't see pickle condom holders on your web site and I must have one. MUST.HAVE.ONE.

PS. I have always wanted Dolly Parton's Hair. Because nothing says Klassy like a bleach blonde bouffant, and I, as you well know, am nothing but Klassy.

Jane! said...

What?!?! No suffering for your craft? Well, K teacher just might qualify.
I can't believe you discontinued the pickle line. Or the headstones.

jenX67 said...

*this* is my favorite blog post you've ever written. it is SOOOO full of generation x entrprenuerial spirit, a dash of angst. You're amazing, Lorrie. Thanks for sharing this inspiring story with us. I love it when you write about NY, too. Just something as little as what kind of cup you get your coffee in. For a second, I was walking in Manhattan.

Nonnee said...

Good One Kiddo...xoxoxooxxo

SOMETHING HAPPENED SOMEWHERE TURNING said...

Wonderful post. But Jane, what do you mean no suffering? She stood on street corners in Manhatton holding her bladder for hours. It cost money to pee in Manhatton!
:)

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lisianblue said...

I had to really smile about your little graveyard -
So awesome you stuck with it! I love the "Drink Me" mug! I too was drawn to Alice in Wonderland for this weeks theme -interesting that your daughter thinks everyone is mean - they are aren't they!
The condom holder souunds great! hehehehe

Jenjen © GottaLoveMom said...

Hi Lorrie,
That's an amazing and inspiring story ... I'd love to see photos of you ala Demi Moore.

And from your TST entry this week, I'm with your 5yo - sometimes there are just not-so-nice people in anyone's fairy tales.

See you around,
Jenjen