How I found myself working clay for a living — what a question. Looking back I see that my life has not turned out quite like I expected (whatever that may have been). In the beginning I assumed that I was in charge but I have long since learned better. Nevertheless it has not been dull and at times quite interesting.
If you are reading this you must have decided you wanted to know more about me. So the following is an attempt to explore the connection between myself—the artisan engineer—and the challenge of earning a living via hybrid and traditional hand craft methods. I occasionally wonder what I’ve done with the last forty five years and I find the question sobering. At one time or another, most everyone will find themselves looking back to see a large chunk of their life gone by.
In the spring of 1971, shortly after that bloody incident at Kent State (some of you may remember it) I was surprised to find myself about to complete graduate school. Having been a professional student for nearly ten years and five universities—this was most definitely a turning point. My then wife pointed me bluntly in the obvious direction, saying that “it was high time I started earning a living”. Even though the idea had never appealed to me, I could not argue with the logic and so found myself facing a rather fundamental question – what on earth should I do with my life. As I anticipated exiting New York State University College of Ceramics at Alfred University—definitely a mouthful – I was offered a southern university teaching post and the chance to pursue the path eagerly sought by my classmates. In my case, this choice was definitely wrong though the reason why does not immediately spring to mind. One way or another, I knew that deep inside, I was truly and simply a MAKER. At that point in my life, I had spent the bulk of my contented time building or planning to build things and it did not matter very much what I built. It may help to understand my perspective or perhaps more accurately my predicament if you look at it as an addiction. When my hands are busy, I consistently and genuinely lose all track of time. As an intuitive animal, I have really never had any choice but to follow my instinct.
Combining my personality and the rapidly approaching end of my student years, I made an inevitable choice. One way or another—damn the consequences—I needed to use my gift of my manual skill, to earn a living for myself. Having grown up in north Texas, I made the then logical choice to move so far north that I would not register on the TV weather map. That north turned out to be the rocky coast of the great state of Maine. Heady stuff for one born in cotton farming country with nary an ocean in sight. With a pin on the site for my coming adventure, I decided with characteristic but poorly informed assurance that I would earn my living making things from clay. Something of a leap from the normal result of my university path but not totally off the chart. I softened the reality of the choice by wrongly assuming that I could always go back to teaching.
With the teaching post rejected and my direction set, I moved to a derelict general store hard by that rocky coast and set to creating my dream. At this point my story will compress a bit—potters by nature do a very few things over and over—the full description of which would get a bit tedious. I can simplify by saying I have spent the last fifty years making just short of a half million pots of all descriptions. Each piece one at a time and each and every one from this same pair of hands. Cups and mugs, plates and bowls as well as many bath room sinks. I still remember the day a client opened the door asking if I could make a bowl to replace the broken one beneath her marble top sink. Being young and cocky, I replied that I certainly could and promised the replacement when she returned. I did fill that order and I made an extra as well and for better or worse I started rolling the sink ball up the hill.
— Dan Weaver