I walked into Nan’s pottery studio the day before Easter four years ago. Woody and I were eating lunch nearby, saw her brochure in the restaurant, and decided to follow the directions to her studio. It was a lovely, rare, ambling afternoon, a little adventure of meandering the unfamiliar back roads leading to her long, sloping gravel driveway.
I knew I’d like her pots. She had some on display in the restaurant, where I’d picked them up one by one and seen the same ”NR” stamp on the bottoms. Even though we arrived as she was shooting a demo video she cheerfully stopped and gave us a tour. I wandered through her cottage-like studio and showroom admiring the glazes and forms and bashfully saying, “No, I’m not a potter, but I’ve collected pottery for a long time.”
“I teach classes here. I usually have a long waiting list but right now I happen to have an open spot, if you’re interested.”
That’s when things changed. All the way home in the car Woody and I talked money and timing and how long the drive to class would take, but it was already a done deal. I was doing it.
Becoming not just a potter, but Nan Rothwell’s student, has been one of the unexpected blessings of these past few years. Pottery is a grounding and spiritual practice that gets me out of my head and back into my body, fully in the present moment. I’ve written a few things about it here but this probably sums it up best. I always knew, even before I held my first lump of clay, that I’d love working with it. What I didn’t know until I became Nan’s student, was how much I needed a teacher. Those of us in her classes said all the time how lucky we were. We counted our blessings out loud, regularly.
Life keeps changing and one of those changes this past year was that Nan and her husband decided to try city living for the first time in decades. In October, Nan closed her teaching studio and we fired the final kiln there. Here are the last pots I made at Nan’s.
Nan’s teaching at a new place and I look forward to taking classes with her there. It will all be different, but no matter how many places I sit down at a wheel and no matter how many teachers I learn from, Nan will always be my pottery teacher. She’s the one who said completely obvious things that came from deep wisdom and forty years of throwing pots, but which were not obvious enough to me before she said and demonstrated them – things like, “Just because the wheel’s moving fast, doesn’t mean you have to.” Nan has helped me move more slowly and deliberately at the wheel and in life. She’s the one who let me become a student again and walked me over the threshold from admirer to potter.