My 2020

In 2020 my online Etsy business, Red Barn Pottery, grew 100% so I spent most of my year as a workaholic.  My pottery business that originally began as a hobby had been growing steadily for the past several years. I juggled teaching, (my first profession) and making pottery, but I had gone to part-time teaching so it had a nice balance until it wasn’t anymore. I was working too many hours trying to do both. 

In June 2020 I retired from teaching.  After over 30 years working in education, it was odd to end my career by teaching on Zoom. I taught a mixed aged group of 5-8 year olds, and even by the end of the year some of them still showed up for “class” in their pjs without a pencil or paper and sometimes they were even on their beds.  It wasn’t because of Zoom teaching that I retired, but it helped make things clearer.  Even though I miss the kids and I miss the colleagueship of being part of a school, I am in my happy world creating things from clay and running my own business from home at this stage of my life. 

I had already stopped selling pottery at in person shows as of 2018, so I was well positioned for the pandemic. When I saw things starting to shut down I rushed to stock up on supplies, and throughout this time, sourcing supplies has been one of my biggest challenges.  Keeping up with orders has been tricky too. Apparently people are willing to wait up to 10 weeks for me to custom make dishes for them, and I was still down to the deadline on more than a few. So I decided to hire help for shipping which is new and scary.  It is super weird not to do everything myself, but I would have had to shut down more than the times I already did to stay on top of all of the orders.

In 2020 I decided it was time to get a new kiln, as my original was used when I purchased it 18 years ago and felt small for my current needs. Because of the pandemic I had to wait for it for 4 months for delivery, and then it got sent to the wrong state. It felt in keeping with all of the craziness of the times.  In 2020 I also invested in new lighting.  I literally had light bulbs on cords in my work places, and I never had enough light.  Real lighting is amazing!! I am grateful for electricity and my electrician who listened to my needs and scenarios and helped me get a system that works great for me. Who knew that light switches for all those new lights would be so exciting?  And now I have a heater for the winter months I spend working in the basement instead of my barn that is too hard to keep heated during the coldest times. In the winter I used to feel like I was going down to the dungeon to work in the basement.  Our house was built in 1812 and has a stone foundation. Thankfully it feels brighter and warmer now. 

On numerous occasions in 2020, especially in the past months,  I had a carload of parcels I couldn’t even imagine carrying all inside the post office. Since I print all the shipping labels at home, I started calling the post office ahead of my arrival and my sweet and friendly postmaster met me at the back door with a scanner and a big mail cart to fill. My daily trips to my wonderful post office makes my job a little brighter each day. 

As much as possible I try to collect packing materials from friends and neighbors to keep what I can out of the landfill, and in 2020 I needed more than ever. I am heartened by all the folks who drop off packing materials to me or contact me for a pick-up.  If you live near me, or if I see you from time to time, packing peanuts and bubble wrap make me very very happy! 

I am forever grateful to my husband Ken for all his help and support.  Ken now does my clay pick ups for me south of Boston at least a 1000 pounds at a time. It is Ken who listens to me when I need to process about my growing pains. It was who Ken helped me turn our old barn into a studio and built me my giant hand-building table. He embraced Clay Play Studio Art Camp at our house for over a dozen years which was started as a way to bring camp to us when my children were small and to offset my costs for my expensive hobby. A few years ago I realized that I couldn’t take time from my studio for camp anymore, and I felt grateful this summer that I didn’t have to worry about running camp during a pandemic!

I was riding the wave of growth all year, feeling a bit guilty that things were going so well for me when others were struggling so much. I was thrilled but also a bit overwhelmed at times.  I have ended this year by closing my on-line shop for several weeks so I can regroup, relax. reflect, and envision what I want for 2021.  I have never had a business plan, but I am thinking about one now. I am not much of a social marketing net-worker and this probably won’t change.  I am busy enough without it.  My main goals have been to be authentic and true to myself and to make what I make to the best of my ability. I try to treat customers as I would want to be treated, and when the few bad eggs come around, I try to move forward and not let their energy take me down. (It usually takes me a day or two to get there. Thanks Ken for always reminding me of what is important and steering me back on course!)  Fortunately almost all of my customers are wonderful. And even though I don’t usually get to meet my Etsy customers in person, I have gotten to know many of them. Many keep returning to add to their collections or to purchase gifts. 

So 2021. Here we are.  I am still in reflection mode.  I have not been taking new orders while I work to get my orders queue down to start the new year fresh, but I am back to making pieces in a peaceful way in my brighter and warmer winter basement studio.  The winter months are my least favorite, but I try to spend time outside every day.  It’s good to have a dog.  I look forward to the spring each year when I can move back into my Red Barn Pottery studio. 

Working with Queen Anne’s Lace


Queen Anne’s Lace is one of my favorite wild flowers, and I often use it in my botanical pottery pieces. In Vermont, where the growing season is short, the Queen Anne’s Lace is starting to go to seed.  Though there has been plenty of time to work with this plant, my summer was quite full running Clay Play Camp and doing a myriad of other things, so I am feeling squeezed to make the Queen Anne’s pieces that I had hoped to make before their season ends.


Just as its name suggests, this plant is both delicate and regal.  Like a queen, it has a certain strength.  It doesn’t blow over in the wind, or bend with heavy rains, and its white flowers stay proud and white before curling up to a strong boney frame that lasts through the winter months, poking out of the snow so you can remember the warmer days behind you and those yet to come.  In the summer it grows in fields and on roadsides, volunteering itself with ease.  Yet, when you go to pick it, it doesn’t break free from where it has rooted itself very easily.  I must remember to collect it with clippers in tow and a bucket of water to place the picked flowers in.  For if the Queen Anne’s Lace is without water, it quickly shrivels up into a wilted mop, and its white petals become dust.

In Victorian times, flowers and plants were assigned meanings, and remembering this symbolism in modern day is still popular.  I enjoy thinking about these meanings when I work with a particular plant.  In the secret language of flowers, Queen Anne’s Lace is a symbol of femininity and represents perseverance in love.  It is a prolific plant which spreads its seeds in the wind and is even considered an invasive plant in some states. Originally a native plant of Europe, Queen Anne’s Lace was popular in the during the reign of Queen Anne. It is also known as Wild Carrot because it is related to the carrot, but it is actually in the parsley family!img_0268

Queen Anne’s Lace has medicinal uses.  The seeds have been used to help clear out urinary stones, and the roots which are like carrots, have been used as antacids.  A poultice of roots can be used to relieve itchy skin.

Invasive or not, I love the wispy appearance of this plant despite its true tenacity.

To see my Facebook Album, “A Step-by-Step Process of Working With Queen Anne’s Lace”, click on the following link. Botanical Wall Hanging: From Field to Firing





Turning A Hobby Into A Business

I love my studio!
I love my studio!

It felt somewhat daunting to carry out my big idea of turning a small barn on our property into a pottery studio, but I have had a lot of fun along the way making a dream into a reality. I have discovered that a lot of small steps can add up to a big accomplishment, and that is how my pottery business was born.

When I first had the idea to make pottery, I had no plans to turn it into a business. Our family had moved into an old farmhouse with an empty barn, and with the enormous support of my handy husband, we decided that the barn provided an opportunity to create a studio. I always liked making crafts and enjoyed working with clay, but it is a difficult medium to use if you can’t fire the clay into pottery. So I bought a used kiln, a few bags of clay, and a how-to book for beginners. My focus was on setting up a hobby studio on a small budget and figuring out how to fire a kiln. My first pieces were pretty awful, but I paid attention, took some notes, and then made more work.

After a while I needed a way to pay for my somewhat expensive hobby. My kids were school age, and summer camps were expensive, so I had the idea of bringing camp to us. Clay Play Studio Art Camp was born on a shoestring and with no grand plan beyond the first summer. It started as a fun idea that would incorporate my love of clay with my love of teaching, but little by little it has grown into an established program with a full time assistant. Many campers return year after year into their teens, and I am proud to say that I fill up early each summer.

Inside of the studio I have a big table my husband built for me to do my hand-built pottery.
Inside the studio I have a big table that my husband built for me to do my hand-built pottery.

My older daughter during one of the first summers of Clay Play Studio Art Camp.
My older daughter during one of the first summers of Clay Play Studio Art Camp.

My younger daughter with her clay creation at clay camp.  It lives in our kitchen and holds yummy things.
My younger daughter and her clay creation at clay camp. It lives in our kitchen and holds yummy things.










Two years ago I started my online Etsy shop. It felt like a monumental task before I started, but as I took the steps to make it happen, I was surprised by how easy it was. The financial investment was so small that I felt compelled to give it a go.   I still have a lot to learn about how to photograph my work, how to describe the pieces, and how to ship, but it has been so exciting and so much fun to learn. Previously I had been selling my work on a very small scale locally, so it still amazes me that I am now shipping my work around the world!

Most recently I took a step out of my comfort zone to develop this website. Believe me, I am about the furthest thing there is from a techie. In my household I am better known for messing up the computer than for making it work. The idea of building a website by myself seemed like a tremendous task. I have been surprised that it has been easier than I thought it might be, and as I take on the endeavor piece by piece, my site is taking shape. The other day I even figured out how to add a plug-in and create a widget, two bits of terminology that I never heard of until a few weeks ago. Now readers can sign up to subscribe to receive future blog posts!

Many years ago when out on a walk through the Vermont hills with my dear college friend, Grace, she said to me, “walking is so easy, you just put one foot in front of the other.”   I was chugging along on that walk, and it didn’t feel so easy in the moment, but it made sense then that just one step at a time added up to a significant walk. “One foot in front of the other” has turned into one of my self-talk mottos for how I approach my life, as each small step I take leads me towards a bigger goal. When I first got the idea to make a studio at home, I could not have envisioned how my desire to make some pottery for fun would have impacted my life so much today. By pushing myself to take each next step, even when it has felt a bit overwhelming, I have experienced one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my life. As my children could tell you because they have heard it so many times (possibly to their annoyance): “It is better to do something than nothing at all”.   When new ideas came to me, I could have done nothing, but all of those times that I did one more thing added up to turning a hobby that I loved into a successful business.

Getting pottery organized for a fair outside of the studio.
Getting pottery organized for a fair.



Winter Studio Down Under

Every winter I have to close my studio because the little red barn is difficult to keep heated 24/7.  When the temperatures drop I carry all of the clay and glazes into the protection of my basement for the coldest months of the year.  In former years I used the winter time to take a forced break from my clay work.

Last winter I decided that instead of taking a break from my work during the winter that I would set up shop down under.  I did, it was cold, it was poorly lit, but I was productive and I created a new line of work.

When we purchased the farmhouse, the basement had a dirt floor with little head room, but some years ago my husband dug it out (literally) and we had a concrete floor poured. The basement has a stone foundation that is over 200 years old, there are hardly any windows, and the ceiling is still pretty low.

Winter studio in the basement of our 200+ year old farmhouse. Notice the stone foundation.

*Winter studio in the basement of our 200+-year-old farmhouse. Notice the stone foundation.

Fast forward to this winter. I told myself that this year I really was going to take a break, and that I was not going to subject myself to the cold damp and dark work environment. Then I received a custom order that I really wanted to make. So here I am, back in the basement. And I am happy.  In fact I can’t even imagine if there was no clay in my hands!

Winter as it turns out is a great time to make pottery.  The busy days of the holiday season are behind me.  The garden is not calling.  Life is fairly low key.  I am grateful for my basement.


*Pottery and a wall of shipping boxes surround the ping pong table.

Clay camp tables and shelves come out of storage for the winter studio.

*Clay camp tables and shelves come out of storage and are recycled for the winter studio.