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As many of you know, I was passionately in love with clay and spent a lot of time at the "pot shop". That passion has continued throughout my life, and I have Allegheny to thank for it. My roomie at the time, Toni (Troll) Swain Marwitz, will remember in great detail the clay-covered clothing in the middle of the floor and the dust that made its way into the room via the potter! Now, I have my own studio, ( Sand Hill Pottery) which is considerably cleaner than the pot shop since I do try to contain all the dust to the basement level. TRY being the operative word. After teaching art in the South Windsor, CT school system for 36 years, I'm having a wonderful time playing with clay again and making a few dollars to support my habit. Some of my work can be seen at aosct.org It's the website for an annual event in which I have participated for 5 years.
In 1975 I met husband, Bill, who wears many hats: retired professor of photography at Worcester State College, Episcopal priest, geologist, landscaper, photographer, wall builder, Stage 4 kidney cancer survivor ( 10 years) and last but by no means least, supportive husband. Our life has been very full: leading photo trips to islands off the coast of Maine; raising Bill's kids when they came to live with us in 1981; gardening, and traveling abroad and in the U.S. and Canada, taking workshops in clay, drawing, painting, and spiritual healing. We have 6 wonderful grandchildren, and enjoy seeing them when we can in Charlotte, NC and Mescalero, NM.
Probably the most incredible adventure we've taken together has been that of Bill's cancer journey in 2006. Bill beat tremendous odds, with the help of a rigorous treatment called Interleukin-2, and I have no doubt his attitude and prayers from around the world also had a lot to do with his recovery. Since then, life seems more precious, and we enjoy being together more than we ever have. We are so fortunate to have the lives we do. Every day is special.
Retirement is great. Although we fill our calendars far too full, we love not having a routine dictated by someone or something else. It's our own choice, so when we collapse with a glass of wine at the end of the day, we can happily blame it all on ourselves! I'm on the board of our local art center and participate with the Friends of the Tolland Library, as well as working in the studio. Bill is on the Tolland Design Advisory Board, ( for new building projects in town) and photographs for a local landscape company in exchange for their services. We enjoy traveling in our 5th wheel and tend to do two month trips every other year to see the kids and everything in between. When one family lives in the south and one in the southwest, there are a lot of things to see in between! In August we'll embark on another adventure, the ultimate goal being to attend a feast on the Mescalero Indian reservation for our granddaughter Megan's achievement of Associate's degree from the New Mexico Military Institute. From the northeast to the south to the southwest...and lots in between!
I've enjoyed reading many of the capsules on the Allegheny 66 website, and marvel at how varied and interesting everyone's lives are. Looking forward to catching up!
The lovely green bottle you see here, serves to remind me where I started; that's the only reason I haven't trashed it, too! It keeps me humble. After teaching high school ceramics for umpteen years, I never saw any pots THAT ugly come out of MY art room!
I hit the ground running when I entered the "pot shop" at Allegheny. At that time, I was struggling with drawing-- Kleeman had made fun of my portraits-- and I had plans to be an art teacher. Clay turned out to be my savior and my passion, as I spent as much waking time as I could in that wreck of a building. My dad called my first teapot, (whose lid must have weighed 5 pounds), a "urinal", and my hand built monstrosities ended up holding garden tools, A later variation on those hand built pieces was dropped by a friend's maid....a directive by said friend's husband.. (Yes, you know who you are, but I won't tell! )
My first experience with clay ….in kindergarten I slapped my left hand down into a piece of wet, cold clay, and when it dried, I painted it green. Years ago, my dear sweet mom gave it to me after having saved it for MANY years, and I trashed it. Not in front of her, of course. Segue to high school, when the art teacher only let the boys use the potters wheel, and we girls made pots from coils.
Clay: No Longer Ugly, Now Alluring
by Susi Kinsloe Byers
In the summer of 1965 I took a pottery class at U of AZ and discovered texture, which became the theme of my senior project. You may remember the show that Trisha and I did with pots and paintings in Brooks Hall, the spring of 1966. I was" honored" to have one of my large hand built pieces stolen.......and honored again to find that Bill Campbell still has one of my piggies. At Penn State I began to refine my work, and when I graduated from the Masters program, I found a nifty spot teaching high school in South Windsor, CT. There, I designed a ceramics program and quite happily passed my passion on to the students. However, popularity of classes waxes and wanes, and when a new teacher came in to teach jewelry, there were only so many students to go around, and enrollment in my classes dropped, so I was back and forth from the middle to the high school. After 36 years I retired from the middle school, which I learned to love.
Retirement gave husband, Bill, and me a chance to travel in our camper. It gave me a chance to reacquaint myself with my potters wheel and studio which I only used for making Christmas presents during the middle school years. In the winter of 2008, for my Apache granddaughter's feast ( coming of age ceremony) I committed to making some 100 mugs for her to give as gifts. Friends were skeptical, how could I possibly get them all done, as well as to make and try out new glazes? 100 mugs sounds like a lot, and at the time it certainly was. I kept a notebook with digital images, both of the bisque mugs and the glazed, and by the time we started out for the feast in April, I had the number I needed, although nothing consistent, and all of them different. By then, I had a fairly reliable palette of glazes, and I could see in what direction my pottery was going. In 2010 I decided to do Artist Open Studio, a self-guided tour of a diverse group of artists who opened their studios or sold their ware in groups at different locations. I joined a wonderful group of women, a quilter, a jeweler and a graphic artist. We had a blast, drinking wine, laughing, eating the snacks we had brought as well as the lunches we made. And we loved meeting and chatting with the people who came through the door. We even sold stuff, and I did well enough to come back the following year. Each year got a little better, and we continued to have our fun.
Last year I bought a new potters wheel-- which is so quiet that I forget to turn it off! I also bought a cushioned stool, after all the years of sitting on a flat, hard school variety. Being comfortable allows me to spend a lot more time in the studio without so many creaks in my own mechanics, and the last couple years have been beyond all of my expectations. So, despite all the giggles and laughs I cherish with my friends, I decided to open my own studio for AOS. In addition to 5 days of Open Studio, I also participate in a show at the art center where I'm on the board, and at another art center where I am a member. Opening my own studio at home, will give me an opportunity to cut down a bit on the schlepping, although I now will have to clean up the place, a project in itself. I will also miss the love, support and laughter of my woman friends, but I decided it was time to take the plunge. Have I built up enough followers? Will people come down the hill and off the beaten path to my studio? Should I stay with the group on a well-traveled road? Time will tell. It's a risk, but then, isn't that what life is about?