Early on in life, I had a keen interest in using my hands and always enjoyed making things. So it wasn’t surprising that at the age of twenty-eight, while working as a draftsman, I began taking pottery classes at “Park Street Potters” under the guidance of Richard Suarez and Mary Barringer. Somewhere, perhaps through earlier yoga experience, I had acquired the discipline and focus needed to learn the skill and art of pottery. While learning, I also had to deal with the fact I had only two-thirds of a left hand, the result of experiments with homemade fireworks at the age of thirteen. This made me work harder and with time and lots of practice, I finally achieved what potters with ten fingers could do easily. For one and a half years, I persisted, grew, and matured at Park Street Potters until their economic failure.
In 1975, I went into business and started Greenleaf Pottery in East Hartford, CT. In 2008, I moved to my next studio in South Windsor, CT. Each pottery has consisted of a gallery, student area with wheels, a work space for myself, and a gas kiln outside.
I came from a family that had no business experience, but my parents did stick by with total encouragement as well as some monetary support. Without them I surely wouldn’t be here today. Many important lessons were learned. Paying bills with little income wasn’t easy. I’m glad no one told me how difficult the profession of potter would be. I believe that the process is the reward.
I’ve learned plenty from my students and they have also helped spread the word about the Pottery. My main focus however, has always been producing and selling pots. Now there are tens of thousands of my functional pieces out there.
I believe that apprenticeship is a very good program. Over the years numerous apprentices have worked in my studio. It’s certainly worth the effort to help students and others make it. There is strength through numbers, and I believe that giving back for what we receive is important.
Wanting to have children overcame any conscious monetary concerns. In 1980, I married and three years later, we had a family of four wonderful children. This certainly complicated my work situation but I was determined to remain a potter (one who makes his living from producing and selling pottery) and still have a family. The two didn’t mix well, so after ten years of struggle, we divorced. As there wasn’t much money, I moved into my studio. Sleeping on the floor wasn’t so bad after all. Through all these life changes, my four children were always a high priority. I would close the shop whenever I needed to do a parent thing. Twice a week or more, they would sleep over giving me the opportunity to cook, clean, love and guide them. As time went by, my children grew up and married, I married again and I now have six grandchildren. I’ve learned a lot during my journey.
I’ve changed the look of my work many times over the years and fortunately I’ve managed to keep selling it. In fact in the fall of 1996, the Wadsworth Athenaeum purchased a large piece of mine. I’m very proud of that achievement.
Several changes have occurred in the last year. Of course much changed due to Covid,. Once businesses reopened, I managed to keep the teaching side of my business going with safety protocols in place. The four months of lockdown in 2020, with zero income was a huge challenge. With so much time alone in my studio, early in that period, I decided not to produce any of my regular products. I switched to hand building large slab pieces. The learning curve was steep, but I persevered through the problems and am now working in an exciting new direction along with my other work.
The second and even bigger change is that as of the summer, I closed Greenleaf Pottery and began a new chapter. I now have a home studio in a semi-retirement fashion with smaller classes, a new gallery, new kiln and a new business: Greenleaf Stoneware.
I have a skill in making pottery that others admire, and a business that few in my area have achieved. Life is good.