“My mission in life is to teach people how to throw pots,” says pottery artist Carey Shanahan. Carey owns Earthbound Designs Pottery Studio, a studio and classroom in the basement of her home. The studio brings her joy and happiness but it was a rough road to get to where she is today.
Carey first started pottery when she was 9 years old and continued on and off through college, where she spent four years doing ceramics while getting her degree in landscape architecture.
Post-graduation, Carey took a job as a manager at Home Depot. She and her partner Jaime moved around the country for 18 years before settling in Burnsville, Minn., about five years ago.
Then, she got a call – her mother’s breast cancer had come back. At 81, she had been in remission for five years. Carey was sure she’d beat cancer again. She flew down to Florida to be with her parents. This time, the chemo knocked her mom down too hard to recover. The day after her mother passed away, Carey’s father committed suicide. It shook Carey to the core.
She returned to Minnesota with her mother’s dog Daisy; before she passed away, her mom had asked Carey to take care of her. Now the owner of three dogs, Carey decided it was time to plant roots. “I’m going to be happy in life from now on,” she determined. She wanted a house with a yard for her dogs, hardwood floors, a clawfoot tub and room for a studio.
With Jaime’s support, Carey quit her job at Home Depot. The two bought a house in Rochester and Carey began work on her pottery studio. Carey is quick to point out that it was Jaime’s steadfast support that pulled Carey through all the doubt about opening a studio, all the times she felt like giving up. That, and her mother’s words that life is short. So she persevered.
After taking a pottery class herself, Carey decided she not only wanted a studio, but that she wanted to teach others how to throw pots. “I want people to leave (my classes) with pieces they’re proud of,” she says. “I believe I can teach anyone how to throw a pot.”
But where she finds true joy is when her studio members tap into their own creativity and start making art. “I love seeing creativity emerge. That’s why I do this.”
Carey has used the first two years of her studio’s life as a learning experience, figuring out what works and what doesn’t in a membership studio. She spoke with owners of other pottery studios and has come up with what she believes are the best policies and procedures for Earthbound Designs. After closing in October for a month of final renovations, the studio has reopened and the members couldn’t be happier.
Neither could Carey. Because the studio is in her basement, Carey hears noise bubble up from the space every now and then. “Hearing laughter down there is the most fulfilling thing,” she says. “Where else could these people (the studio members) get together? This space, pottery, brings people together,” reflects Carey. The 16 current members are an eclectic mix of people of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs and lifestyles. Yet they come together in the studio to talk shop, get dirt under their nails and make art.
Carey takes extreme pride in her studio and in her teaching and truly loves the space she has created. Pottery brings joy to her life and she wants to share that joy with others.
“My best joy is opening the kiln with a class and everyone looking in, seeing their faces light up and hearing their gasps when they see finished pieces,” she says. She admits that even she still gets butterflies when she opens the kiln and sees what has been created. That’s how she knows she’s on the right path.
There are three member wheels and a forth wheel for Carey in the studio. A manager at the People’s Food Co-op, she works full time but still manages to touch clay every day.
“The studio is satisfying to my soul,” she says, sitting behind a wheel, ready to throw a bowl. “The studio is a little dream but it’s a big dream in my world and it came true.”
For more information about studio membership or classes, visit the Earthbound Designs Pottery Studio facebook page or email email@example.com.