Team Whitmore: The Story
Of all the bad places to make pottery, a movable
trailer is only slightly better than a rollercoaster. I should mention that our studio is in a trailer.
The evolution (or de-evolution) leading to this reality began simply enough. We (the potter and her potter husband) discovered pottery in the dark recesses of our
university's art building a long, long time ago - back when we were even younger. We liked it...a lot.
But we had to pay for things like food, grad school, and snacks (unreasonable, I know) and so we got jobs although pan-handling probably would've paid more.
We got married, life continued, then - in an exciting twist - we moved to China to teach English because as everyone knows, if there's anything that
pays more than selling art, it's TEFL. So we partnered with a few local artists in shows to sell off our small inventory, packed our four suitcases, and left the continent.
Hundreds of students, eight countries, and two years later we returned to the States rich in experience... but less rich in the means to acquire snacks. When we first moved back to the States I had grand ideas and a plan to make those grand ideas come to pass. Team Whitmore was going to work hard and get a leg up. We weren’t going to be some washed up TEFL teachers working as grocery store clerks. We were going to make it.
The whole story is too much for this page so I will sum up. It exists, though, and if you’re really curious you can read the tale of high hopes,
misfortune, and The System here
To sum up:
Circumstances forced us to think more creatively about housing which is why we’re making pots in a trailer …two trailers actually... because a modest
salary can buy a few trailers even if it can't buy a mailbox.
We bought an old 1977 Airstream to live in and remodeled it from the bones up. That was our escape pod.
After renovating the camper, James even decided to move from the grocery store to the Trades while I slowly worked my way up from the factory floor to the IT office.
But the idea of being potters kept gnawing at us. It was there at every meal because all our dinnerware we had made ourselves. It was there whenever we glanced
at the photos of our travels through Asia - through Shogi Hamada's rustic house and giant kiln in Mashinko, Japan, for example.
And then, there was this other thing gnawing at us too: the abundance of bad pottery - both garish, lifeless industrial forms and garish, chunky handmade forms.
“At some point art went from ‘Wow, I wish I could do that!’ to ‘Ug, my toddler could that.’" For the life of me I can’t remember who said that
but I thank him for being brave enough to challenge the challengers.
There is still lots of good pottery out there too, thankfully, and those potters deserve some patronage. That’s a guild we’d join, where virtues like subtlety, strength,
liveliness, warmth, and form are still the goal rather than merely newness, shock, and individuality for individuality’s sake.
And that’s our aim: good pottery because good things matter. We want each piece we make to be a joy to use and hold as well as a joy to look at.
There is no perfect time to start a business, as many people have noted. This is unfortunate but we figured that if we didn’t do it now, well, we probably wouldn’t do it later.
So we hitched up another trailer and searched Craig’s List for equipment.
Whitmore Studio, a 24' trailer, sits about five feet away from the USS Whitmore, our 1977 Airstream. So even if we’re not exactly living on our own dirt,
we’re grateful to be out of the rain because making pottery in the rain is really hard.
Perhaps someday, if we can find enough bubble wrap, we'll roll into a city near you. Until then, thanks for supporting the craft. Really, we couldn't do it (at least for very long) without patrons like you!
- Jo & James Whitmore