Serendipity in Ceramics


I’m the type of person who will hold on to elements that don't quite fit in my life in fear of giving up a relative comfort that comes with complacency.   In 2016 I was working as a global product manager at a Fortune 100.  I was proficient at my job and the pay was the best I ever made, but at the end of the day I was left unfulfilled and felt I didn't fit in with the work culture.  While struggling to make norms work, I hoped to encounter a moment that would allow me to make a calculated step towards change—but instead life made the executive decision and guided me to ceramics.  

 Imagine my awe when I first stepped foot on campus.

Imagine my awe when I first stepped foot on campus.

After adding countless pottery inspirations to my Pinterest board, I decided to enroll in a waitlisted course at The Contemporary, thinking I could manage night classes after work.  A week before class started I received a call informing me that the waitlist opened and I eagerly signed up.  The very next day my director told me there was no longer a position for me.  

In that moment I felt a burden dissolve and I told my boss he made the right decision.  I remember the incredulous look on his face-- I should have been devastated, but instead of focusing on my loss, I saw a new path set before me.

 The path to art school, tucked under trees and strung lights.

The path to art school, tucked under trees and strung lights.

Working with clay feeds my inquisitive nature as there is no one way to approach the art form, and in that exploration I became a quick study.  There’s a catharsis to throwing on the wheel, and the tactility in shaping clay has allowed me to express myself in a way that liberates when my mind is overwhelmed with information.  

 My first set of hand-sculpted ceramicware.

My first set of hand-sculpted ceramicware.

I have since volunteered at a nonprofit art studio and outfitted its ceramics department with eight-foot-long canvased worktables and other studio essentials.  I’ve taught ceramics nights to aspiring potters and sold my work to stores, and these opportunities have been offered to me on what seemed to be a whim, but perhaps were inspired moments that reshaped the trajectory of my life.  

There are many highly-respected master ceramists who are true professionals, and I glean from their knowledge.  There are also clay enthusiasts like myself who are compelled by an intrinsic force that might be drawn from our DNA.  Before there were big box stores, a local potter would craft functional kitchenware and decorative items for the community.  In researching your lineage you may find a potter in your family—and now you too are answering the call.  

Hand built canvas worktables for clay and pottery.

Ceramics sustains humanity in a cyclical nature that is fundamental to our being: its materials are sourced from the earth, wares used in our daily lives, and our remnants to be discovered in archeological finds.  Popular culture has redefined ceramic arts as en vogue obtainable by the talented few, but you don’t have to exceptionally artistic to create pieces you’ll admire and use often.  You simply need an inspired push, and it is my hope that this blog encourages you in your pursuit.  

The Little Clay Workbook was written in response to lingering questions I had in art school, techniques I honed and were inquired by fellow ceramists, and is meant to be used as supplemental reading to build your confidence in ceramics.  There are many guides that will further you with more advanced applications, but in this blog you will find the basics laid out in an approachable manner, as told by an art student exploring clay and its endless potential.


To keeping the wheel of ceramics turning,

Traci Ward

Potter and Owner of Little Clay Studio

Little Clay Studio