Along Route 4 west of White River Junction, Bridget Baker spins pots from clay and beauty from pain
Come fall, drivers heading west of White River Junction on Route 4 may see a lean, smiling woman spinning clay into pottery beside the busy road. When they stop, they will find not just finely turned plates, cups and bowls but the story of a woman working to turn struggle into beauty.
“A lot of people are hardened off in the world. I don’t want to harden off,” says Bridget Baker, a 39-year-old potter who plans to open her studio to to the public once her daughter, Emma, starts kindergarten. “I want to make this a healing center."
As a child, Baker had more than her share of strife. She didn’t know her biological father, watched as her mother struggled through the depths of grief, and grew up mostly in the care of her aunt. While a student at Hartford High, she found inspiration in the art classes of veteran teacher Anderson Thorp.
Moving into college, she studied pottery and found her creative home. Along the way, she added driftwood sculpture to her repertoire.
“The earth is a direct connection to God,” she tells me. “I”m most at peace when I touch wood and I touch clay.”
While some artists prefer to work in solitude, and might not like being on a busy thoroughfare like Route 4. Baker welcomes the interaction — and not just for the opportunity it presents to sell her work.
“We live in a fishbowl,” she says, gesturing to the home and studio she shares with her daughter and husband at 1931 Woodstock Road. “It’s going to be exciting to open this up again.”
She opened Baker Pottery in 2010 but has kept a low profile in recent years while raising Emma, a 5-year-old who prances in bare feet around their large backyard while her mom and I visit.
“You only get five years at home when she’s this age,” Baker says. “I didn’t want to do the day care thing. The days are long but the years are short."
Baker has played a variety of roles, from selling diamonds at Amidon Jewelers to providing respite care to foster families.
As she returns to a more public profile as an artist, she expects that she will find opportunities not only to sell her work but also to share some of the joy others have helped her to find.
“If I see a 14-year-old in the foster care system, I know how to get through to her,” she says. “All that suffering is your gift.”