I caught up with Barbara Lane, the owner of EarthStar Pottery in North Hartland, VT. The small studio has grown since it opened in 2007 to nurture the efforts of more than 20 students. The gallery showcases the work of over 28 artists. It is now a fixture in the community, not only as a local business but as a place where people come to be nurtured and to inspire each other.
If you were to state a mission of EarthStar at this stage what would the driver be?
Fostering creativity and community. Both are really important to me.
Can you list a handful of ways that your enterprise here helps the community? What kind of role is it filling? We both know it is beyond working in clay.
For one thing it’s a gathering place. The motivation to be creative shifts the conversation toward less surface, deeper topics and so we get to know one another. Plus it’s the only place that’s open between Hartland and White River. People stop for directions to the Hartland Dam, the end to end covered bridges, to Steve’s bait shop, the dry kiln, etc. Sometimes they need directions to Quechee, Simon Pearce. That’s a larger community service.
At least one day a week there is some social time between the end of class and the open studio so we have lunch together. Shout out to Mike’s Deli. Someone buys and someone flies.
My perception of EarthStar is that it is an incredibly safe space, almost an energy sink. You, as Barbara Lane, may feel your energy ebb and flow with the needs of students. But the space really can accommodate and actually stabilize people’s energies. I think that is a draw for people. Can you speak to that?
I think that’s a truth. How I would put it is that the Coutermarches opened the store in 1951 but it was a store long before that so it has been a space where people came and talked. The values here are neighborliness, friendliness, helpfulness. So all that adds to the safety piece. The kindness and other values have all been here for probably more than a 100 years before I got here. I could feel it when I walked in. It has the old country store feel. There’s also a nurturing aspect, a place where you go to get answers. So all of these aspects add to the safety.
The tradition that I am carrying on is accessibility… handicapped accessible and highway accessible. Here I am on the way to…exit 9. “In between” space is a magic space. It’s neither here nor there.And handbuilding pottery is sort of in between art and craft, in between the skillset for art and pottery. It is a safe space too. There’s less self-judgment. It’s not as daunting.
There is an aspect of play. We don’t have to be perfect. There is an atmosphere of spaciousness and generosity, in the sense that I don’t have a nickel-dime attitude. There is some pro bono. People lose their job or are dealing with illness. They can make pottery.
Did you envision what you have here today?
Absolutely not. Surprise and gratitude. Creativity and community. The size of it is ridiculous. I never foresaw that.