All I keep thinking these days is, “I finally made it.” While I am glad I took a break between undergrad and graduate school, the intervening years were a decidedly mixed bag. On the one hand, I learned a lot personally and professionally, and made a slew of great friends and professional relationships that I know will last a lifetime. On the other hand, as you may imagine, making a living with a ceramics BFA in a crummy economy was a struggle. And some of those lessons I learned were neither easy nor particularly pleasant in the learning. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my family and friends for boosting me through. And now here I am- a graduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington!

Now that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back on my laurels- far from it. Grad school is going to keep me incredibly busy in my studio, not to mention my non-ceramics classwork and teaching a class of my own. I am teaching Ceramics I for IU this year and couldn’t be happier. I also have more studio space, kiln space, and access to raw materials than I have ever had in my career. Ever. I managed to land myself in a program with three awesome mentors– Malcom Mobutu Smith, Christyl Boger, and Tim Mather. Only three graduate students are typically admitted each year so I feel very fortunate to be here. And I intend to take full advantage of this opportunity.

What are some of the things I will be doing? Well the main reason I am here is to improve my work. So I will be spending the bulk of my time working in the studio. We have a regular schedule of critiques so I can get feedback on what I am doing. Not to mention the other grad students! I have an utterly fantastic group of friends built right into the program, all of whom are wonderful sounding boards for bouncing ideas off of, and getting advice on things I haven’t tried. I knew I missed the collaborative, social environment of a group studio, but I don’t think I really knew how much until I got here. Every day I am grateful.

I’ve been making all of this work about The Dark Forest- representing tough periods we all go through in life and the dilemmas, decisions, and secret thoughts we often harbor. I initially started the series after hearing of tough things my friends were going through- only to realize that I, too, began to find the branches twisting in close overhead, and couldn’t always see a clear way back to the sunlight. And like everyone else, I hacked my way through the underbrush as best I could. Like I said, I missed being in a collaborative studio. I missed the Midwest- being close to family and friends. And I missed the vibrant and lively atmosphere of school and of city life.

A wise friend of mine recently told me, “people are like plants. They need different conditions to thrive.” Walking around town and around campus gives me this wonderful feeling of knowing that THESE are those conditions. I made it to the right place. And I am ready to get started!