His Turn at the Wheel

James “Jim” Johnson has a habit of adopting his wife Kathy’s hobbies. In early 2020, the couple took a pottery class and bought a wheel, kiln, and other supplies needed for their home workshop. While quarantining at home during the pandemic, Kathy and Jim spent time in their shop creating. Jim was drawn past the woodworking shop and beyond the makeshift photography studio to the pottery wheel. Soon, Jim’s grown children and eight grandchildren became the recipients of bowls, vases, and mugs of all varieties as he honed his craft. His six-year-old grandson became his biggest fan. Jim laughs, “His parents finally said ‘no more.’ He had my pottery collected all over his room.”

Corporate Office to Creative Studio

Jim retired from a forty-year career in oil and gas marketing in August of 2021. He says, “Every day I wake up at 5 am, and by 6 am, my hands are in the clay.” In a demanding field, Jim recalls vacations and evenings often interrupted. He enjoys spending quiet days with the clay and likens it to his own private Disneyland, always something to do and discover.

As the couple made a significant life transition into retirement, Jim says that pottery has given them joy. While Kathy enjoys hand-building with clay herself, she also photographs Jim’s work. Jim says with laughter, “My time at the wheel keeps me out of Kathy’s way.” He encourages other retirees: “When you retire, find an activity beyond your big screen TV.”

After some time, Jim started an Instagram, something he swore he’d never do. He was surprised by the inspiration and encouragement he found from other potters worldwide. He’s sold many pieces via social media, recently catching the eye of a designer who landed him a commission for a set of mugs to be used in a coffee shop in Dallas.

A Potter’s Process

“I’m busy all day,” Jim says. The process, called throwing, includes sculpting wet clay on the wheel and letting it dry 24 hours, being sure to catch the window of not too dry or wet. Next, he attaches the cured clay to the wheel and trims; at this point, a handle can be attached or any carvings may be added. The piece is then dried for a week and then fired at 2000 degrees for 24 hours before the glaze is added and back into the kiln it goes for the final fire. Jim says, “Opening the kiln is like Christmas morning for Kathy and me. We gather around to see whether we got socks or a beautiful gift that truly delights us!”

A Legacy in Clay

“I like the idea that something I’ve poured myself into will last and bring someone joy,” Jim says. “For me, pottery satisfies my creative urge. The art in and of itself is peaceful.” Jim plans to begin showing his work in public, at festivals and art shows, as well as growing his Instagram following. He also welcomes those interested in viewing his work in the studio.

“Once a week we have friends over and we all work on projects side by side. We have a great time.” Jim expresses his gratitude to be able to retire and enjoy his newfound hobby, or may be a career for the next forty years?

You can find Jim Johnson’s pottery on Instagram @jjclaypottery or by emailing Jjclaypottery@yahoo.com.

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