When I was a kid I took a scattershot approach to art– trying all manner of stuff, from painting to silversmithing. But in my early 20s, I found clay, and that has been the constant in my life. I’ve written elsewhere about my early struggles with the medium, which were seriously compromised by a complete lack of money. My first kiln was wood-fired, and built of sandstone and mud. My first wheel was home-made, from a truck rim filled with concrete and an iron pipe. But surprisingly these early struggles did not discourage me.
In my 30s, I returned for a while to a kind of 2-dimensional art– designing stained glass. As a lifelong science fiction fan, I naturally gravitated toward that kind of imagery in my speculative pieces. These windows garnered a fair amount of media attention, and got me into a number of very good shows, but as much as I liked having made them, the process of actually making them was not as much fun. I say this even though my wife Nancy did the lion’s share of the work involved in constructing the windows. In addition, if I thought dragging pottery to shows around the country was tough, hauling large stained glass windows was even tougher.
These windows had elaborate back stories, and in my early 40s, I decide to elaborate on them. I started writing, and soon was selling just about everything I wrote, including much short fiction and three novels. Here’s a link to a bibliography. Some short fiction derived directly from the windows. A window I called The Transpirene Addict was the direct inspiration for a novella called The Beauty Addict, which was a finalist for the Nebula.
But most of the artistic side roads I’ve gotten lost on were closely related to clay. I made porcelain beads for a while, and I still have buckets of them laying around. It’s the same with the porcelain cabinet knob business I ran for several years.
But I can honestly say that I’ve never had as enthusiastic a response to any of those as I’ve had with the pipes. And I’m having a wonderful time making the pipes, and I’m sure it’s partly because of the reaction I’m getting. It’s nice to be appreciated.