Artistic Heroes

Artistic Heroes

Last fall, I wrote about artistic villains and the impact they have on artists.  But what about artistic heroes and the impact they have on us? 

I think you all know the story about my dad encouraging me to become an art major, but what I talk about less often is how supportive my mother is.

For me, if something is really, really special I want to keep it to myself. I don't want to use it as a performance or to garner attention and that's all I'm going to say about the support my mother has given me. Plus there is also that part of everyone that says well of course she likes your pottery, she's my mom. 

There are people in my circle that love my pottery and me, but it’s those times when a compliment comes from someone out of the blue that can really stick with you.

Image Transfer Bowl Heidi Fahrenbacher Bella Joy Pottery

Two incidences, like that, pop in my head when I think about artistic heroes. 

One occasion was over 20 years ago. At the time I was the assistant lab tech for the ceramics studio at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. I had just graduated from college and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to do something involving ceramics, but that was as much as I knew. At that time, it was an unpaid position, but you were given clay, studio access, and could fire you work for free. Between working at a paid job and doing my studio tasks, I started making a line of pottery to sell at art fairs.

I had just fired the small gas kiln and was unloading it. I was marveling at my beautiful plates when Lilia Chen popped in the kiln room. She picked up one of my plates and said "Heidi, you have a beautiful soul." I stood there stunned. I mean I thought the plates were beautiful too, but that shook me. It also made me realize how powerful color is and how powerful beauty can be. I was working so hard at the time and I didn't know what I was doing, but when Lilia said that to me it was as if she said "I see you, you are doing great! Keep going."

I will never forget that brief encounter in the kiln room!

Large Bowl Heidi Fahrenbacher Bella Joy Pottery

The second experience occurred last summer. When I wrote about artistic villians I touched on the topic of jealousy and how it can make people do strange things. This past summer I went to the retirement party of my dear friend David Smallcombe and ran into Martha Rosenfeld.

Martha was one of my ceramics instructors when I was in high school and I don't think I had seen her since then. It was so nice! Martha has such an inviting smile, a dry wit, and is so nice to be around. I gave her a big hug and she said to me "Congratulations on being on the Today Show!" I said "Well, it wasn't me, it was my pottery, but thank you." (I say these things because attention makes me uncomfortable.) Martha stopped and said "No, you are doing it! You are really doing it. You made it. I tried to doing it, I tried making a living selling my art and couldn't and you did it! I'm so happy for you." 

I stopped (trying not to cry) and said "Thank you for saying that. That means a lot."

It's so easy to tear people down and say things like well she is probably where she is at because of x, y, and z. I know because I have been that person. To make myself feel better I would put other people down (typically just in my head) and you know what? It didn't do any good. It didn't make me feel better about myself and I realized that another person's success doesn't mean I can't have success as well There isn't a success quota.

We can all be successful together.

Nesting Bowls Heidi Fahrenbacher Bella Joy Pottery


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1 comment

I am proud of you! I’ve watched your work and love all of it from 2011 on! Keep it up, you are amazing!

Carolyn Fink

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