Photos by L.G. Patterson
For Angela Johnson, work is an opportunity to exercise her passion. Passion for pottery, that is.
Always interested in the arts, Johnson studied fine arts at the University of Missouri, earning her bachelor’s degree in 1995. By her late 20s, Johnson found herself living a life that was unhealthy and wound up seeking a relationship with God. It was then that she began a deep dive into pottery, discovering a new passion and a bond to her clay that was unexpected. “Every time I got at the (pottery) wheel, I just would think about my journey with God and how I was working with the clay and how much it paralleled,” Johnson says.
Behind the pottery wheel, Johnson was able to create a sense of comfort. But life often gets in the way.
Then her life flipped upside down. In 2013, Johnson’s mother had a stroke, losing the use of her entire right side. The following year, her father suffered a heart attack while riding his bicycle and died. Johnson’s grief made her return to her old passion, an emotional outlet she needed to help process the loss. “It afforded me the ability to get my wheel back out, but I didn’t realize how much that was going to be needed,” Johnson says.
The loss also triggered a new theme to Johnson’s work. Throughout much of her pottery, you’ll notice imagery of an oak tree. The tree is a representation of Johnson’s father and his deep roots in her life. “When my dad passed away, he felt like this big oak tree in our life,” Johnson says. “You don’t realize how much you were leaning on someone until they are gone.”
After all, it was the support of her parents that had allowed Johnson to discover her love of pottery in the first place. “They really gifted me and supported this,” she says.
While the tree is a common image seen in Johnson’s work, there are other patterns you might notice when viewing her pottery. Johnson uses dark and light clay, blended, to give the illusion of a texture other than clay, along with the use of etching, which creates a knit sweater pattern.
It wasn’t long before Johnson began creating pottery for her friends and family, kickstarting her small business of Angela Marie Pottery. After starting to sell a few items, Johnson decided to see what else she could do to market her products. “I reached out to a couple shops in town to see what it was all about and what doing this as a career would look like,” Johnson says. “I kept asking God, ‘What do you have for me?’”
As she attended more craft shows and found a place for her pottery in local shops, Johnson’s business began to bloom organically, though not without a few challenges known to any small business owner. “I started to feel the pinch this past year of the different selling times throughout the year and how the first and second quarter are a lot slower,” she says.
But through those slower periods, Johnson has worked on new ideas to share her crafts with the community and demonstrate how to make clay creations in one-on-one sessions. In each session, Johnson spends a couple of hours with someone to get an idea of what it feels like to throw at the wheel. “I’m right there with them, helping them know how much pressure to apply, where to apply the pressure, how much water, what speed, all those kinds of things,” she says.
For Johnson, the work will always be good because it’s what she’s passionate about — creating new works every day. “I work for Mondays, because Mondays are when I throw,” Johnson says.
No matter what happens with her business, Johnson says she will continue exercising her passion forever. “I will always do it,” she says. “It’ll always be a hobby, but will it always be a business? I don’t know.”
She does know that her faith will always play a part in her creations. “My faith journey is one of the areas of my life that have been hugely impacted by my work at the wheel,” she says.
You can find Johnson’s work at Poppy and The Tin Roof Monogram & Gift in Columbia. She also participates in numerous craft and fine art shows around Missouri. For more information on Angela Marie Pottery or to schedule a session, visit facebook.com/Angelamariepottery or angelamariepottery.com.