Marietta-based pottery artist Ann Wallin, like many artists, took an unconventional pathway to where she is today. Wallin has spent a lifetime on her journey to create art from a place of peace and harmony.
Originally from Norfolk, Virginia Wallin says she was an active little sun-drenched girl playing at the beaches as often as she could. Availability of fine art in her area was limited, though she did study ballet, tap dancing and piano.
It wasn’t until she attended Radford College in Roanoke that she received her initial exposure to fine art. Wallin took a sculpting class, where she was bitten by the ‘artistic bug.’ She recalls the euphoric feeling of molding a lump of clay into something as beautiful as a bust while in class.
“I found it [the completed bust] extremely fulfilling,” said Wallin.
But life took her in another direction. She left college after two years to marry and start a family. For the next 20 years she would relocate across the U.S. with her husband’s position as a naval officer. During that time she worked as a substitute teacher, office receptionist, book keeper and real estate agent.
However, there was always a burning passion to feed her creative side lying just beneath the surface of who Wallin had become. Wallin said she attempted to placate the feeling by taking workshops and classes on furniture making, silk screening and ceramic pouring.
After taking several classes on pottery making while her husband was stationed in Charleston, S.C., Wallin had finally found an outlet for her creative passion.
“I felt a genuine connection to the potter’s wheel and just knew it was something I wanted to continue on with,” Wallin said of the next phase of her life.
Wallin set out as a professional potter in 1985. She admits she was attracted to the shows and exhibits, where interaction with her audience was guaranteed. She enjoyed the audience getting a chance to see, feel and touch her work. She recalls seeing people’s connection to her work as they were drawn in to her ‘mini-store’ with curiosity and questions.
Adding to her artistic portflolio, Wallin learned the Japanese glazing technique of ‘raku,’ which she now uses for most of her work. Raku is distinguished by its combination of quick fire and combustible fire methods in affecting the glaze of a piece of pottery.
Wallin was able to produce a steady income stream for a long period of time by attending fine art and fine craft shows, which usually had a panel of judges rating her work. However, she doesn’t see those same markets as viable in today’s marketplace, with increases to the costs associated with participating in those events.
“I am concerned about the future of the craftsman in this country; I tell people of my stuff that ‘It’s all made in America,’ but it’s very difficult to keep your product at a price people will buy,” she said.
Consequently, Wallin said she has seen a significant decrease in the number of people getting into the field of pottery making. She attributes much of it to competition with foreign imports, where artists sell their wares for next to nothing because they have little overhead. Conversely, she said, the American craftsman has to absorb so much cost that it’s hard to get suitable margins of profitability to sustain a living.
Wallin says she proudly tells her patrons, “The work I make is made in America, -- [I am the] chief, cook and bottle washer.”
Wallin became an advocate for the arts when she moved to Marietta in 1983. She was a part of a movement throughout the community that culminated in the creation of The Steeple House – Marietta’s first effort at a community-based arts platform. The project was a success, spawning the development of The Arts Place, The Mable House Arts Center and Amphitheatre and The Big Shanty.
Today, those arts centers are under fire with county politicians who are dealing with budget deficits and reviewing ways of cutting their expenditures. Wallin fears the progress she and so many others have made on enhancing artistic awareness throughout Marietta and Cobb County is at serious risk. She only hopes the craftsmen who comprise the artisan community will continue to find ways to thrive.
“I’m hoping that the county will participate in continuing to fund these arts centers -- I have had [art] students who have gone on to professional careers in the arts and it was because of their exposure to art in those centers,” Wallin said.
Ann Wallin’s work can be viewed at the Avery Gallery in downtown Marietta. For commissioned works, contact her through her website at: www.annwallinpottery.com .