While in my early 20s I first developed a severe pain in my shoulder. These episodes of severe joint pain jumped around my body for years. With the birth of my second child at age 35, the pain attacked with vengeance. I was achy all over, very weak and in a lot of pain. I could barely pick up my new son for night feedings. At this point I went to a doctor and was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I have had rheumatoid arthritis for years and have become so accustomed to modifying my work, it is second nature to me now.
I started out as a functional potter, working exclusively on the potter’s wheel. Fortunately, life events and an inspiring husband encouraged me to try working in clay using other techniques. When I was at my worst, I could still manage to hand-build clay into the vessel forms I wished to make. However, working on the wheel became next to impossible for a good many years. With new medications, I am starting to throw on the wheel again. I would love to once again be working on the wheel exclusively, but I am cautious about putting too much stress on my joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis has limited how I can work in the studio, and how much I can work, but there have been advantages as well. By modifying what I do, not maintaining one activity over an extended time, I try new ways of working. This has opened up new directions in my work. My disease has forced me to try new ideas.
This memory expresses how I feel about my work: I was traveling to Colorado with my husband for an art show. We were driving there in our van, John Prine was singing on the CD player and the sky turned black with a fast-moving storm coming over the Rockies. At the same time, the sun was shining on a massive field of sunflowers. The contrast of the two elements of nature is similar to a marriage, which manages the storms and sun of life. I feel the same way about rheumatoid arthritis and art. I live with a chronic condition that is always hovering in the background, but I will always find a way to create.