Draper treasure is both artist and teacher
On a crisp, frosty morning last autumn, I parked under a tree on Relation Street. I walked past a yellow, turn of the last century house. It is obviously the home of an artist. I cut down the driveway, through the Greene and Greene style gate, and over the back yard to the Windsong Studio where my dear friend, Dana Jackson, makes pottery. I was there to ask her some questions about life, family, and pottery.
How did you get started in pottery?
“I started in high school; I needed an art class. The first day I played with the clay, I fell in love with it. It made me smile.”
Dana studied pottery throughout school. Then she got a job teaching at the Salt Lake Art Center, where she taught until her husband, Tom, passed away.
“When I got married, Tom made me a great little handmade [pottery] wheel and a little pottery place in the basement. He was supportive of me; he thought my work was awesome. It’s great to have a partner like that.”
She adds, “Tom and I had a sign shop for years. We were two starving artists, and we sure had fun”
Was your family crafty growing up?
“Yes, both parents. My dad was a do-it-yourselfer. My mother was a really good artist. They made a beautiful home.”
Do your kids do pottery?
“All of my kids are artistic, but none of them do pottery… My son took over the neon sign part of the sign shop after my husband passed away. He does glass fusion and neon, and he’s good. I struggled with it. I’m used to a medium that bends and is forgiving and glass is not. You heat it up, you blow it; if it’s not perfect, you’re done. There is no redoing it. With clay, you can manipulate it and shift it. It’s a whole different ball game.”
Pottery is an ancient technology. How is that relevant today?
“It’s the history of the world. It was an accident that they even learned to fire pottery. They used to line raw pieces of clay with beeswax to make water jugs. They soon learned that the heat of the fire made the pot stronger. You can look back in time and history has been documented by pottery. You can look through shards of different areas and you will know what tribes lived there and when they lived. When I used to teach at the Art Center, at first I’d have [students] do a hand built, pre-Columbian piece because it was pure–it had all the elements of pottery. It taught the simplicity and complexity of it: it has both. For me, I think pottery’s relaxing. You’re away from modern technology. It’s a pure thing.”
The Windsong Studio is nestled in Dana’s back yard. It is full of wheels and clay and two kilns. It feels like a perfect place to create; it is a home for artisans.
When did you build your studio?
“In 2009; it was a leap of faith. My mom used to say, ‘Dana, I want you to have a little studio.’ So after my parents died I got a little gift from them and I was able to build my studio. My mom always used to wear Windsong perfume, so when I built the studio I named it Windsong. She was my biggest cheerleader, always. I used to have a kiln in the garage, but I froze in winter. I’d have to bring the glaze inside and let it thaw. I feel spoiled rotten to have this studio.”
I heard you have taught pottery classes for some special-needs kids. How does that go?
With this question, Dana smiles.
“It is crazy. The kids’ attention span is 30 seconds, but they appreciate it so much. They’re cute. I take my wheel and do a demonstration. Then they each make a little piece. It’s because of family and community support that I’m able to keep this going. People have been so supportive and generous. I really do appreciate that. I like to give back to the community. With my classes, I can give back a little.”