We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris DeRepentigny and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Well, for me, pottery is a secondary income, so I have a work, work, life balance that I need to achieve. I picked up pottery at the start of the pandemic, and during the first year and half, the majority of my English instructor job was being done remotely, which gave me those couple hours of commute time where I could work on my pottery. That extra time definitely helped to jump start my learning of the craft. As of last August, I returned back to the classroom and office full time, so redefining the work life balance has been difficult at times. With the exception of some weekend live sales and firing once per month, I try to make sure that pottery doesn’t cut into family time all that much. I tend to make a few pots the hour before bed while my wife is putting our youngest daughter, Ellie, to bed and our oldest daughter, Emma, is reading. Then, I will wake up an hour earlier than I need to for my main job and work on pottery some more before I head out for the day. Finding a way to balance it all is crucial. I love my family and spending time with them, and I really enjoy most aspects of my teaching job. Still, I need that meditative, creative time at the pottery wheel to help stay calm and grounded.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
What sets my work apart is that I use clays that I dig by hand on our family farm. I have a deep connection to the ground I played on as a child, and I now have the opportunity to take that dirt and make functional and decorative pieces that allow me to share this connection with others. While going the wild clay route is theoretically cheaper than purchasing commercial clay, the time and effort that it takes to find, dig, process, and test local clays is quite the feat. Still, I love knowing that my pottery is “from scratch.” My hands are involved in every step of the process, and I feel like that comes through in the finished products.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This one is hard. I’m not much of a socialite. Having lived in the Athens area all of my life, though, there’s no doubt that the city has something for everyone. For the artist, there’s the Lyndon House Arts Center. For music lovers, there is a long history of amazing musicians coming out of Athens, and many of the venues they started in are still open and exposing new musicians to the community and beyond. For nature lovers, there is the Oconee Rivers Greenway Trails providing access to over 11 miles of trails through the county’s parks and along the Oconee river. Then, Athens also boast the State Botanical Gardens, a 300+ acre conservatory operated by the University of Georgia. Last but not least, there’s Sanford Stadium, the home of the Georgia Bulldogs, for the sports lovers.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First, I wouldn’t have dove into pottery so fully without the support of my wife. She saw my interest grow and has agreed to all the expenses that came along with taking the craft seriously. Our daughter Emma’s interest in art and joining me to make and decorate pots has also provided continued inspiration. With that said, the hobby may have never become a business if it weren’t for my mom pushing me to sell some of the pots that were starting to stack up after my first year or so. She even went as far as to create various social media accounts for the business. I’ll never forget waking up to 2 a.m. texts with login info for Facebook and Instagram! My wife, kids, and mom have also sacrificed some weekends along the way to make doing shows possible. Outside of family, I’ve found support through various social media groups, like the Wild Clay Club on Facebook. Using local clays is a unique and trying experience, but I got so much guidance and advice through this and similar groups. Lastly, I have yet to take a pottery class, so there’s no doubt I wouldn’t be here if not for all the potter/content creators on YouTube and other platforms. I suppose that you could say I’m self-taught, but really, I owe so much to those who post tutorials and give glimpses into their own processes.