We had the good fortune of connecting with Carol G Aronowsky and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carol G, what is the most important factor behind your success?
This was hard to choose because all of the questions had some factors I could respond to. I chose this question to answer because I feel I have been a success though not in the traditional measurements our society might use.
My career in pottery started the day my career started as a Speech Pathologist in Neurological Rehabilitation. I bounced back and forth between the 2 on a daily basis. It also occupied an internal debate in my head for much of my careers.
I am a very well regarded pottery teacher in the LA area. (That’s how I know Grace and her mom.) I think I am my own brand. My ‘brand’ in teaching is to is to recognize how to tailor the process to each student and add some humor! I like to open the class by asking about their expectations for our time together. I get a lot of positive feedback from my students.
It also helps that I am skilled and educated potter. And that I have degrees in Education and Communication.
My endless internal debate revolved around whether or not to return to art school for an MFA in order to teach at the college level as my sole source for income and insurance. The advice from Joe Soldate (legendary pottery Cal State LA professor who became my friend) and from other wise elders was don’t!
I, ultimately realized one eve while teaching the perfect class in the perfect setting that it would never be enough. It did not fill me as my Speech career did nor meet my intellectual needs. Later when my hospital closed, I was approached and invited by every neurologist, every intern I had trained and every former director I had worked under to join their staff. I hadn’t realized the impact I had had.
That brings me to the ‘success of my brand’. Do you measure success by rising up the employment ladder, by sales, by followers, by product orders, by gallery openings or raises? If one does, I likely don’t come up to contemporary definitions. But if you could measure contentment and satisfaction, then I got it!
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.
I feel I covered a lot but to give some details:
I taught and still teach pottery in private studios in Los Angeles while maintaining my own pottery studio for production. I can teach most anything on the wheel for any level. I also teach hand building as needed. I once ran a Senior Citizen Summer Camp ceramics program in upstate New York. That was a hoot!
The challenges are often about the personalities and expectations of the students as well as the studio owners. One unexpected challenge, has been that some students come with a lot of pain. They are going through tumultuous personal time and thought clay would be healing. Sometimes it is and sometimes not. Again it has to do with expectations.
I think I am separate from other teachers in many ways. I am a very highly skilled potter. I have vast experience in making, and studying all aspects of ceramics including its history and archeology. I travel to study other cultures and their crafts. I’ve also travelled to sell my work. I have mentioned my degrees in Communication and Education. I like to encourage the class to work together. I adjust to the student as much as possible as opposed to the other way around. I am interested in how they learn. And I encourage appreciation of our craft and the studio.
I don’t demonstrate too much. I don’t find it is too useful for the students to watch me work for too long.
The younger gen is used to watching potters on You Tube. Sometimes that results in folks thinking I can’t throw anything but beginner pots but c’est la vie!
And then there is my humor. Students often stare at me blankly for a few classes. I have a student who has been with me for years. (She’s rising corporate star at Disney!) and I asked her 1x how she related to my humor. She gave the best response ever. She said: “Never an issue, she went to Brandeis and took ‘Carol’ in college!”
A new stress are on-line reviews. They have become super important and are baffling to deal with.
Regarding my Speech Pathology career. I diagnosed and treated adults with neurological disorders in acute, rehabilitation, out-patient and home settings. My specialty was in-patient rehabilitation. My patients had an assortment of speech, language, cognitive and swallowing problems. I thrived in the team aspect of in-patient treatment. Teams were made of Speech, Occupational, Physical Therapists, with RN, Neurologist, MSW, Neuropsychologist, Dietician and of course the patient and families. Goals were set in real life terms. What set me apart, I think was my creative problem solving skills and again to tailor the situation to the patient needs. The patients and families were obviously going through a devastating time but honestly in all my years I never had a situation where they did not work hard and try their best to cope. They were a constant source of inspiration. The administrations were very respected especially at my main job at Daniel Freeman Hospital but the financial stresses on the institution were enormous and eventually fatal.
What did I learn? Communication is all important.
The constant struggle to choose between clay and Speech Pathology was a drain. And within clay there were always the battles regarding; was I selling enough, was my worked liked, how many galleries and shows could I get in?
It was a huge relief to understand that teaching was gratifying and kept me engaged with young creative people but the hospital work was my mainstay. It took 30 years to get it!
I am a functional potter. (Note;I am a master mug maker and I honed my skills at my hospital. The Sisters Of Carondolet were way ahead of the times and banned styrofoam from the coffee room so I made mugs to order. They had to be made perfectl for customer satisfaction as the ‘customer’ worked next to me!) These days my work reflects my travels. I like my work. I don’t know why it never took off, but watching the new generation I think I get it.
The new potters or ‘ceramic artists’ have amazing skill sets in marketing, digital media, production methods, recognizing trends and a host of other talents in addition to being fine at their craft. Interestingly, I have had some in my pottery classes.
BTW, I had my 15 minutes of fame. Years ago the LA Times interviewed a very prominent LA Landscape Architect who bought my bowls for client gifts. The bowls were on the front page of a Styles Section at Christmas. Wow, what a sales bump that was!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
1. Fun is in the eyes of the beholder. These are some of the places my friends enjoy. I always check theatre and concert options.
Not in any order.
Sakura House for Yakatori: delicious and it offers reservations.
Mitsua Japanese Market with food court and stationary store.
Cash and Carry in Culver City (old-fashioned office supply store)
Rele Gallery on Melrose, Nonaka-Hill Gallery on Highland (I check gallery listing to see if there is a clay show anywhere)
Finn Restaurant in Culver City (walking distance from my house)
Mar Vista Sunday Farmer’s Market
Walk on Marina Del Rey Pier and Venice Canals
Huntington Library and Gardens
Getty Museum both campusus
Charmlee Park hike
Poppy Preserve if website recommends
Stroll, shop and eat on Sawtelle Blvd.
Rainbow Acres Natural Foods
My home: I have pottery collection from trips to Japan and SW.
Green and Green House (The Gamble House) tour in Pasadena or a drive around Bungalow Heaven in Pasadena or I check if there are any other Architectural Tours while guests are here. Pasadena has a great Mid-Century House tour.
Surfas Kitchen Store
My studios: Good Dirt LA and Green and Bisque Pasadena Clayhouse
Barnsdale Art Park
Fowler Art Museum at UCLA
The Wende Museum in Culver City is fascinating Cold War museum if my cuz visits who is
German History Prof.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Books: All! (I also read half dozen newspapers daily.) I am an avid reader of all genres. In clay I was moved most by the life stories of Hans Coper and Lucie Rie. Hans Coper was perhaps the finest clay artist to have ever lived and he called himself “a humble potter”. I keep a pottery related book list for my students who mostly roll their eyes but every once in a while I get a kindred book spirit. We usually remain friends. The Unknown Craftsman by Soetsu Yanagi is tops for me.
My parents and my 2 older brothers were and are extraordinary examples of highly principled folks who taught by example. They My parents were products of WW2 and the Great Depression. ‘Hate’ (the word plus the feeling) was forbidden in our home and the key to being a good person was to think of other’s needs even at cost to yourself. My grandparents were also very progressive and would be considered Liberals and Feminists today.
One book that helped with the early death of my mother were “Refuge” by Terry Tempest Williams.
My supervisors at my Hospitals; Daniel Freeman Memorial (Shaun Brayton Garrett), Long Beach Memorial, (Robyn Ogawa). They recognized and valued my dual skills of creativity and science. They supported them always.
Joseph Rael: Native American teacher who reminded me that the Hospital was my family.
The owners of Good Dirt LA (Lina Alvarez) and Xiem Clay Center (Kevin Nguyen and Brian Fees). Kevin knew my teaching skills from the Clayhouse in Santa Monica and invited me to teach the 1st class at his new studio. I never left. Suzette Munnik, the manager and Brian Fees were enormously supportive to me always. Brian taught me a lot about managing a business. It is now Green and Bisque Pasadena Clayhouse. I still teach there and will return in June 2021.
Lina has supported my teaching and graciously allows me flexibility to travel.
Instagram: @carolaronowskypottery @fencesmakegoodneighborscga @I_crack_myself_up_cga