We had the good fortune of connecting with Lee Minton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lee, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
My path towards making ceramics was a slow step by step path as I balanced working with transferring from working as a fine artist & designer to working with my husband’s photography business while raising 2 amazing kids, yet still finding time to make creative work.
During my children’s younger years, I worked part time with my husband producing his commercial photography shoots and managing the accounting. At times, I missed working directly with my own creativity, but working with my husband allowed me much needed flexibility while my children were growing up, so this was a good balance at the time.
Over the years as my kids became more independent and they attended school, I noticed that I was really missing my role in the creative world. This is when things started to shift for me into the world of ceramics. It was eight years ago when took my kids to an art camp and stumbled upon a ceramics class.
At this time in my life, my youngest daughter started kindergarten and with this added free time, I decided to sign up for a ceramics class that was once a week for 3 hours because I felt I suddenly had a little time for myself. I quickly realized my love for ceramics and I was excited that I could carve this time out for myself.
After a year of taking classes, I really wanted to find a way to do more than 3 hours of ceramics a week. After assessing my work and home schedule, I felt like I could move to a new ceramics studio where I could go 6 hours a week. At first it was hard to find this time in my schedule because I was still working with my husband and also managing the various activities with my children. I couldn’t always attend 6 hours per week, but I still found ways to do ceramics, even if it meant hand building ceramics from home.
A few years later and after gifting many ceramic pieces of mine to friends, I was encouraged to start selling my work. I soon learned that 6 hours a week wasn’t enough time for me to keep up with production in order to keep my shop stocked. I heard about a studio that has a 24-hour membership where I could go anytime, I was able to, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to move to the next level.
Years of doing this worked great for me and then the pandemic happened that derailed everyone. I was in a panic that the studio would need to shut down (which it did like most places.) I had never wanted to do ceramics at home because I enjoyed going to the membership studio for many reasons. One reason is that it gave me separation from my home and work life. This balance of going to the studio meant that this is time just for ceramics. I also enjoy being around other artists and seeing the creative and diverse work that can come out of a what starts off as a lump of clay, it’s really inspiring.
With this idea that the pandemic would stop ceramics for me for an unknown amount of time, I had to reassess again. On March 20, 2020, I decided to buy a pottery wheel and made room to work from home. I thought, well this will be temporary, but at least I can keep making ceramics. I didn’t have a kiln, but I wanted to use the stay-at-home time productively to maintain some sort of balance and normalcy. In order to figure out how to make this work, I went into “producer” mode which I learned from working with my husband. I made an excel sheet listing all the types of work I like to make, figured out how much clay I needed based on maybe being 3 months on lockdown (little did we all know it would be much longer). I bought several hundred pounds of clay, got a drying rack and started making work. However, my cats presented a problem since unfired ceramics are extremely fragile and my cats were very interested in exploring my pieces, which did not end well! So- I needed to figure out a way to fire the pieces. I wasn’t in a position to buy a kiln, but thankfully potters just might be the most generous and kind people out there. A ceramic friend of mine allowed me to fire my work at his garage studio which at least made my ceramics more cat proof until I could get back to my membership studio for glaze firing.
At first doing ceramics at home wasn’t ideal. I don’t have access to a sink for cleanup, my space is connected to my bedroom, my kids were doing at home online school and they needed a lot of support. Because I didn’t have a set block of uninterrupted time, it was really hard to plan time to make ceramics. However, I came up with a balance and ended up being able to produce much more work than when I was driving to the studio. Although I really liked being able to get out of the house and spend a solid 6 hours making ceramics, at home that just wasn’t going to be possible and I needed to find a new way to work. At home I have maybe an hour here or there, but being at home all the time, I soon had more than 6 hours spread out over the course of the day.
My membership studio is open again right now but I decided to keep throwing at home and then doing the firing/ glazing at the studio. This unexpected work plan was never my intention, but it works really well for me. I still have future plans of building that perfect studio where I have a kiln (and of course a sink!) and I have no doubts that with planning, that will become a reality soon.
Working with ceramics involves balance on so many levels. The clay can have a mind of its own at times and sometimes I’m off my game and things just seem harder than usual. There’s also so many unexpected things (good and bad) that happen with working with ceramics and many of those things have taught me something new. Those new things can present themselves in a learning way which can also lead to new creative ventures. This is something that I absolutely love about ceramics, it seems that the options are endless and that there’s always room for growth and learning while balancing life. I still produce shoots for my husband and of course I’m still a mom to my girls- it’s all a balancing act, but I like it that way.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I received a BFA from Pratt Institute and an MFA from Art Center College of Design.
(I think I included the bulk of my story on my first question)
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LA Flower Mart- buy some flowers at Mayesh, pick up a few succulents
Brunch on the Rooftop at Perch downtown LA
OUE Skyspace LA to slide down the glass slide 1,000 feet in the air and observation deck
Hauser & Wirth- check out an art show in the Arts District, look at Art books at and have a cocktail or brunch outside at Manuela
Row DTLA shop at Kinto, Flask & Field, Hawkins New York and Still Life Ceramics
Grand Central Market eat at Horse Thief BBQ or Olio Wood Fired Pizzeria or Ramen Hood
California Cactus Nursery in Pasadena
Milk Farm in Eagle Rock for cheese
Little Flower in Pasadena for coffee, food, food gifts
Hippo in Highland Park for their happy hour
Little Beast restaurant in Eagle Rock
Coming soon- Bagel & Slice in Highland Park!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Jeff Minton Photography, The Pottery Studio, The Armory, The Community Center of La Canada Flintridge