Artist's Biography

John Macomber

"All the wonders you seek are within yourself."

John's reflection in a mirror, photo by B. CirrinoneThis is the saying I most frequently use on my pottery bowls. I think of it often to help myself remain centered.

Early in life, I developed a keen interest in using my hands and always enjoyed making things. So it wasn't surprising that at the age of twenty-eight, while working as a draftsman, I began taking pottery classes at Park Street Potters in Hartford, Connecticut, under the guidance of Richard Suarez and Mary Barringer. Somewhere, perhaps through earlier yoga experience, I had acquired the discipline and focus needed to learn the skill and art of pottery. While learning, I also had to deal with the results of experiments with homemade fireworks at the age of thirteen and the fact that I had only 2/3 of a left hand. Time and lots of practice finally achieved what potters with ten fingers could do easily. For two and a half years, I persisted, grew and matured at Park Street Potters until their economic failure.

In 1975, I went into business and started Greenleaf Pottery in East Hartford, Connecticut. The physical layout was similar to that of Park Street Potters. My pottery had a gallery, student area (with eleven wheels), work space for myself, and a gas kiln out back.

John Macomber's parents, photo by B. Cirrinone

I came from a family which had no business experience, but my parents did stick by me with total encouragement as well as some monetary support. Without them I surely wouldn't be here today. Many important lessons were learned. Paying bills with little income wasn't easy. I'm glad no one told me how difficult the profession of potter would be. For me, however, the process is the reward.

I've learned plenty from my students and they have also helped spread the word about Greenleaf Pottery. My main focus however, has been producing and selling pots. Now, there are thousands of my functional pieces in use.

I believe that apprenticeship is a very good program. Over the years numerous apprentices have worked in my studio. It's certainly worth the effort to help others become potters. There is strength through numbers and I believe that giving back for what we receive is important.

Wanting to have children overcame any conscious monetary concerns I had. In 1980, I married and three years later, we had a family of four wonderful children. This certainly complicated my work situation but I was determined to remain a potter (one who makes his living from producing and selling pottery) and still have a family. The two didn't mix well, so after ten years of struggle, we divorced. As there wasn't much money, I moved into my studio. Through all these life changes, my children were always a high priority. I would close the shop whenever I needed to do a parent thing. Twice a week or more, they would sleep over giving me the opportunity to cook, clean, love and guide them. I've learned a lot through my children.

Jacob Macomber Abigail and Rebecca Macomber Andrew Macomber
Jacob Macomber Abigail and Rebecca Macomber Andrew Macomber
(Click on an image above to see a larger version.)

Over the years the look of my work has changed and evolved many times. Fortunately, I have managed to always keep selling it. In fact in the fall of 1996, the Wadsworth Atheneum purchased one of my large pieces. I'm very proud of that achievement. More recently, in 1998, I won first prize in pottery at the Glastonbury, Connecticut, "On the Green" Art and Crafts Show.

Hartford Advocate and Ribbons

The year 2004 brought a new challenge. The East Hartford location was sold, and I needed to relocate after almost 30 years. It was difficult to find a location where they would allow me to build my kiln. Fortunately, I was able to find a new place in South Windsor, and after lots of work, we're open for business.

Building the Kiln Building the Kiln
Building the Kiln Building the Kiln
Photos by John L. Hull

Life is good. I have a skill in making pottery that others admire, and a business that few in my area could ever achieve.

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