Julie Harbers | Episode 923
Julie Harbers is an Orlando, FL based potter who splits her time between two community studios as a teacher and staff member, and her own backyard home studio. Julie makes functional ware with colorful surface designs using colored slips, underglazes, and glazes.
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You were nearly sidelined with your dreams and nearly put it on the back burner. How big of a threat is that distraction from following your true dreams?
Well, it can be a huge threat because people can get into that career and feel stuck in it. I think by never launching into a journalism career I never really got stuck in it. It never became my source of income where I was like, Oh now I have benefits and I can’t leave. You know. I never was able to structure my life by it. So I kept my opportunities open by never jumping into that.
How critical was it to decide to do what you wanted to do? Just deciding?
That was it. Deciding to do that finally I would say it was a journey up to that point, you know. The decision is really the turning point, everything else is just action. So you have to get to the place in your mind where you are aren’t scared of the decision any more and can make the decision and feel confident and act it out. So everything that came before the decision was teaching me not to be afraid.
Is it critical to say no to the golden handcuffs and the security and say yes to the dream that supports the life you want?
I think I was lucky that I was able to do this step by step. I started working at two studios upon graduation and actually I got very lucky but your know even that alone wasn’t enough income really. And I wasn’t making a lot of money on pots at that point. So as more opportunities came I would take them or I was starting to develop more pots to sell and I would slowly work towards that. It’s just a very slow, gradual step by step in this direction that got me to this point where I am. And I feel like creative life is always evolving and it’s important to be flexible to allow it to change as your needs change.
Is the important thing to add a little here and there just so that you can get to that final full cutting of the ties from the other life?
Yeah, I think so. Like I started doing shows and I was like, Oh I am going to do more shows and make more money that way. But then I was kind of on the track to do that until the pandemic hit. Now I don’t want to do shows. I do a couple every year but then I am shifting sales into more wholesales or into more website or you know, different ways of getting the work out there. I might teach a class for a change. It’s just important being in the community, opportunities come up a lot and you can kind of decide whether to take them or leave them. The ceramics community really supports itself. We support each other.
That’s an important point. On your journey you have to have your people, correct?
Yes, everything I have today is thanks to being part of the ceramics community. After I graduated just being involved with other potters and potters who have been doing it for their whole lives and they are passing the torch. The studio I am sitting in right now is my dear friend’s who lived here for thirty years and she moved to another house in the area and said, Why doesn’t Julie use this space, it has a full studio in the back yard. And this was in 2020. How lucky was that? I mean everything that has come to me has been through people in the ceramic community.
When you are alone what kind of things do you have going to help trigger creativity? Is it music? Is it books on tape? Is it podcasts or is it silence? Tell me your perfect work environment for you to be creative.
I am really into podcasts nowadays. I also list to music. Sometimes I just sit in silence and I journal a lot. But in the studio I usually have something in my ears and if I have a thought, something that’s downloading into my brain, I will stop and grab a journal. I will also…I write down all my dreams. My nighttime dreams because they are very symbolic and I think that’s a really good practice, to look at things symbolically. But mostly podcasts nowadays.