Updated: Mar 11, 2019
On November 28th, I was on the west coast of Ireland, driving down one of the prettiest coastal roads I had ever seen: the "Wild Atlantic Way". I grew up on costal roads from Alaska to Washington, but this one topped them all.
We were heading to the Cliffs of Moher. I had my friend, Rachael in the car, who I met while farming in Nashville, and we were traveling with 4 new friends we just met the day before in our hostel in Galway.
The Atlantic was on our right. The water had so much soul. It moved fearlessly but looked so elegant. I wouldn't mind being like that water... It was transparent, yet deep, made of vivid, changing colors that I had never seen before in water. Mist hovered everywhere. It felt like it was alive, like a great mystery- something you'd never figure out but always respect.
That is where we met Jackie Maurer.
Jackie has a pottery studio that she built herself and a home on the water, where she lives a slow-paced life as a mother, potter and teacher.
I am so inspired by this woman.
What she has, she fought for.
That's what I wanted to share about Jackie,
she never stopped, never gave up, even in the middle of doubts that haunted her every day.
"There have been days when it felt like I was climbing Mount Everest, but it's amazing what you can accomplish with very little money, hard work and good people to help you out."
"Creativity takes courage." she says.
And maybe that's just how it works. The beauty isn't just what we become but also in what it takes to become it.
Jackie is a strong soul with so much to give. Her studio is beautiful, her pottery is beautiful, she lives in one of the prettiest places on earth. Her story manifests in who she has become and what she has created. I admire that she visualized what she wanted, went for it, and finally, after all these years her dream has become reality.
I asked about her story, how she discovered her passion and how she got to where she is today.
She says that what she does is definitely based on the idea of constraints within a space, behaviors, fragility and durability... pushing boundaries and finding her own language. She's always looking for and responding to the textures and patterns that naturally occur in nature, translating the soul of her rugged, beautiful, much-loved surroundings into pieces of art that are almost living and breathing themselves.
Jackie grew up in Ennis County Claire, only about 20 miles from where we were. When she was young, she spent her days swimming in the Atlantic or sailing, catching Mackerel off the boat with her family.
"I remember, when I was very young, thinking I'd love to give pottery a go.",
"My father introduced me to a potter to see how I would like the trade. She let me throw on the wheel for about 20 minutes. I was hooked".
From there, she did a few classes in County Claire but not long after that her dad saw an ad, looking for an apprentice for a famous potter named Stephen Pearse, who was located in Shanagary Co Cork.
"Education wasn't working out for me at the time. I was not very settled and very unhappy with it. So at 15 years old, I moved into a caravan in the back end of nowhere and took on this apprenticeship on my own."
I love how she was aware of what was not working for her, and took action to change it & find what would.
During the apprenticeship, she was fending for herself, living in a little coastal town, where, in the dead of winter, there was absolutely no one. "It was a wake up call", she said. "The hardship really started to get to me."
Jackie would get up for work every morning and walk the road for 20 minutes in the dark and cold. She would make about 250 birds and hedgehogs per week that went on top of casserole dishes, as well as making mugs and throwing basic shapes.
After 16 months, she went back to school and finished her education.
Jackie had an interview with Thomas Town Pottery Skills Course, and they accepted her.
"It's quite hard to get into. It was intense and high pressured. We would throw pots 5 days a week, sometimes 9am-9pm. I was only 19 at the time and I was there for the duration of 12 months."
From there she went to become an apprentice for Mandy Parslow, in Tipperary, who had a small cottage in the heart of the beautiful Glen of Aherlow.
"Mandy was self sufficient and threw pots during the day and was connected to her home life and the mountainous region the rest of the time."
"I was really attracted to that lifestyle. That's the reason I accepted the job. She lived the life I was aspiring to live."
Jackie would drive 2 hours one way, twice a week for 3.5 years, something she would say was worth it, invaluable even. With the rest of her time, she invested in her own wheel and kiln and started focusing on producing her own work in her hometown.
In 2006, Jackie had a baby girl named Jane, and she had bought a house with her ex-partner. They planned to make a studio there as well, where she could work and be home for Jane, but soon the dream and relationship fell apart.
Around the same time there was a recession in Ireland and there was no money.
She had so many reasons to give up but she also had reasons & dreams bigger than herself to keep going.
One of the biggest, she told me, was to make sure she was there for Jane every day.
Jackie went back to college, where she finished with a first class honours degree whilst also raising her baby. She would arrive home to a cold house every evening, build a fire, do the chores and study late into the night
"It was bloody hard work." she said thinking back.
If you drive down her lane today, you will probably find her working, creating and teaching classes. I know from experience that she will gladly welcome you into her life. Jackie was trained by world renown potters and is passionate about sharing the skills of ceramics so they are not forgotten.
Jackie comes from a family of jewelers, and the stamp she uses is the same stamp her great grandfather used for stamping his own work, with the initials, "JMS".
"It is most definitely over 100 years old. I feel so privileged to use this stamp, due to its old age, and because I get to keep on the legacy of craftspeople in my family."
If she is not home, she is probably across the street swimming in the Atlantic. I love that she has a paddle board next to her studio.
If you are ever driving along the Wild Atlantic Way, please stop, and not only meet Jackie but support her work. The world would be lucky to learn from her and to have her art in their homes- almost like pieces of the Wild Atlantic Way itself.
"And maybe that's just how it works. The beauty isn't just what we become but also in what it takes to become it."
P.S. I am placing an order with Jackie next week so if anyone would like to buy her work, please let me know and we can combine shipping!