Mentors and Miniatures: Starting the Year in Gratitude

I was first introduced to miniatures during my Laura Ingles Wilder obsession as a seven-year-old. Dressed in the pale red prairie dress my mother sewed for me one glorious Christmas, I was gifted a miniature log cabin built by my grandpa, a woodworker amongst many things. The dollhouse did not only capture my imagination but also my surrounding family; cousins made me bottles and kitchen accessories out of electrical caps and push pins, my sister made me a grandfather clock using a sharpie and scrap wood, and Jane Graber, my miniaturist aunt, gifted me some of her “reject” pottery. My mom sewed a doll with a carefully painted face, and we dressed her in a prairie dress that matched my own. It was beautiful, eclectic and a representation of the support of a very creative family.

Jane, my aunt and namesake, was the first to introduce me to pottery: the craft I decided I would make my career even as a young teenager. Not only do Jane and I share a name (Jane is my middle name), but we also share a similar disposition, a notably “Graber” look, and a passion for ceramic art. Jane let my sister and I come to her Brown County Indiana home one summer without our parents for a few days of “pottery camp.” She showed us how to center the clay, raise the walls and how to take an imperfection and make it an intention.

The next time Jane would shape my career, perhaps unbeknownst to her, was the summer after high school. I was getting ready to go to college, antsy to get out of my hometown and full of teen angst. I spent about a month living with Jane in southern Indiana’s Brown County. Jane was getting ready for her coming fall open house, replenishing a depleted stock of fine cottage stoneware painted in a delicate cobalt stain. We sat, our potter's wheels side by side, and threw jug after jug, pickling croc after pickling croc, and even a few teapots. Jane would demonstrate and I would copy. At night she gave me her books on early American pottery to study the aesthetic. At her open house that fall, Jane let me display some of my crude miniatures next to hers, and she introduced me to her collectors, who were charmed by my attempts to follow in my aunt’s footsteps.

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During college, I stopped making miniatures and instead explored a variety of media and styles, focused on functional pottery for several years and now, after graduating, have returned to the form and found a comfortable home here. I love the intimacy of the scale of miniatures, the joy of viewers when they get close to see my tiny details, and the freedom that comes with working so small. In miniature, I'm able to exert greater creative freedom because miniatures shed many of the limitations in material and space of traditional pottery.

As any artist and/or entrepreneur would know, creating art and running a business can be a rewarding endeavor, however stressful. It’s a constant ride of successes and losses that I am so grateful to be on. The only reason I have the privilege to do what I love to do is because of the many who have mentored me, invested in me and believed without doubt (or at least without telling me their doubt...) one of whom is Jane, someone I will always strive to emulate.

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