By Nancy Dashwood
HOWARD LAKE How does a Chicago native, who attended college in Iowa, and taught in Philadelphia, end up putting down roots in Howard Lake?
That’s an easy question for Katie Teesdale, who currently teaches pottery at Dassel-Cokato Schools, and is opening her own studio in Howard Lake.
She likes it here. She likes it a lot.
Progress toward pottery
Teesdale enrolled at the University of Iowa with a technical theater degree in mind. She quickly discovered that field was very crowded, and it was often difficult to find jobs.
Staying on the artistic side of things, she decided to give painting a go. She knew she loved to paint, and had been doing so since high school.
Teesdale then learned that in order for her to graduate with an art teaching degree, she would need to take a ceramics class.
And that was that. “I fell in love with the texture,” she said.
She graduated with honors from the University of Iowa with a double major in art and teaching.
She began teaching at the community classes and exhibiting her own pottery in 2011, and she hasn’t stopped since.
Claying around the country
Teesdale’s resumé from her post-college years includes job titles such as long-term substitute (in Illinois) and educational assistant (in Tennessee).
She kept pushing herself forward and in September 2014, landed an assistant outreach and teaching artist position at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia.
Duties at The Clay Studio included curriculum development, management of interns, and teaching classes for children and adults.
Following the call of the Coyote
While still in Philadelphia, Teesdale learned about a gallery and pottery studio named the Clay Coyote, in someplace called Hutchinson, in the middle of Minnesota.
Intrigued, Teesdale researched a little further, and ascertained that a large portion of the Clay Coyote’s mission statement involved functioning as a “small business incubator for emerging ceramic artists.”
The Clay Coyote offers selected emerging artists top-of-the-line studio space, a place to sell their work, and education about operating a small business.
Teesdale had her plane ticket to visit the Clay Coyote. During her brief visit to Minnesota, she learned about an art teacher position opening at Dassel-Cokato High School from Colleen Compton, the executive director of the Dassel-Cokato Arts Association (DCAA).
Teesdale inquired about the teaching position, and switched her travel plans to allow time for an interview with school staff.
“The universe was conspiring,” Teesdale said.
While waiting to board her flight home, Teesdale received calls from the Clay Coyote and Dassel-Cokato Schools. She was offered and accepted both the emerging artist position and the teaching position before she got on the plane.
A little different here
Teesdale jumped into high gear, preparing to move half -way across the country to begin two new jobs. She even rented her apartment over the phone. “Everything came together perfectly,” she said.
Teesdale quickly determined there were some slight differences between urban and rural living.
“I love the space in Minnesota,” she said. “It’s so open, you can just take a big breath. And I love how dark it gets.”
Teesdale’s typical nights thus far had always glowed with city lights. “I had to learn to turn the brights on in my car,” she laughed.
Shaping students to find their flow
Teesdale currently spends her mornings teaching three different levels of ceramics classes at Dassel-Cokato High School.
Teesdale teaches beginners that all pottery has a purpose; a reason for its shape and size. A mug, for example, might be crafted with a lip that turns inward, both to help keep a beverage warm, and to sit comfortably on the sipper’s lip.
She talks with her students about the “habits, rituals and shared interactions” between pottery and people.
“Pots live a life as they interact,” Teesdale said. Evidence of that statement is often found when one notices they have begun to use just one coffee cup, or one bowl. People use and interact with the pieces they love.
She uses a pinching process on some of her pieces that leave her fingerprint impressions all over the finished product. “I’ve had to give up my life of crime,” Teesdale joked.
She believes and teaches that pots should have friends. She designs pieces to stack, nest or fit together. “They’re buddies,” she said.
The state of flow
Ideally, Teesdale’s students will practice enough with their clay to find themselves lost in their work. She calls that feeling a “state of flow,” and teaches her students that state of mind naturally relaxes the brain. Time may seem to cease to exist for the artist.
That state of flow is a natural stress-buster. “Your brain changes from alpha to beta waves,” Teesdale said, “and that is super awesome for your brain.”
The teacher enjoys watching students “catch the clay bug.”
Teesdale said that “light bulb -going-on” moment typically keeps a student coming back for more. She likes that, too. “I can get to know my students better,” she said.
She is proud to share that one of her students, Jessica Cron is advancing to state level competition with her own pottery.
Teesdale Studios is born
Teesdale admitted she spent the last five years gathering items she required to open her own studio. “I’d been collecting little bits and pieces,” she said.
Teesdale even has a kiln. Her father gave it to her for a graduation gift. It is still in its original box. That, and the rest of the items she has found for her studio, lay in wait for her in her mother’s Chicago garage.
When she toured a rentable portion of Jeff Schoess’s Eden Medical building in Howard Lake, she knew she’d found her studio space.
She began moving the items from her mom’s garage to Howard Lake.
There’s room in her new studio for the kiln in the basement, and she has a big sunny area in which to create and display her wares.
Her intention is to initially have the studio open monthly and by appointment. Once the hectic winter craft show season is finished, she hopes to have her studio open a couple of weekends each month.
Teesdale is building up her inventory of creative clay containers, and has slated her first open studio to take place Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She said she is hopeful people will come to enjoy and purchase her work, and intends to entice attendance by serving homemade cookies.
She wants people to know she is here to stay. “I’m putting down roots here,” she said. “It just feels right.”
How to find her
Teesdale’s studio address is 824 6th Street in Howard Lake. She also maintains several active social media sites, and has a website of her own: http://katieteesdale.com/home.html.