When potter Alison Kelley Watson learned she was the 2019 Resident Artist for Springville city, she was shocked. This wasn’t something she’d applied for or known anything about, and now she’ll receive a plaque and get to ride in the Art City Days parade.
To be named Resident Artist in a town nicknamed “Art City” is quite an honor. When she and her family moved here from the D.C. area eight and a half years ago, the moniker “Art City” really stuck out to her and she loved the vibe here.
Even though they are now completely immersed in the annual celebrations, as newcomers, Watson and her family didn’t know what Art City Days was. “One morning there was a pig dying outside my window—a hot air balloon pig. That made me laugh because my dad used to say certain things would happen when pigs fly. Coming from D.C., I didn’t know how cool these small town celebrations were.”
The theme across all of Watson’s
pieces is nature. “Sometimes that’s reflected in subtle hues in the glaze that
reminds me of the ocean and sometimes it’s carving mountains or trees into my
work in black and white. But nature feeds my soul, and I think that comes
through in everything that I make.”
Art has always been an intrinsic part of who Watson is. As a child, and living in Washington, D.C., she used to draw little figures and animals under a secret flap of wallpaper near her bed.
Known as the kid who liked to draw, Watson’s fourth grade teacher brought in rolls of paper and art supplies and asked her to decorate the classroom door in a design reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web, the book they had been reading as a class.
And later, in high school, one of Watson’s art projects was stolen off the wall of the art classroom. When her teacher told her about it, she was flattered. It made her happy knowing someone liked it enough to want to keep it.
Her first foray into ceramics was in a high school class, but, to Watson’s disappointment, they never used wheels, focusing instead on handbuilding. She didn’t get to use a wheel until she was an art major at Ricks College. “I met the ceramics teacher’s assistant in the student center a few days before the semester started. As part of our first date, I used the wheel for the first time. Now we’re married with four kids.”
According to Watson, that teacher’s assistant, her husband Andy, is much better at the technical side of pottery, like kiln firing. Those four children, ranging in age from six to seventeen, have embraced their mom’s potter’s lifestyle. They each engage in various forms of art and they help her in various ways, like setting up and taking down shows, and doing studio assistant work. “My kids…(give) me honest feedback when I ask or don’t ask for it.”
It wasn’t until December 2017 that she was finally in a position in her life to turn this long-held hobby into a career: “When my youngest kid started kindergarten that’s when I really hit it hard. This had always been the plan in the back of my mind, and suddenly the voice in my head was saying ‘Okay, let’s do this now!’”
Even though she bought her own wheel in college, she didn’t have a kiln to match until about three years ago.
She started out becoming involved in every artistic opportunity she could find. Applying and being accepted into several shows, like the Utah Art Market, the Beehive Bazaar, and the Hobble Creek Barn Boutique, has allowed Watson the “unexpected perk” of getting to connect with lots of people.
She now makes custom mugs for Hobble Creek Coffee Company, and sells pieces in both Lemon and Sage Market here in Springville and also in a shop at the mouth of Zion National Park.
“The highest compliments come from people who have bought a piece or two for themselves, and they feel the love and craftsmanship that I’ve put into it. They use it every day and it becomes a part of their home and life.”
The artist’s journey hasn’t been without difficulty for Watson. Also working as a ski instructor, her future as a potter was in jeopardy after a skiing accident last winter left her with a severely broken arm. There were so many breaks that the doctor said it was like putting a puzzle back together, and he expressed concern that the nerves would sustain permanent damage.
After spending days in the hospital and several weeks barely able to move or even hold a pencil, Watson made healing her body her full-time job. It has taken several months to get back to something of a normal potter’s life, but registering for a couple of shows back when she was at her worst pushed her to strengthen her arm.
“The injury did of course affect my business, and I’m still playing catch up from that time off. My arm still hurts when I center the clay and really put muscle into it,” Watson says.
Even though it took Watson a couple of years to really settle in and feel at home here in this area, she couldn’t be happier in this little slice of the world. “Now I’m Springville’s biggest fan and I think we’ll be here forever. I love this place! The warmth and friendliness of people here is the best part of all.”
She can be found on Facebook and Instagram @AlisonWatsonPottery.