Edna Bacon’s life has undergone many transformations, but three themes have existed throughout her 68 years: her passions for education, art and good friends.
She graduated college and became a wife and mother, but at a time when women realized they could do anything, felt like something was missing. After returning to school for an art degree and becoming a ceramic artist, she began to utilize her skills by helping cancer patients cope with their emotions through art therapy.
“I was doing just what I wanted to do.”
The Avocationist spoke with her in March 2008. The first of three parts.
Read the full interview:
Avocationist: Edna, tell me what you do for a living.
Edna: I work part-time as an art therapist; at this point, mainly with people who have cancer or have had cancer, along with their families. I also work as a ceramic artist; a potter, making functional and sculptural objects.
Avocationist: How did you find out about art therapy? It is not very common.
Edna: I knew someone who was an art therapist, and after I had been doing pottery for a while, I felt kind of stuck with what I was doing. I felt that I was doing the same thing over and over again and I thought, “Maybe I will go and see Elizabeth and see if doing some art therapy would unstick my creativity.” It turned out that it stuck a lot of other places too, and that way of working was very helpful. It gave me words where I didn’t have words.
Avocationist: What do you think it is about you that makes you good at this job?
"I am curious about people, and I like hearing people's stories."
Edna: I am curious about people, and I like hearing people’s stories. Growing up in the South, we would get together with family and there were always these stories being told and retold, so I think I am curious about people, and I also have faith in people’s ability to make changes they need to make. I don’t have the answers, but I can help them tap into what they need to do or what they know already. I think it is more about helping people discover that. I don’t think it is very helpful to just map it out for them, even though you think you may know the answer.
Avocationist: You got started in art by going back to school; was there a moment when you decided, “I have to do this?” Was there a change in your life?
Edna: There definitely was. I had grown up, gone to school, graduated from college, worked for a while, married and had children, and it was like I had done everything. I was 32 or a little bit older. I started asking the question “Is this all there is?”
"I have done everything that I expected to do, but there are a lot of years left."
I think around the age of 32 is a time when women ask that question. Men, a lot of times, talk about the mid-life crisis at 40, but I think for women it comes earlier, because either you have had a career and at that age you think, “If I am going to have a family, I need to be doing something about that,” or if you have done it the other way, and you realize the kids are not going to be here forever, and I have done everything that I expected to do, but there are a lot of years left. What am I going to do?
Avocationist: Do you remember the process you went through? Were there any events in particular that stand out from that transition time?
"It was about taking myself more seriously in what I wanted to do and what would be meaningful to do."
Edna: It was the “Is this all there is?” kind of thing. I guess it was about taking myself more seriously in what I wanted to do and what would be meaningful to do.
Avocationist: How did you go about figuring out what would be meaningful? Was it a process?
Edna: No; it was taking the next step and knowing that I liked working with my hands and knowing that I felt like I didn’t know anything about Art or how to create on my own.
Avocationist: You had three little kids when you were going back to school – was that difficult?
"It was really one of the first times that I felt like I lost myself in what I did."
Edna: Not for me. It was really one of the first times that I felt like I lost myself in what I did. I don’t think I ever did that in college. In college, I got the work done, but there was not that deep pleasure that doing the art was, and particularly with the pottery. Sometimes when my husband was home on weekends, I would go to the studio and I could just lose track of time. I just remember sitting in class, particularly the art history class, thinking about how much I knew then that I didn’t know when I was 18 and what a waste college was when I was 18 years old, except I was really glad I didn’t have to take the things that I really didn’t care about taking. I was doing just what I wanted to do and didn’t have the social stuff going on. It was just mainly pure pleasure.
Next: Edna drives her Mom "crazy" by going back to school at age 50.