In this interview, Edna Bacon shares her latest career transition - she has come full-circle and is again creating ceramic art. And she is taking the opportunities to exhibit in galleries that she passed up early in her career. Edna talks about how her friendships with other artists have brought these new experiences.
Avocationist spoke to her in March 2008. The last of three-parts.
“I think you are always transitioning if you are not dead.”
Read the full interview:
Avocationist: Where are you now with your career and your life? Are in a stable place or are you in a transition?
Edna: I think you are always transitioning if you are not dead. I guess some of it is deciding at this point, how much work do I want to do, and asking yourself questions like, “Do I want to work on Friday?” And if I don’t want to work on Friday, how does that affect what I do?
Avocationist: Now that you have come around the circle from the pottery back to the art, how do you feel now about art?
"It is just amazing when you are in there working, the things that come to you."
Edna: Now it is about doing the art. I think things happen when you are doing it, like the show I did down at Studio Swan -- it is just amazing when you are in there working, the things that come to you, or the things that happen that you can’t predict that give you more ideas.
Avocationist: If you had any advice for your grandkids about life and changes, what would you tell them?
"I would just suggest following rabbit trails, no matter how crazy they seem on some level."
Edna: I would say learn as much about yourself as you can and be aware of what you love to do. Sometimes it is a funny combination of needing to do things for whatever reason, particularly for money to earn and living, and wondering how you can make that, doing what you love, fit into that. I guess I would just suggest following rabbit trails, no matter how crazy they seem on some level. You don’t have to throw everything overboard to do it. Ask “What can I do that feeds me?” I don’t think that it can always become your career, but you don’t know.
I guess another thing is deciding what you need money-wise and what you don’t need, and how that dictates what you do. My husband was the main money-earner so I had the freedom, but I also had the children, though it did give me certain freedom too to not be the main source of income. Looking back on it I think, “Why didn’t I just do a full-time job and make money?” But it didn’t seem that it was the way it worked.
Avocationist: You couldn’t have done all the travel and seen so much of your kids.
"It was a real luxury to have children and have people around who were doing the same thing."
Edna: I know. Like some women who are younger than I am -- I just look at how driven they are, job-wise, and it really is a difference. Of course, they came along in a time when women could “do whatever they wanted to do,” and went the business route, but I guess they must find that fulfilling in some way too, and they do have rich lives. It is just different from what I did. When I came along, I was just a little bit ahead of the women’s movement by a few years. You married and you had children and I really, in some ways, feel that I am very fortunate that I did that and was happy doing that, and then said, “OK, what now?” instead of having a career and then stepping back from it and figuring out how to fit children into that. It was a real luxury to have children and have people around who were doing the same thing. I think that is half of it too.
Avocationist: I know many women who talk about wanting to have kids and stay home with them while doing something on the side – they all believe they can do many things.
"People talk about selling out, and it really isn’t."
Edna: Yes, but perhaps not all at once. I know the daughter of a friend who chose anesthesiology because that was something that would be a set schedule, and she could probably do it part-time. People talk about selling out, and it really isn’t, in a way. It is a way to have that time with children that can be frustrating as well as wonderful. I am really glad I did that.
Avocationist: Do you have any regrets about any of the choices you have made?
Edna: This is probably true of many women, but I don’t think I have ever taken myself seriously enough or what I do seriously enough. It is the other side of the coin that we are talking about. I let other things get in the way, and some of it was appropriate and some of it was not appropriate. I think with everything I have done, I have worked it around other things.
"People suggested things and it was too overwhelming to even think about."
I do have another regret; when I was first doing pottery and we had set up a tent at the Piedmont Art Show, the woman who owned the Signature Shop wanted me to bring pots by for her to see, and I could never get them made to take. That is a regret; that I didn’t follow through. There are probably other instances like that when people suggested things and it was too overwhelming to even think about.
Avocationist: Do you think you weren’t ready for it yet?
Avocationist: Isn’t that interesting that it has come back around and you are doing gallery shows now?
"Someone used to tell me, 'I don’t know whether people buy your pots because they like the pots or they like you.'”
Edna: I know, and that is through relationships, actually. It is through knowing that friends like my work and they like me. Someone used to tell me, “I don’t know whether people buy your pots because they like the pots or they like you.” Actually, when I buy art, I really like knowing the person I am buying it from. That is a huge part of my life.
Avocationist: That is something we haven’t talked about yet, but which I think is such an important part of you – all your great relationships with people. Everyone seems to universally love you.
Edna: That is part of the not taking myself seriously. I do have a lot of really good friends, and that has been very important.
Avocationist: Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about that we didn’t get to?
"Another thing that I am really aware of is the times I have grown up in, because that is something that has to affect us."
Edna: I guess another thing that I am really aware of is the times I have grown up in, because that is something that has to affect us. I was born right before World War II and I grew up in the ‘50s and finished college in 1961. Having lived during a basically peaceful and prosperous time in the United States has to be part of this, too; I had choices that I might not have had at another time.
Like my grandmother who also loved school, but her father died when she was 14 and she had to go to work; that was the end of school for her. She became an expert seamstress and tailor, which also stopped when she married, I imagine, except that she sewed for her family. Daddy, who didn’t have the college education but worked hard and worked smart saw to it that we all went to the schools we wanted to go to. It is funny that growing up, there was never much talk about money. I guess the money thing is a weird thing in my life, too. I don’t like money, but I like the result of money. You always knew that you had money for what you needed and a lot of what you wanted to do. I knew that there would be money for college, and we all knew that we would finish college. That was never spoken or said to us. We all knew that we would go to college and finish, but there was never any sense of wanting something and expressing that if it was outside the realm of what was provided.
"It has been a source of relationships with people who have challenged and encouraged me throughout my life."
Another thing that’s been a constant in my life is my Christian faith and community. It has been a source of relationships with people who have challenged and encouraged me throughout my life.
Avocationist: My last question is how would you like to be remembered?
"I would like to be remembered as a good friend and as an artist."
Edna: I would like to be remembered as a good friend and as an artist and as someone who takes herself seriously, and I have a few years left to do that.
Avocationist: I don’t know if I ever told you this, but you are my career hero.
Avocationist: I think I can do all of these crazy things that I think I can do because of the fact that when you were 50 you went back to school to do something totally different. That is why I wanted to interview you.
Edna: Thank you. You know, a mentor would be a good thing to be remembered as, too. Thank you! That is wonderful.