Healing through brokenness
Hartselle artist finds meaning in Japanese pottery making
Photos by RAW Images
Terry Easterly’s hands are rough; they’ve been through a lot. Now Easterly puts those hands to work every day through the “dirt and mud,” as he calls it, creating beautiful pieces of pottery. It’s an art that has become a business and represents his life’s story in a profound way.
Easterly owns Broken Leaf Pottery. He sells his art in a couple of businesses downtown but said he sells the majority through his Etsy shop.
“I do some wheelwork, some hand building and some casting,” Easterly said. “I do a pretty broad range of pottery making.” His favorite and what he says is the most therapeutic medium is throwing on the wheel. “It’s very calming and relaxing.”
His specialty is kintsugi, a Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. Kintsugi is built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, the artist can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.
Easterly said he often has a love/hate relationship with his art. “Sometimes things just won’t work the way you want them to, or sometimes you have a vision and can’t get there,” he said. “You just have to get started and let the clay figure out what it’s going be.”
His journey into pottery began three years ago when his friends, Pat and Rebecca Horner, were setting up their pottery and ceramics studio in downtown Hartselle. He helped the owners of Keramos move into their building on Sparkman Street and then decided to take a few classes – through which he discovered he had a knack for the craft.
Easterly said he was surprised to find this aptitude for pottery because he does not consider himself an artistic person.
“If I draw people, I draw stick figures with straight lines,” he said. “My mother was a very good artist; she lives in Florida, and she used to sell paintings of the beaches.”
What he thought was a lack of artistic talent turned out to be a lack of the right medium for his creativity. Once he began, he never turned back, and now he is involved in some sort of pottery work on a daily basis. “You’re literally playing in the mud, you know, so it’s fun,” the Hartselle man said with a laugh.
Before molding his artistic side into what it is today, Easterly owned The Computer Store on Main Street. In 2014 came a diagnosis that would change his life: Stage IV esophageal cancer. The next year he sold his business.
“When they tell you you’re not going to survive, you start to make plans according to that,” Easterly said. “It didn’t work out like that, so here we are. I just know I’m glad it didn’t work out that way.”
Now in his seventh year of cancer treatments, Easterly said he’s doing well health wise. He said the kintsugi idea of putting broken pieces of pottery back together to create something beautiful is a kind of a metaphor for his fight against the disease, healing the broken pieces of himself. “Things have value, even when they’re broken. Once they’re functional again, they can be much more beautiful and valuable,” he said.
Easterly said it was Rebecca Horner who helped him decide on the name of his business. “She said, that’s your story: finding the healing in broken things. You need to incorporate that into your pottery,” he recounted. “That’s why I love taking something that’s broken that really is intended for the trash – something that has no value and making it valuable again.”
Easterly’s art can be found online at www.etsy.com/shop/brokenleafpottery or at Red Ribbon Décor in downtown Hartselle.