I met Tom Quest over meatloaf dinner in the Dining Hall on Sunday night. We quickly discovered that we were enrolled in the same class: Jim Horton’s “Great American Poster” printmaking class. I discovered Tom is a professional potter and he got his start in clay years ago at the Folk School. He and his family often come here for vacation. This particular week, his wife and daughter were taking felting & dyeing together. I sat down with him to learn a little bit more about his pottery, our class, and why the Folk School is a great place for a family vacation. Enjoy our interview!
CP: What made you want to take letterpress printing?
TQ: Well, my family had a lot of things going on this year, and we just wanted to have a nice, restful vacation. The Folk School is one of our big go-to places to come as a family to just kick back and not have the pressure and stress of going to a big city. Its just very relaxing. We like to come here about every other year. So this year, my big pottery show was over with, my daughters wedding was over with, so we just thought, “Let’s go to John C. Campbell!”
CP: Do you take a different subject every visit?
TQ: I’ve taken so many pottery classes, now I try to take other subjects that will help me to branch out. Last time I was here, we did marbling. The time before that I did metal clay jewelry, and that was an interesting class.
CP: How did you get into pottery?
TQ: In the year 2000, we wanted have a family vacation at the Folk School. There’s five of us in the immediate family: myself, my wife, my two daughters, and my son. My daughter Melanie has cerebral palsy, and since I had been to the Folk School previously, I thought I would volunteer to take something that Melanie might enjoy. We decided on clay. As the week went along, Melanie enjoyed it and had a good time, but I was the one who totally got hooked. I just loved it.
CP: So now you are a professional potter?
TQ: I had a full time job and I started working in pottery on the side. I networked with some people in Omaha who also did pottery and started learning from them. Potters are always very generous about sharing their secrets and techniques. As a learned more and more, I had too many pots and I need to start selling them because I wanted to keep making more.
Eventually, I got to the point where my quality was good and I was invited to join the North Omaha Potter Tour. There’s 15 potters and in the fall and we organize a studio tour weekend. I also was able to start to show work in galleries and this time. When I retired from my regular job, I decided to go into pottery full time and it’s been wonderful.
CP: What’s your favorite thing about the Folk School?
TQ: My favorite thing is the relaxed atmosphere and being able to learn something new from very talented people. The instructors you bring in here are so knowledgeable and talented. Being able to absorb that amount of knowledge in such a short amount of time is just wonderful. I’ve always considered myself to be a life long learner and I love it.
CP: Do you know what you might take next?
TQ: I went to the enameling demonstration and that was very interesting. I don’t know, I just keep an open mind. There’s things you can learn in one subject and can apply to another. For example, in the marbling class I took last time, I talked to the instructor about how and if there would be a way to translate the marbling technique in pottery glazes.
CP: Why is the Folk School good for family vacations?
TQ: Each family member has an opportunity to all do their own thing. Everyone can go out and do something fun that interests them, and then when you gather for meals or in the evening, you can share your experiences and laugh about all the different things you did. The weeks after when you are back home, you are still reminiscing about the experience, and you remember the experience so much more that just your typical vacation.
Visit Tom’s pottery website: www.tomquestpottery.com
Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes. podielski.com