Contemplating retirement in December 2000, Tom Willis decided to try his hands at a pottery class at the Faribault Arts Center. He has been a potter ever since.
It didn’t take long for Tom’s retirement time to be filled with learning and exploring the craft of pottery. Tom began learning the “mechanics” of pottery by taking countless classes on technique and construction taught by some of the most well-known potters in the US. Tom expanded his work and passion – creating shapes, perfecting firing techniques and experimenting with
glaze components to create new color combinations
Prior to becoming a potter, Tom worked in family businesses in Minnesota. Tom’s “hands on” approach to business translated easily to his growing passion for pottery making. In 2004, Tom built his own pottery studio – a comfortable and practical building nestled in the trees beside his home. A few years later, Tom constructed a gas fired kiln – building it, brick by brick, to his exact specifications, then adding a outer shed to protect it from the Minnesota winters. The perfect setting for Tom’s self-proclaimed “quiet conversations” with his work.
Tom’s studio is filled with shelves of glaze ingredients that he experiments with frequently. It is a continual process of exploration and creativity in his comfortable self-contained pottery studio where he can easily complete all steps in the pottery-making process.
Tom is enjoying his second career as a potter so much so that he offers opportunities for retired persons or those planning retirement to explore pottery too. Tom Willis’ “Potter for Life” workshop series helps older adults explore their interest in pottery. Whether it’s a quest for a new pastime or an interest in a new business, Tom is dedicated to igniting a passion for pottery among others.
Tom resides in Northfield with his artist wife, Judy Saye-Willis who creates beautiful hand-dyed silk scarves, jewelry and book arts in her studio next to Tom’s on their idyllic property.