Cup of Paintbrushes by Richard Hess

Richard Hess

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Raku-fired ceramic paintbrushes. Includes glass jar.

Handmade by Richard Hess of Galena, Illinois.

I grew up in a small working class town in New Jersey where art in school or the community was mostly nonexistent.  People worked hard in factories to put food on the table and there was little time for much else.

Fortunately, I was able to go to college and picked Alfred University, a major force in American ceramics.  I didn’t know anything about pottery at the time but was always intrigued by the students who wore “mud” on their jeans.

After a year, I transferred from Alfred to Rutgers in Newark, NJ, studied history and spent my free time hanging around the one-person theater department.  I thought I wanted to be an actor.

I graduated from college, spent two years in the army and landed in New York City.  In addition to working various social service jobs, I took a pottery course in Greenwich Village with a woman who charged me $2 a week for individual lessons on the wheel.  I was hooked.  I loved clay and gradually drifted to hand-building with slabs of clay.  I took lessons in other studios in Manhattan but did not believe that I could make a living in clay.

I taught at Little Red School House in New York City, went to graduate school, became the director of an alternative elementary school in Newark, NJ, and finally realized that what I really wanted was to work with my hands. I decided to learn carpentry which I did for ten years on Long Island.

At the age of 50, I moved to Ithaca, NY, and decided that it was time to make pottery my life’s career.  In the beginning, I worked at night as a janitor at Cornell University to support my day job as a potter.  I did craft shows throughout the NE and was eventually able to give up the night work and started to believe that I could make my living with my hands.

After living in Austin, TX, for 20 years we relocated in 2015 to the small, friendly town of Galena, IL, where I have set up a new studio and look forward to continuing that which I love.

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