Tucked away southwest of Warsaw, just a few miles off of U.S. 30, sits a potter’s sanctuary. Not just any potter’s sanctuary, but one owned, worked, dirtied and loved by John Bauman.
Bauman, who owns, operates and is the sole potter of Bauman Stoneware, has been honing his craft for years, creating beautiful, functional art for the public. The passion he has for pottery is evident in the pieces he makes. Like any great artist, nothing comes easy. If art came easy, then it wouldn’t be art. It’d simply be product.
Apparently Bauman had had different plans for his life.
“I chose the college I attended for one reason: Sports. It wasn’t a particularly good motivation – and not just for the obvious reasons. I not only picked a college that held little probability of preparing me for life, educationally speaking, but despite my passion for sports, I was a mediocre athlete. And that’s putting it generously.
“But despite my questionable motivations, I ended up at Grace College at the exact point in time that offered me exposure to a very deep tradition of functional pottery. One year earlier, or one year later, and I likely would never have been introduced to pottery.”
As a college junior, Bauman was immediately captivated when he first saw a potter work at a wheel.
“It was something akin to magic to see something of value come into existence from nothing but skilled hands and a lump of clay,” he says. “It’s nice to reminisce about these things.”
Bauman rather eloquently describes the senses intermingling when one works with the earth’s very essence.
“After more than 30 years of being tangled in the midst of it, I remember that the choice of a craftsman’s life comes down to what attracted me to the arts and to the biz of making stuff and the biz of selling that stuff in the first place,” he says. “And it might have something to do with how hopelessly romantic I can be about the incredibly cool processes that many of us craftsmen go through in the production of our work – the smells of linseed oil and turpentine, just cut wood, OM4 ball clay (it smells like chocolate) – the visuals of incandescent lit, late-night workshops, floors littered with sawdust or clay shavings, kilns belching two-foot flames out of 10-foot chimneys, pouring molten metals, or glass pulled from glory holes, blistered or cracked and dry but skilled hands that can take materials of next to no value and turn them into something that could, generations from now, still be treasured.
“There’s a real brotherhood among craftsmen,” he continues, “and I’m proud that it’s a big part of my life.”
Finding one’s passion in life can be quite elusive. But for those who find it, it’s a beautiful thing. The true challenge is to take what you love and make a career out of it, or at the very least do it and manage to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. Bauman has been able to find the balance between art and commerce.
“As I hinted, pottery wasn’t even a career choice. It was something I stumbled upon by accident. But I took to it right away. I really enjoyed the rewarding creative process. But though my passion for pottery was a big factor in my pursuing pottery as a career, the decision was at least in equal part due to what I couldn’t do: type.”
A lover of writing and literature, were it not for his inability to type, Bauman would never have become a potter.
“I quite probably would have pursued something along those lines [writing or English] if I hadn’t been smacked in the face with the cold, hard reality that I wasn’t going to go on to graduate school without the ability to type.”
He would have been equally happy making a career out of one of his other passions – music (more on that later) or sports – if he thought he could make a living at it. But it was his “new-found passion for clay” that seemed the most likely route to earning a living.
“Between ‘making money’ and ‘something I love to do,’ I’d have to say it’s the latter that drove me into the career,” he says. “Making money has often been mostly about survival.”
What’s a day like for a potter?
“I was once asked how many hours of the day I spend in my pottery studio. I answered, ‘All of them,’ and I was only half kidding,” he says.
“I usually start the day finishing the pots I started the day before. I like this kind of start to the day because first thing in the morning I’m not thrilled about sticking my hands in throwing water and wet clay.”
After working a few hours, Bauman likes to take a break and run four or five miles on Winona Lake’s bike trails with his wife, Dar, and two Alaskan malamutes.
“The break is an important part of my life as well as my physical and mental health,” he says. “When I get back from the trails I get started on new pots. I try to make between 10 [large] and 30 [medium] pots a day. Some of the pottery I make is more involved in the finishing than in the throwing, so quite often what I throw in one day requires a day or two to finish.”
For Bauman, business is personal.
“I have no employees,” he says. “Every piece of pottery is made by hand by me and signed with my name. This kind of business life has taught me much – influenced how I view economics. It has illustrated for me, in a concrete way, the notion of a value-added, production-based economy. What enters my shop with very little value exits my shop exponentially more valuable by virtue of the use of my hands, mind and time.
“I spend very long hours in the shop, but working for myself has its perks. I keep a guitar and a mandolin in the shop, and I take frequent breaks to play them.”
Music is a passion for Bauman as well. He was influenced by his parents’ jazz and big band records when he was younger. In the 70s it was singer-songwriters, and then musicians such as John Hartford, Norman Blake and Tony Rice. He even gets together with some musicians for a little break from throwing on the wheel.
“And whenever it’s possible, I go up to Goshen and play old-timey music with a group of folks who get together a few times a month,” he adds.
Finding that a lot of the music he loved was much more technically advanced than his own abilities, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“Much of that music was beyond my abilities, but when I turned 40 I decided to take upon myself the discipline to actually learn how to play that way – to flatpick. I’ll never be as comfortable as a flatpicker as I am a fingerpicker, but learning to play with others in an ensemble has been worth any effort, and the additional musical skills allowed me to go full circle and teach myself to play many of those jazz/American songbook standards I first filled my musical consciousness from my parent’s record collection.”
What’s the future hold for John Bauman and Bauman Stoneware? “I used to joke that I retired when I turned 20 [when I started my pottery]. To some extent, that’s always been true,” he says.
“I already live the dream most men have for when they finally shed themselves of the business, work-a-day world. Now that I’m facing the reality of that meant-as-humorous statement, I admit it’s daunting. There’s a security in my self-employment – I won’t ever fire me – but the economy has made selling unnecessary art to the middle class a much harder endeavor than it was 10-20 years ago. After 35 years of this, I have to face the reality that I may not survive financially. That was an eventuality I never foresaw.
“But should I find more new tricks to surviving this business world in a weak and getting-weaker economy, I have no plans of giving it up. Why would I? I love making pottery and I see nothing about aging that would diminish that enjoyment.”
Visit Bauman Stoneware online at www.baumanstoneware.com.
by John Hubner
Friday, April 28
Click on the headings below for full calendars
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
Concordia Comedy Festival — Concordia Lutheran High School presents a showing of comedy films from middle and high school students, 7 p.m. Friday, April 28, Room 101, Neff Hall, IPFW, Fort Wayne, free, 483-1102
Tapestry: A Day for You — Day of inspiration, renewal and education for women in all stages of life with keynote speaker Ann Curry, 7:30 a.m. Friday, April 28, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $75, 483-1111
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Blooze Faktor — Blues at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., cover, 483-1311
Chris Worth & Company — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 557-1563
Classic Voice — Variety at The Venice Restaurant, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, (260) 482-1618
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at The Venue, Angola, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 665-3922
Expanding Man — Variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
G-Money Band — Blues at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Hubie Ashcraft & Travis Gow — Country at Billy's Downtown Zulu, Monroeville, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 623-3583
The Illegals — Rock at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 483-5526
IPFW Bands & Choirs w/Fort Wayne Children's Choir — Classical at Auer Performance Hall, Rhinehart Music Center, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $4-$7, 481-6555
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at American Legion Post 241, Waynedale, 8:30-11:30 p.m., no cover, 747-7851
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
Rebecca Rego — Americana/country at Two-EE's Winery, Huntington, 7:30-9:30 p.m., no cover, 672-2000
Secret Mezzanine — Variety at Deer Park Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 432-8966
String Theory — Acoustic variety at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 260-745-3369
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 422-5896
Trichotomous Hippopotamus w/Trackless, John Fishell — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., cover, 267-5303
The Why Store — Rock at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, (260) 387-5063
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Big Dawg Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Bucca Karaoke w/Ashley — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Dance Party w/DJ Rich — Variety at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., cover, 422-5055
DJ dance party — at Rum Runners, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., ,
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Variety at Tap Haus, New Haven, 9 p.m., no cover, 493-6622
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Jay — Variety at Coconutz @ Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Scott — Variety at JR's Pub, Leo, 9 p.m., no cover, 627-2500
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., ,
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke w/DJ Chuck — Variety at DW Bar & Grill, Churubusco, 10 p.m., no cover, 693-8172
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at Portside Pizza, Columbia City, 9 p.m., no cover, 691-3333
Karaoke — Variety at Coconutz @ Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 9-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Karaoke — Variety at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m., no cover, 488-3344
Karaoke — Variety at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Karaoke — Karaoke at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Rockstar Karaoke & DJ w/Scotty — Karaoke at Backway Lounge, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 665-5081
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at 4 Crowns, Auburn, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 925-9805
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ w/Kevin — Variety at Danny's Italian Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 484-4444
SureShot Karaoke w/David — Variety at The Green Frog Inn, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 426-1088
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Bottle and Bottega, Fort Wayne, 8:30-10:30 p.m., no cover, 494-1020
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
Funny Little Thing Called Love — Romantic comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Home and Jamie Wooten, 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Friday-Saturday, April 28-29 and May 5-6 and May 12-13, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
The Little Mermaid — Fort Wayne Civic Theatre musical based on the Disney movie, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $17-$29, 424-5220
Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
Next to Normal — Tony Award- and Pulitzer-winning musical about coping with mental illness, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 4-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Three Rivers Music Theatre, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 498-2270
The Taming of the Shrew — William Shakespeare’s now somewhat controversial comedy about the battle between the sexes, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29 and Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 12-13, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
A Wrinkle in Time — all for One productions’ adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s young adult science fiction novel, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, PPG ArtsLab, Auer Center for Arts & Culture, Fort Wayne, $11-20, 422-4226
Click header for complete Movie times
Click header for complete Art calendar
37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Juxtapoz Magazine: 25 Years Under the Influence — A chronicle of the iconic magazine’s evolution into one of the most influential magazines of art of the counterculture, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Norman Bradley and Friends — Exhibition of works by friends and colleagues of the late Fort Wayne artist, Tuesday-Saturday thru May 20 , Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Perspectives Live Butterfly Display — Up close and personal perspectives of the Conservatory’s newest collection of live butterflies, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 25, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics! — An exhibition of new work by the artist considered the godfather of the lowbrow, pop surrealist and colloquial realism art movements, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 23, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3, Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru May 20 (Cinco de Mayo Fiesta featuring mariachi music by Mark Meussling 6-10 p.m. Friday, May 5), Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568