Lake Norman & Mooresville

After the kids left, she returned to pottery

We don't always get a second chance at starting a new career, particularly after marriage and family, but for Denver resident Wendy Edwards, 48, opportunity did knock twice.

After marrying her husband, Berry, following her sophomore year as an education major at UNCC, she changed schools and majors. She enrolled as a junior at Sacred Heart College in Belmont, with an arts major, concentrating in pottery.

Why the change in her studies?

"I loved kids," she says, "but I decided that if I was around them 24-7, I wouldn't want to have any of my own. And I knew I wanted kids."

Following her graduation from Sacred Heart College in 1985, she was offered a position, on the recommendation of one of her professors, teaching ceramics at the school to students her own age. She accepted the job, but with some trepidation.

"I was always afraid I might blow the kiln up and burn the school down," she recalls.

"My husband came to find me one night at 3 a.m.because I was still trying to light the kiln so I could fire several weeks of student work."

She never did have a chance to blow up the kiln, as Sacred Heart closed at the end of her teaching year.

With the birth of her daughter Stephanie, 25, and then her son Russell, 22, she decided to put her planned career as a potter on hold so she could devote herself to being a full-time wife and mother.

Her choice, she explains, could be traced back to her own mother.

"When I was in middle school, my mom opened a ceramic studio in Davidson. She was very artistic but didn't pursue a career. She was a typical 50's stay-at-home mom, and her kids and her husband were the focus of her life. That was the most important job she could do."

Edwards worked at various part-time jobs while raising her own family, including a stint at a pet store, as well as at two different restaurants and a landscaping firm.

She also ran a small craft business with her mom and sister, Kathy Bosiak, selling stuffed dolls and small hand puppets at local craft fairs and shows, as well as at the Southern Christmas Show.

Then, in 2004, "My daughter went away to college and Russell was a junior in high school. I decided that returning to pottery was a way of handling the looming prospect of empty nest syndrome."

"I knew that Gaston College had a continuing education program in ceramics and I decided to go back to school and see if I could still do it."

Being satisfied with the work she was doing at Gaston College was another story.

"I took my work to the dump if I didn't like it or if it wasn't perfect, or I donated it to East Lincoln Christian Ministry. Then my instructor bought a mug from me and I decided that maybe I wasn't so bad."

In 2006, that same instructor told her about a studio in Lincolnton, Rising Sun Pottery, whose owner, Gary Lee, was looking for an assistant, and since she felt that her ceramics classes were not sufficiently enabling her to improve her techniques, she applied for and got the position.

However, resuming the career she had put on hold for so many years has proven to be quite a challenge.

"My husband and I always taught our kids to do something you love, because if you love it, it will happen, but now I'm having to eat my words because the road there is not easy. I'm driving my daughter's car - we bought it from her - and I'm living the difficulty my kids are going through, but at 48 years old."

She works at Rising Sun Pottery four days a week in exchange for the opportunity to do some of her own work. She sells some of her work, teaches students, and sells materials and supplies.

"It's like an internship," she adds.

""I do what I like, but it is very exciting when I realize others like what I do. If I make a pot, it's not the pot, it's what I do to the pot that matters. The clay is my canvas."

And where does she go from here?

"I showed my work at the Apple Festival in Lincolnton and decided to take the next step and try to find a local outlet."

That decision led her to Honeysuckle, a Denver shop where her work was on display as part of the recent Denver Art Trail.

"I don't call myself an artist. I do art," she adds.

And so she pursues the vision and the dream she put on hold for many years while raising her two children.

Just as she followed in her mother's footsteps, her son Russell, 22, is currently an art major at UNC Wilmington, following in his mother's footsteps.

And the family tradition lives on.