‘The Arts Taught Me Resilience, Work Ethic, & Patience’

by | Mar 22, 2024

Laura Tyler Strawn – M&C Digital Manager – working in her basement studio

In this Q&A with M&C’s Laura Tyler Strawn, we continue our conversation about how a background in the arts and humanities can lead to many different careers — and provide an edge with skills and experience that reinforce independence, leadership and thoughtful collaboration.

How do you think your experience in the arts helps you in your current career/position?
I think some of the best skills that art has taught me are resilience, work ethic, and patience. As artists, we learn early on that any form of art is not an innate natural skill. It takes years of working through ideas and techniques. We have to accept that it is a process and not something that comes to us easily.

Ceramics specifically teaches major lessons in patience and learning through making mistakes. There is so much learning that continues to take place as you become familiar with clay consistency, what can make pieces crack, or what can make a glaze look matte or crawl. We usually don’t get it right on the first, second, or third try, but we learn so much through the process of making mistakes.

If we treat every single attempt with so much preciousness, we feel heartbroken if it cracks or the glaze looks nothing like what we thought it would. But if we treat it as a lesson that builds upon itself, that can be a lot more effective. I think that is a really important life lesson in general for me that can be applied to so many things personally, and professionally. We might not always get it right 100% on the first try, but we can take those lessons and continue to hone skills moving forward.

A custom designed group of planters Laura featured in the KC Urban Potters planters show

What advice would you have for a young person considering a degree in the arts who wonders how it might translate into other career paths?
My advice to anyone considering a degree in the arts would be to keep an open mind to various job career paths and to not feel constrained to the exact thing that you might get your college degree in.

I think so much fluidity and learning happen after college and there are really so many opportunities to apply an arts degree. I think sometimes creative people need to also be creative with how they put together a career. Many times when I was younger, I felt like if I didn’t get a degree in something, I couldn’t do it. And I thought that I wouldn’t be considered a good candidate outside of a fine art specific role. But I think an arts degree teaches us so many important skills that are valued by employers — like hard work, creative problem-solving skills, how to be a self-starter, and how to manage projects.

Things like organizing an exhibition, putting together a portfolio of work, and making a website to show your art shows a lot of good skills, but also shows a lot of internal motivation to employers.

A wholesale order of mugs Laura made for a coffee shop in California

How have you worked in ceramics since graduating with a fine arts degree?
I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work in the arts and ceramics in a few different ways. I really enjoyed teaching college and continuing education classes with a few different programs. I was able to teach really fun classes like drawing, nature drawing, watercolor, and ceramics. I also worked at a local high production ceramic studio where I got to learn their slip casting processes and then later was in charge of bisque and glaze firing all their work, as well as performing maintenance on the kilns.

I also started my own ceramic small business and created a small home studio. I was selling a lot of work through local markets, wholesaling work with other small business, collaborations with other artists, and online sales. It taught me a lot about how a business works and taught me how much time and labor goes into a small business, from the marketing, to making products, to bookkeeping.

I am really happy that I have had all these experiences, even if it is not exactly the career path that I am following now.

Bisqueware extras on a shelf in Laura’s home studio

What place does your art/ceramics have in your life today?
Even though I’m not necessarily working in the arts now, I do still feel like it is a big part of my life. I think it has been really helpful for me to take a step back from making art as a way to make an income. It has really given me the freedom to learn more about what I enjoy making and not have the pressure of it needing to provide money to live on. I think art and creativity can encompass so many things other than what we think of as typical “fine art.” I think of cooking, gardening, chicken raising, and house projects as being “art” for me and are definitely and influence for me as I make ceramics and draw.

I continue to be very active with the KC Clay Guild, which is a nonprofit ceramic studio in the Waldo area. We’ve been working towards fundraising to expand and purchase a larger building. It has felt very meaningful to help on the board and work towards this goal so we can make ceramics more accessible to the Kansas City community. This passion for working with a local nonprofit has translated really well for my current role with M&C and getting to work with other nonprofits.

I also try to make time for making my own ceramic work and learning digital drawing. The biggest difference is that now I am much more focused on what feels joyful or meaningful to make, and that has been really nice.


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