Mary Beth Otte, An Artist All Along...

 

Interview with Mary Beth Otte, owner of Wolf Tracks Pottery

When did you start creating art?

For as long as I can remember, if there was a surface to doodle on, it became my area to create. Either on a napkin, a worksheet margin during class, or a sidewalk, I was always sketching. I began writing poetry in high school and although I was also curious about photography during that same time, I didn't pursue my interest, and I now understand the reason was the fear of stepping out of my comfort zone.  A few years after high school, I attended college to study photography, and have since dabbled in landscape design, sketching, jewelry making, and now pottery.  As I look back on all of my endeavors, I realize they all incorporated nature or the earth in some way. Which isn’t surprising to me being that the earth and love are my higher power, my god.

 What made you decide to become an artist?

Both of my parents are artistic, my Mother paints and my Father is a wood worker, but neither choose art as a career. But for me, I didn’t choose to be an artist, it choose me. As a teenager my creative side was inside waiting to be nurtured and developed, but rather than listening to my inner voice (which I believe is our true, authentic self) to help me find direction, I listened to other people's voices. As a result, my creative side became buried through the years as I went through life trying to find myself through my children, material items and following the path of main stream society. At the age of 35, when I decided to finally start listening to my inner voice rather than the chorus of voices outside of myself, my life path started veering off in a more authentic direction, toward my creative side. Two years ago I sold about 90% of my material items. Clearing the clutter from my life, cleared the clutter from my mind, which in turn fueled my creativity.   My life path has been a bit more meandering than most due to the fact that it took so long for me to be true to myself and listen to my inner voice,  But with each job that has passed, and each life experience I've encountered over the years, I've moved one step closer to the real “ME”.  It’s so easy to get caught up in mainstream thought process.....but we are all individuals. Each carrying with us the qualities that make us uniquely “Me”.  So incredibly beautiful as the imperfect “Me” we all are. We need more “Mes” in this world. More people who have the courage to be themselves and embrace what makes them different from the person standing next to them.

Why did you choose the name Wolf Tracks Pottery for your business?

I've always been fascinated with wolves, and I believe they are vastly misunderstood. People fear wolves, and rightfully so being they are wild animals. But if left to live their lives in the wilderness in peace, and observed from afar, without judgment or fear, we come to understand their beauty.  This is how I feel we should look at other people, without fear or judgment, this would allow for more love in the world.

The other reason I choose the name WTP is because to me, the wolf is symbolic of life itself. He leaves behind tracks that remain long after he's gone, just as life experiences leave behind memories, scars and personal growth. 

What is your favorite piece of work you've created?

It would be impossible to pick one piece as my favorite, each has special meaning to me.  A lot of my pieces contain words or sayings/quotes. The saying FEED YOUR SOUL rings true to me and carrys such an incredibly important message to all of us.  If all is right with your soul, then things will fall into place. WALK BY FAITH is another one of my favorite quotes/sayings. Although I don't associate myself with any one particular religious organization or belief system, faith is a HUGH part of my life and one of the main reasons WTP is becoming a success. Over the last few years, I've replaced fear with faith, and I now walk by faith on a daily basis.

Where do you get your inspiration to create?

My inspiration comes from multiple areas. The first is from people's stories and the feelings those stories provoke in me.  I want to emphasis that the main drive for my inspiration in not the stories themselves, but the feelings that arise in me from those stories. For me, this is where art is created, from the feelings we encounter as we live our lives.  As I watch a customer talk of a loved one they lost, I experience feelings of grace and compassion as they share their story. I feel honored to be privy to such a personal part of their life.  It seems when a customer feels accepted, a connection is formed between us as they allow themselves to be vulnerable by sharing their story without embarrassment, and by me honoring that trust by listening openly without judgment. That is what art and living an authentic life are both about – facing fears, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by connecting with others on an authentic level, and acknowledging our difficult feelings rather than running from them.  Everyone experiences difficult feelings, sharing those feelings helps to process those feelings.

Music also inspires me, If a day passes and music has not been part of my day, I can feel the relentlessness setting in. Music helps my feelings to flow.

What would you tell young people who are interested in starting a career in art?

I would tell them if they have both a desire to start a career in art and artistic talent, they should get the education they need,  have a plan, also have a backup plan and most importantly never forget to walk by faith.

What do you say to people who don’t think they have a creative side?

Three things come to mind: fear, serendipity and faith. You'll never know if you have artistic talents unless you try.  Art comes in all forms, each piece as unique as the person who created it.  Remember that fear is temporary, regret is forever.

Also. Be aware of any serendipity that comes through your life. If you've been thinking about what it would be like to be able to paint, and then you see an advertisement for an upcoming painting class, that's not a coincidence, that's serendipity. That's the universe talking to you, so sign up for the class.

Lastly, Faith. Have faith that if you follow that inner voice, you'll end up exactly where you're suppose to be.

What would you tell your teenage self today that might have helped your journey later in life?

I'm a firm believer the experiences we have in life help form us into the person we become, so I wouldn't change anything about my life- especially the difficult times I've been through. Those times have made me who I am today. But if I could say one thing to a teenage girl reading this, it would be listen to your inner voice. To be clear, I’m not referring to our often unkind voice of fear or insecurity that takes up so much of the space in our heads. I’m talking about the voice underneath all that fear, anxiety, or insecurity, That voice underneath, is your soul speaking to you.. Listening to that voice will not only lead you to your life's passion, but will bring you a sense of peace and belonging.  ALWAYS honor that voice and don't ever let ANYONE silence that voice. Be who you are, not who anyone else feels you should be. Find yourself and be that!

Do you have a favorite life lesson? If so, what is it?

A I look back over life, I realize the events, tragedies or experiences we encounter are less significant than how we handle the feelings that accompany that situation. As a whole, in our society we are taught to go, go go, accomplish and achieve – but we are so busy going, that we often don't stop to process our feelings along the way. And while goals are an important part of life,life is not only about managing daily life, but also about managing the feelings that come with daily living. If our uncomfortable feelings are not addressed, they won't just magically disappear, they will quietly fester inside, and eventually come out in negative behavior such as a short temper, impatience or depression. Processing those feelings and then letting them go frees up your heart for more love.We have the power to decide how a life event affects us. The question is will we hold onto destructive emotions and allow ourselves to become bitter and unforgiving when something hurtful happens to us, or will we allow our hearts to soften and fill with grace and compassion. The choice is ours.

Last but not least: Be true to yourself, it's just that simple.

 

 




Cindy Tank-Murphy
Cindy Tank-Murphy

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