Dirt & Hands by Sarah Houghton
A Canadian friend of mine who lives in North Wales, has started to make Clay houses - a little business is emerging and I thought it would be good for Sarah to share her journey with you. You can see pictures of Sarah's work below and view the items she makes for sale via dirtandhands.etsy.com
As long as I can remember, creating has always brought me joy, satisfaction and fulfilment. I feel like my most whole self when being creative in some way - be it singing, working with textiles, writing or digging my hands into a lump of clay - joy erupts and I feel centred.
I’m a mum to three incredible human beings. It’s the best and worst job and I’m always astounded at how they manage to make my heart swell with overwhelming love and break with breathtaking sorrow at the same time. It’s an all consuming thing, parenthood, and there have been a few times where I’ve lost who I was in trying to be enough for them, four years ago, I found myself feeling lost and questioning who I was.
I told my husband that I needed to set aside some time for myself. To be creative, to have some space and to get to know me again and who God created me to be. Our local college offers quite a few night classes and one of these classes just happened to be a pottery class. I had taken a ceramics class in highschool and loved every second but was told that it wasn’t a realistic option for my future and like the scared kid I was, I believed them and, heartbroken, tucked that dream in the back of my mind and soldiered forward.
My pottery class felt like a second chance - a gift from God - and I grabbed it with both hands. For 2 hours, once a week, I got to make whatever I wanted. My teacher was fantastic and encouraged me with every sad pot and misshaped mug I made. I quickly discovered that 2 hours a week was not enough! I needed more time with clay, I wanted to see what it (and I) were capable of and the night class just wasn’t cutting it. I took the class for 4 years and while I learned how to work with clay, I was also planning for my future.
September of last year, my youngest would start full time school and my days would be wide open. I talked to my husband about the possibility of having a studio at home to work with clay and maybe try and sell the things I make. He was more than happy to help me make that dream come true and we started saving for a kiln.
While in my class, I sort of stumbled on to making tiny houses. My mom had a collection of English cottages when I was a child and I remember taking them off the shelf and examining them. I was drawn in by the intricacies of each cottage and the attention to detail. One particular class, a friend showed me how to make the rough shape of a house with clay and then add whatever details I wanted later.
The houses I make are a far cry from my Mom’s English cottages. They’re more stripped back and minimal but they remind me of home and my Mom. every house is hand sculpted with love and attention to detail. They’ve proved popular. At first, I was making the houses and giving them away as gifts, but then people started asking me if they could buy them so I did a couple of sales on Instagram.
Then I was asked to sell my houses at a pop up market a friend was organising and it felt like God was providing me with opportunities to turn my dream into something tangible. I said yes!
Every business needs a name and while I hummed and hawed over possibilities, one that kept popping to the surface was dirt and hands. One of my favourite images is God in the garden, getting down into the dirt and sculpting Adam with his own hands. What an amazing picture. How completely intimate and raw.
Every time I work with clay, that image comes to mind and I think “Like father, like daughter”. To be like God, the ultimate artist and original creator is the best thing I can do. Also the name describes what I do perfectly. Dirt is my medium and the tools I use are my hands. I spent this past summer turning my garage into a studio. I painted the whole thing white and had shelves and a work table built.
Finally my kiln arrived and I bought a bag of clay. Since September 2018, I’ve been working from home and slowly turning this hobby of mine into a viable business. It’s scary and exciting. There are days I love it and honestly, days I hate it. I’m still learning how to work with clay and realise just how much of a novice I still am BUT this is what living my dream looks like. It looks scary and exciting, it’s a love/hate relationship and it looks like continuous learning and I wouldn’t want it any other way.