Studio Tour Video Contest: Finalist #2 – The Cracked Potters

Jeri Lake shows off the Cracked Potters' state-of-the-art slab roller. Today, we are happy to present the next finalist in our Studio Tour Video Contest: The Cracked Potters, a.k.a. Jeri Lake and Kate Nicol-Smith.

We’ll present the next finalist Friday, January 29. A link to the voting page for the grand prize winner will be posted on Friday the 29th, and voting will continue through midnight (Eastern Standard Time) Monday, February 1. We hope you enjoy these videos as much as we have! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

Studio Tour Video Contest
Finalist 2:
The Cracked Potters – Jeri Lake and Kate Nicol-Smith
Champaign, Illinois

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Review Finalist #1, Breakaway Pottery, here!

We’d like to send a
great big THANK YOU to everyone who entered the contest. It has been so
much fun to get these personal glimpses into your spaces. And let me
tell you, it was very difficult to pick our three finalists. In our
viewing/judging party (I mean meeting), the passions flared as our
staff members made the case for their favorites. Expletives were hurled
and fists flew. Okay, maybe I’m embellishing a bit, but it was REALLY hard!

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite studio tour video
January 29 – February 1, 2010!
The grand prize winner gets a Skutt Elite Potters Wheel!


  • The Cracked Potters are an inspiration! I hope that all of the whiners who’ve been carping about their lack of an amazing, state of the art studio are watching and learning.

  • How inspirational! Pottery allows your soul to bleed into the mud! Keep throwing ladies.

  • Your reuse of your Dad’s camp kitchens was brilliant. My Dad made a camp kitchen that I thought was very clever. Wish I still had it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wow, it’s so great to see other folks who discovered pottery after a head injury. You are a tremendous inspiration.

  • I’m so impressed that I had to comment on this site for the first time. Clay helps the soul open up, giving so many paths. I was forced to slow down after a car hit me. Even as the injury brought some wonderful new people into my life, clay gave me a new direction too. I’m heading to my studio now. Thank you for such an inspiration.

  • I am totally speechless. What a testimony and inspiration. This one definitely gets my vote.

  • Ladies thank you so much for sharing! I’m so glad you two were able to connect and support eachother — and you are a testament to my favorite old chestnut – “when a door closes, a window opens”
    Best wishes, best of luck!

  • Their courage is daunting. How often have we complained about pots that don’t ‘turn out right’ by our standards. Never again!

    I will carry these potters’ determination with me for a long time. I congratulate the judges for their discerning choice.

    My deep thanks for sending this video out to all of us.

  • this is so inspiring. the motivation, the creativity. you are two great ladies.
    by no means you get my vote.

  • Wonderful! Thank you for your strength … what an inspiration

  • What an inspiration! Ladies you are just wonderful! Keep up the good work. Your video will be very hard to top. I can not stop the tears in my eyes. Your story is very touching. Thanks ever so much.

  • Lovely thoughts to go with lovely pots. Thank you.

  • Wow! This inspiration will stay with me a very long time.

  • Congratulations to Jeri & Kate on a phenomenal accomplishment! I was so moved watching this video. It had double resonance for me, as I was once an Occupational Therapist myself, but have spent the last 30-something years involved in clay. To see how these women’s lives have been “saved” and so enriched by their pursuit of pottery is truly inspiring. Good luck in all your endeavors ladies!

  • Beautiful! ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!! I’m sure this video is going to be shared and passed along to a wide audience for a long time. What a message it carries to potters and individuals of all levels of expertise and all manner of endeavors. Such courage and perseverance and optimism. Thank you so much for sharing. Add my vote to the list!

  • I also suffered brain injury (from chemotherapy). Pottery has been therapeutic and transformed my creative life. Thank you for sharing your story, and your bravery. I’m glad pottery found you.

  • It is inspirational, motivating and simply Beautiful. I have been dreaming of a studio on my own for a long time. Looks like now is the time.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  • agree with all of the above!!!Thank you for having the courage – sure it will teach lots of others lots of things. Keep going.

  • What an awesome story! so much more than a studio tour. God Bless you! Sharing your story has definitely blessed me. thanks!

  • I have tears in my eyes too. You go girls, your pots are coming along really well but
    most of all you have found your way out of a dark hole. We are all proud of you.

  • OUTSTANDING! You are an inspiration to continue working in my basement studio and passing along the love of clay to my two sons. Thank you for opening your studio to us. We so appreciate it! I, too am crying tears of joy for the haven you have made for yourselves.

  • You go girls. Your story on this video is one to be shared not only with the ceramic community, but to all who must start over and survive because of a trauma beyond their control. The accomplishments the two of you have made are truly an inspiration. Congratulations and best wishes in all that you do.

  • Thank you for sharing your story.It reminds me that we all have different paths and goals.You may not have the most well equipped or spacious studio in the contest but examined in the light of it’s purpose,it may well be the most effective.I am a former teacher of students with TBI and wish you continued progress in your recoveries.

  • I was moved by your get up and go attitude your not cracked at all you taught me a thing or two about my own short commings I need to apply my self like you both have done Thanks for sharing your recycled studio hope you get the winners prize to finish it off love from Down under. Ralph Gilder Titirangi Potters New Zealand.

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story and your studio. I too have had a closed head injury which left me with some problems, so I can really relate. I was a potter before my accident and I have to say throwing pots was what grounded me after the accident. I am grateful for the opportunity to be alive, let alone make pots! Thanks and you have my vote!

  • I as well could not hold back the tears of joy! I believe that our work in clay is a therapy to all of us, and I know your story and wonderful studio will move many others as well. I just LOVE the camp kitchens! What a wonderful use of a small amount of space as well as repurposing, not to mention a wonderful reminder of your dad. Very much an inspiration, thank you ladies for this, it has helped pull me out of my funk of the day and given a new value to my own studio. Keep up your good works and best wishes!

  • There are people who go through our lives & make an impression–Jeri does it in spades!! Others have said she is inspirational and I totally agree. It’s her dedication to grow in the face of adversity that makes you stop & take stock of what you have & where you’re going. There’s no feeling sorry for herself, just a “what can I do to be better” attitude!!! They wonder why America is soooo great–people like Jeri & Kate are why!! You are a blessing to many!!! Thank you Kathe

  • Thank you for a wonderful telling of what brought you to clay- everyone seems to have their own path-some more difficult than others- although my travels were far easier, life has it’s own way of churning up the waters at some point for everyone, although some certainly more violent than others. I am taking great strength and inspiration from your story…thank you, I hope you win.

  • first of all you are quite an inspiration
    that is quite a studio that you have….i love it…
    i also compliment you on the video
    you are very fortunate to have the friend and the family that you have
    good fortune to you

  • Thank you for submitting an inspirational “real life” video. You make me want to RUN to my neglected little studio and be creative again. Love this! Thank you “Cracked Pots”, you have my vote!!

  • The Cracked Potters are an inspiration. I too am trying to rebuild after neurological disorder and have turned to pottery. Recently I have been feeling down about things but the Cracked Potters have flipped a light switch on for me.

    Thank you CPs. Two thumbs up!

  • Amazing, You have taught me a great lesson I can’t wait to share you with my students tomorrow! Thank you for your entry!

  • I too am commenting for the very first time….how touching and inspirational,to the Cracked Potters thank you for sharing with all of us the message in your journey. KUDOS!

  • Ok… so maybe this would be better if i was smoking pot…
    I’m sure she is a great person…
    But this is the worst video i’ve ever dazed off to…

  • WOW you have inspired allot of potters with your vedio and all you have done. We should never underestimate the healing power of clay and all that we can create. Good luck and keep up the good work. You are a winner.

  • As Clinical Nurse Specialist in an Australian ICU were I nurse lots of Traumatic Head Injuries it is nice to see patients which have had a reasonable outcome. I only ever see the patients in their very acute phase. I am also a potter part time and it is great to see ceramics helping people change their lives. Well done The Cracked Potters.

  • Bravo Jeri & Kate. I am so moved watching you, you are an inspiration and a tower of strenght. I too found ceramics as my light in a very dark time in my life.Thank you for sharing your story and your studio with us.Wish you the best of luck.
    Dd Malta Europe

  • Inspiring, amazing, touching, beautiful, the adjectives just pour forth. This is a wonderful video story about how life and art intertwine in surprising ways. I too am a confirmed dumpster diver, and have acquired several shelving units for my clay studio from neighborhood curbs, plus equipment like scales, blenders, tools, etc. at yard sales. You women win my vote!

  • Awesome! You ladies are a testament to the healing powers of the creative spirit.Pottery helped me to “come back” from a very dark place, so I can relate.Also your work is very beautiful.You definitely can call yourselves potters.I wish you continued joy and healing in your process:D

  • What a testament to the courage and ingenuity of these women and the power of creation to heal and inspire.

  • What an inspiration! Thanks Jeri and kate! Your courage will take you a looooooooong way! You made me think of starting my own studio!

  • it has all been said above — blessings to you — thankyou –ginny

  • Not sure why everyone seems to think it takes “courage” to make pots? Determination maybe, (especially with a brain injury), desire, an idea, some clay and yes, a cute and well-equiped little studio, but courage? Sentimentalizing a studio tour is a bit odd in my humble opinion, and I wish she had stuck to the studio tour and not made so much of her health issues. Still, a bit better quality that the first video, though too long (more talk about the studio and less about your brain issues). Sorry if I seem cynical, I’m not really, just not easily swayed by this kind of thing, and wonder what we’re supposed to base a “vote” on – the studio or our admiration of the potters?

  • Thank you so much for your studio. I was inspired by your recovery and your desire to create art. I wish we could have met your clay buddy. I loved your dad’s camp kitchens. you nave my vote.

  • Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful, thank you ladies for siring my heart and humbling my pride you remind me of why I work in clay. A GREAT BIG HUG to the both of you.

  • So much inspiration! It brought a ray of light into a gray day. Keep creating!

  • What a wonderful thing to see. Thank you for your courage.

  • Wow! I loved this video and this one has my vote of the two. As a retired psychologist and social worker and fairly new potter, I have witnessed the tactile and earthy energies that clay can provide for anyone especially persons who are searching for reclaimation within themselves. These women have touched everyone who watches their courage to create and recreate.

  • Ann Suchecki was by far the best and the best issue said was YOU JUST GOT TO WORK! But there must have been some better studios. The work of all three chosen however is like something we may see from the 60’s. I guess there must have been some really really bad submissions if these were the best three choices?? I use your site to some degree in my teaching and always say, “just because it is in CM or on ceramics daily does not validate it as quality or something to be influenced by”. These videos are a prime examples of that. Maybe in your defense you didn’t have much to chose from? But there are so many levels of every discipline to the hobby potters that we see on this site to the professionals we see here also. I think this site would do a better service to our discipline if they were more critical and discerning about what they publish. I would have liked to see a professionals studio that really talked to students and hobby potters about how to deal with safety issues and maybe a little about concept development in their own work. The first video for instance, Al says they use the “clean” water off the top of their glaze water for throwing?? Clean water??? Dipping your hands in glaze materials may not be something ceramics daily wants to teach young or old ceramics students to be in the habit of doing???? The idea was sound and the first studio visits posted like Jeff Compana’s may have been better choices for videos.

  • I loved this on so many levels!!!! I am both a “garage potter” and a disability advocate and was very encouraged by the multiple messages and inspirations I found in “The Cracked Potters” video. Thank you!!

  • Inspiring. I find solace in working with clay, regardless of the outcome.
    I am not sure what the criteria is for this “contest” but I want to say that
    this studio encourages me to continue “to play” with clay. It takes me back to my days as a child, making mud pies, cakes and figurines.
    Thanks you for sharing your shop and experience.

  • Clive,

    Thanks for your feedback, but please remember that we asked for “video that’s a creative, friendly, entertaining, and informative glimpse into your studio. Viewers should feel like they are getting a personal tour of your studio.” We intentionally left this contest wide open to see how our readers are working in clay and we got a wide variety of submissions – a testament to the many creative ways people make room for clay in their lives.

    We understand that, with 55,000 subscribers, there would be differing expectations for this contest. We will keep your feedback in mind, and we encourage you to submit your own video tour addressing the issues you mention above.

    Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

  • How inspiring! Of course they are potters…and have a wonderful studio!

  • I’ve never left a comment on a site before…but I’m inspired and impressed! Its nice to see how someone makes use of found objects/furniture,etc to make their “space” work. My vote is for Cracked Potters!!

  • There are those “production” potters who work to make lots of pots. Then there are potters like us who use pottery as therapy. I started after chemo for lymphome which I am still fighting. I send my prayers to both of you for finding a way, with God’s help, to make good of a tough situation. Your work brings joy to many hearts. Keep up the great ministry to each other.

    Doc Joe < Ohio

  • Irrespective of the quality of the video itself (the sound wasn’t good) it was a genuine “video that’s a creative, friendly, entertaining, and informative glimpse into your studio. Viewers should feel like they are getting a personal tour of your studio.” I don’t thing the remarks made by Peter (who said he ‘dazed off’)are worth responding to, but Am has obviously missed the point which others have just as clearly responded to. Jeri did not, I think, labour the point about their brain injuries – she really just set the scene. I think that one of the appeals of the CAD website it its appeal to ALL levels of ceramic artists – it’s up to us how much we take or discard. What I got from this video is a message that really anything is possible – from the point of an individual’s skill level to the facilities and equipment available to them. So, thank you Jeri, and yes, your story is inspiring! Ann (UK)

  • I can only imagine what you’ve gone through…I admire your courage and you DEFINTELY HAVE MY VOTE!! HUGS!

  • The Art spirt has blessed both of you! I know the hardships you and your friend have gone through and your studio is you sanctury.I also am a surviver of a TBI. I was teaching glass casting in an art camp in Conn. when I had my injury and built most of it dumpster diving. Most of what I have for making art is recycled stuff. I was told I would probably spend my life in a mental institute in upstate New York, but the help of my family and friends, I received my MFA 3 years later. MAKING ART SAVED MY LIFE! I rediscovered my memorys and struggled through the changes in my life by dialoging with the work that emerged. I am currently teaching ceramics at a high school in Las Vegas and pray I can create another studio here also.

  • I just have to comment. The Cracked Potters get my wote!!! I turned to pottery after I had two spinal surgeries. Working with clay is both my mental and physical therapy. Good luck to the “cracked pots”!!!!!!!!!Take care, Karen Sullivan

  • Thank you! I too work out of my basement, my space it limited and my resources are few. I fell in love with clay rather late by most standards. Your video is certainly inspirational. I don’t have any physical challenges or stories to relate; but that is the story, your message is strong. My small studio and the clay bring me pleasure, help me work through unrelated problems, and fulfill the soulful need to create……literally it keeps me centered.
    When I get discouraged, I will think about your story and small studio, anything is possible!

    Jan (Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho)

  • I have not voted yet..I need to see #3 which I would guess is also very good, but my vote will be for # 2. I needed this video and to hear what Jeri had to say. I am in one of those DARK places right now too. I have lost my career as a medical social worker to a multiple medical conditions that have changed my life, family, and relationships…it has ben devastating. With all of the clinical skills that I have it has ben difficult to motivate myself. I have been working in clay on and off for 25 years, but seriously and showing in this past year. I grieve my past life…who I once was…and continue to understand my new self, limitations, etc…watching this video gives me hope that it will get better and the only other option would be to give up…after what Jeri and her clay mate experienced and the obstacles they had to hurdle…I know that I can climb out of my darkness…thanks Jeri for taking the risk of sharing and exposing your life and thanks to Ceramics Daily for their contest and all the wonderful support to artisits.

  • My vote is for the Cracked Pots—very inspiring!

  • I am so grateful for how pottery and Jeri have changed Kathy’s life. What amazing and inspirational ladies the “cracked pots” are! Congratulations on being finalists. Good luck.

    Kathy’s sister, Mary

  • The “Cracked Potters” have my vote!Very inspiring,THANK YOU!

  • I am so happy the way pottery and Jeri have changed Kathy. Kathy made me a beautiful patten she made of pottery where I keep my reserved Holy Eucharist that I take to shut ins who cannot attend Episcopal Mass. It is a beautiful patten to keep the Body of Christ on. God Bless you Jeri and Kate.

    Love Kathy’s Dad.

  • The Cracked Potters get my vote. This story is very inspirational and I’m glad Kathy has found a creative way to help in her recovery process.

  • Now that the voting is over I can say THANK YOU and tell you how much this has meant to me. The reason you didn’t see Kate (Kathy) in the video was because I did it as a surprise for her. Most people who know her call her Kathy but Ron, her husband, always called her Kate so I use it to remind her of his love. I entered to try to get her the wheel… she has never had one of her own and i know she would throw more if she did. She worries about taking up time on mine- silly girl! But the real prize as it turns out has been the comments of this community. We have the gift of knowing we are supported and that our story has made a difference for some of you. To all the others who have spoken of brain injury, we know the path you are on and if there is anything we can do to help smooth it out for you let us know. To all who mentioned other struggles, just keep the clay in your hands and as one person said let it “center” you. I know it centered me LONG before I could get it centered!! And to all who work with folks with challenges, thank you for that. You are so needed. And especially to the woman whose husband came back from Iraq with TBI… your love is his most important resource and I know it is not easy for you either. Personality is altered, behavior changes, relationships are tough. Take care of yourself too and help him find that new path. Our caretakers are our heroes even though sometimes we don’t do a great job of letting them know. (Thanks, Steve!!)
    Kate hit another big bump in the journey this week, so I told her about the contest because I wanted her to hear your words when she needed them. She told me you all were better than a wheel! To the other entries and finalists, thanks for sharing your stories. This site has been a great teacher for us. I too wanted to go join the others and work in their great places with their expert guidance! Beautiful. I know my video quality wasn’t great… I am not very fluent and I get nervous. My camera guy graciously said it was OK and didn’t make me do it over. He did the best he could with what he had. Thanks Bryan S. You know I love you! Kate and I believe that creativity heals because we are all part of a great Creation and the creative spirit within each of us is no accident. We all have different paths but in many ways it is one journey. Thanks again for your kindness when we met you on this road! We have all won already, now we’ll just wait and see where the wheel finds a home! Peace, Jeri

  • Thank you for sharing your video. I feel so ungrateful for my circumstances. I have a studio and think all day about going into it and rarely do. I feel I have to produce gallery worthy pieces when I’m in my studio. The thought is daunting and takes the joy away from my studio time. After watching your video I am going to go to my studio and just sit there and soak up the ambiance. I’m giving myself permission to do nothing, but just be in the presence of clay. And, maybe if I feel like it poke my fingers into some clay and maybe whack it with a rolling pin and maybe lay it on a form and maybe…

  • Hmm. Setting up a studio again after a couple of recent moves. Looked here for inspiration and ideas. I have no camp kitchens available, but certainly found inspiration to get to work. The ultimate pots perhaps are our lives. Jeri, thank you for sharing yours.

  • This was a very imspiring Video. One of the classes I teach has students preparing for Occupational Therapy. I would love for them to see this video and see the wonderful power of clay. How would I download this video to show my students?

  • I began my ceramic career 31 yrs ago taking several class sessions to learn as much as I could about clay, an I learned wheel-throwing right off the bat(pardon the pun)then handbuilding, slab work, etc. I have been teaching ceramics at our local art museum for years now & love it! The outside world stops while I am working in clay. There’s no negativity, only new creation as it spills out of my head into each clay form I make. A very useful tool for therapy as you do get lost in the clay & this has to help many people who need that outlet or release. Some people don’t see the importance here & I feel sad for them. Clay helps you re-create yourself while you create & define your work. This method tends to improve anyone’s spirit & I witness that each time I hold a class. I enjoyed this video full of meaning, purpose and second chances.


  • What inspirational women I admire them for there determination and goals they have set themselves to heal themselves if onlly more people could find what they need that way the world would be a better place.


  • A great video and alot of wonderful comments. Quite emotional to watch and to read how inspiration this video was to many people. Just sad that a couple of poeple did not appreciate it and felt the need to add negative comments about the video. As we would say in Australia “pull your head in”. Those of us that have a heart and share a passion for pottery are thrilled that these ladies found pottery and that it makes them so happy. Thank you so much Jeri and Kate and CMA! 🙂

  • Thank you ladies for sharing a bit of your soul with us, truly a touching story and one that is appreciated. So many times we get caught up in the daily “humphs” in life, taking for granted that our lives could change at any moment.
    I agree with Janice, clay is many things to many people yes this IS the best art snobs aside.

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