Living the Dream: Potter Lorna Meaden Gives us a Glimpse into her Super Awesome Studio

If Lorna Meaden wasn’t such a nice person, I might be a bit jealous of her dreamy Durango, Colorado, pottery studio. But she’s a pal and I just have to be happy for her. And, of course, I know this studio is the result of years and years of hard work. As Lorna explains, she worked harder than she ever imagined she could to make this happen. You go girl!

Today, in a excerpt from the March 2011 issue of Ceramics Monthly, Lorna gives us a peek into her 650-square-foot studio and tells us all about how she made it a reality. She also explains that the key to keeping herself creatively charged is to balance her studio life with her life outside the studio. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


Just the Facts


Primary forming method
throwing on the wheel

Primary firing temperature
cone 10 reduction soda

Favorite surface treatment
slip inlay

Favorite tools
my newly built soda kiln

This article is featured in Ceramics Monthly magazine’s March 2011 issue.
To get great content like this delivered right to your door, subscribe today!

I have a new (finished just a year ago) studio that is 650 square feet, located on the property where I live. No matter how big it seemed when it was first built, it always seems like it could be bigger.

After finishing graduate school in June of 2005, I spent three years doing residencies and teaching short-term adjunct positions. While back in Durango for a visit, unsure whether I would stay or not, an opportunity to buy a piece of property from a friend fell in my lap. While initially intimidated by what seemed apparently impossible, over several months and many long conversations with friends and family, I came up with a plan to “make it work,” and dove in.

The property, where I have now lived for two and a half years, is three in-town lots with two small houses that were in need of a lot of work. With the help of my family, I got the larger of the two houses in rental condition, and the smaller house converted into a temporary combination of studio and living space. Over the following year, my brother and his friend built my new studio building that my father designed. After living and working in a 450-square-foot space for a year and a half, I happily moved my workspace out of my house and into the 650-square-foot studio. It’s a two-story, barn-shaped building, and I love the rounded ceiling and the great view from the upstairs window.

I throw, assemble, and decorate in the upstairs space, and slip cast and glaze downstairs. One of the best things about my property is that I have room to grow. Years from now, I hope to build a house that I live in, and then make my little house where I currently live available for an apprentice.

Adjacent to the studio building is a 90-square-foot shed for tools, glaze chemicals, and my electric kiln. In between the two buildings is my new soda kiln that was built (with the help of generous friends) this past fall. The design of the kiln is based on the “little vic” kiln at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. It is a small boury-box style cross-draft kiln that can be fired with wood, natural gas, or oil. The kiln building project was funded through selling pots, and the small retirement fund I saved up and cashed in from teaching adjunct for three years.

When I finished graduate school almost six years ago, I never imagined I would be able to afford, maintain, or manifest a home and studio of my own, although that has always been my intention. Currently, my rental house helps financially sustain the property. The fact that I’m willing to live in such a small space helps. After all, doesn’t everyone dream of a studio bigger than their house? People often ask me, “Can you believe it? You are living the dream!” I do think I am very fortunate. This home and studio have already brought me so much happiness and stability, and I can only believe it because I had to work harder than I ever imagined I could in order to begin to see it materialize. I’ve always liked the saying, “the harder you work, the luckier you are,” and I have found that to be true in most things.

Tea set, striped flask, and muffin pan, all thrown and altered porcelain, with inlaid slip, then glazed and fired to cone 10 in reduction with soda, by Lorna Meaden, Durango, Colorado.
There is nothing, of course, like building a kiln you have waited years to build. Meaden’s friends pitch in to help with the hard work.

There is nothing, of course, like building a kiln you have waited years to build. Meaden’s friends pitch in to help with the hard work.

Paying Dues (and Bills)
I learned to throw in high school, and went to get a bachelor of arts degree in art from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and then a master of fine arts degree in ceramics from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
Though it varies widely, I spend about 40 hours per week in the studio. I teach one ceramics class, adjunct, at Fort Lewis College, and I travel to teach quite a few workshops a year.

The older I get, the more I feel like I need a balance in my life to be able to be creative. In other words, I am more productive in my studio if I am also getting enough sunshine, laughing hard with my friends, traveling outside the small town where I live, and exposing myself to places and things I’ve never seen before.

<p>Detail of a cocktail pitcher (likely put into use directly after the kiln building).</p>

Detail of a cocktail pitcher (likely put into use directly after the kiln building).

I work out anywhere from three to five days a week. Exercise seems to be the only thing that wards off the pain of years of repetitive movement. I currently have no health insurance, but my goal is to get it within the next year.

Currently, all of my work is sold through galleries. My goal is to sell half of my work through my studio and on my website. The advantages to gallery sales are the broader market they reach and the sales knowledge and experience of gallery owners. The disadvantages are packing and shipping the work and giving up a percentage of sales.

I feel that all the traveling I do to teach workshops has been a great way to expand the market for my work. In the past, entering juried shows was a way that new galleries would see my work.

I know that the Internet is a valuable and powerful tool, but I don’t really like computers, and I especially don’t like spending my time sitting in front of, or staring at, one. I definitely participate in online sales, emailing, networking, etc.; however, my philosophy is that if making good work and keeping it interesting is my first priority, everything else will follow.

<p>Watering cans in progress on the second floor of the studio, where forming and some decorating take place.</p>

Watering cans in progress on the second floor of the studio, where forming and some decorating take place.

Most Valuable Lesson

Be resourceful and stay out of debt. Also, find a way to have enough concentrated work time without spending too much time alone.


  • Subscriber V.

    Whew! I so admire you!

  • Keisha P.

    Oh my goodness your work is beautiful!!! I love porcelain.

  • Marko F.

    Just as Lorna’s work so beautifully reconciles surface with form, her studio practices are clearly balanced by her life outside. We are defined by what we do, and Lorna’s work is stunning; her laughter and mirth show up in the whimsy and playful gesture of her forms. The fact that she is so productive speaks to her integrity, discipline and love of clay. Keep up the great work! Marko Fields

  • Liz P.

    I had the pleasure of purchasing one of your mugs at Watershed last year I still love it. Great studio, congratulations on your hard work and talent. It is paying off!

  • Katie M.

    If more people realized the value of hard work and savings the world would be a better place. Your work is great and your studio is admirable. Congrats.

  • Karen M.

    lorna i have been enthralled by your work since i first saw you at nceca in pittsburgh. your studio reflects the beauty of you. i’m a fan!!

  • Susan M.

    I have just created a very small studio space myself, but don’t have a kiln yet. Nonetheless it provides me with more un-rushed time to work that paid time at the local pottery studio. It is wonderful to have my own designated space. You are fortunate to have this and the support of family and friends. Best wishes for continued success. I appreciated your personal story! Keep up the laughs. Best of luck! Susan Meade

  • Karen S.

    love that muffin pan! nice work, great studio & house picture.Very cozy!

  • Oh my goodness. This is like being divorced for such along time (I am) and finding someone that stirs butterfly in your stomach (it happened). Falling in love all over again and looking forward to holding your love in your hands.
    I fell in love with pottery 6 years ago. Oh the excitment of actually being able to make something that was not hideous and having your co-workers asking your to make a piece for them. Ultimate joy!!! Thank you for making me fall in love again.

  • Anne-berte H.

    Very nice studio-I have my home and studio very similar to Lorna-unless the fine sommer weather-her in Norway we have snow and it is pretty cool.Great work from Lorna 🙂

  • Lisa C.

    lorna is an absolute PEACH. love her, love her stuff. thanks,lorna for sharing!

  • Janine W.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful life. I especially agree with your comments about balancing work with exercise, laughter and sunshine.

  • Sapna S.

    This is so inspiring! I always wanted to own a studio of my own and I can’t wait to start planning for it! All the best Lorna!

  • Marian C.

    You are right, your work space has a lot to do with your attitude and creativity. Looks wonderful, fun and WOW. Good work.

  • Gil M.

    I can tell by reading her words, that this potter is a good, decent person. I admire her philosophy and agree! Her work is fabulous, and I will probably own some of it before too long. My studio is just south of Pueblo, Colorado, so it won’t be too big a trip.

    Lorna, about all I could wish for you is health insurance. Looks like you have everything else covered nicely. Good luck, happy potting, and keep up the good work. I just think you’re great.

  • Very inspiring, relistic and positive outlook. You’re balanced attitude & hard work has been rewarded, and it motivates me to get off the computer 🙂

  • Valerie M.

    OH WOW!!! I haven’t read the article…I just looked at the photos!!! I am so so so envious of this woman. Her studio is FABULOUS!!!! And her work is awesome!!!

  • Larry G.

    The joy of this article is very inspiring and maybe after I finish a few more projects in front of the computer (taxes and a video about post Katrina Louisiana i can start working on a studio as well. The joy of life shines through this article as well as the beauty of the art. Thanks for the inspiration!!

Enter Your Log In Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.

Larger version of the image
Send this to a friend