Julia Mann: A Renaissance Woman

It is rare that you meet a potter who can accomplish almost anything in clay: build her own studio from the concrete pad up to the finished trim, build her own gas downdraft kiln, teach potters at any levels, and make pots for collectors all over the southeastern United States. My friend and studio mate, Julia Mann, is that woman. She is a rare breed. She is a Renaissance woman.

The definition of a Renaissance woman is a woman who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field. Julia is this woman in spades!

I have known Julia since we were kids in our twenties. We became friends instantly in college, both of us studying ceramics. I was a beginner having never touched clay before and Julia was already an amazingly skilled potter, finding her style and learning how to develop her business. 

Over 35 years we have weaved in and out of each others lives, confident that we are friends for life. Isn’t it wonderful how life enhances friendships in ways that you do not expect? Now in this season, our friendship and love for each other is so much deeper and enriched.

Our shared passion for pottery has become a refined working partnership that is foundational in our advanced ceramic studies at The Village Potters Clay Center. We see each other every day and work together in almost all the workings of The Village. We are studio mates, we teach together, we explore new ideas and techniques together, and our lives are fuller and richer because of our relationship. 

Julia the Teacher! Julia is so kind and gentle. She loves people and loves to serve others. When I asked her what she is most passionate about, she responded “The first thing that pops into my head is helping students. I love being a person of service.” This is so true. She will stop doing almost anything to help. And what an amazing and engaged teacher. Julia gives her knowledge freely, slowly and gently. Our friend and previous advanced studies student, Tracy Hawkins, shared with me that when she is working alone at the wheel and working through a challenge, she can hear Julia in her head gently and softly saying, “there you go!”.

Julia in her element, sharing and teaching!

Julia with wonderful Advanced
Students and Apprentices

Her memory and ability to retain information is astounding. Julia is focused, steady and calm. She can take a problem and study it closely and find a solution. In fact, she comes alive when she is problem solving. 

Julia demonstrating in the ISM studio!

Julia the carpenter. I mean a really good carpenter. I asked her: where did you learn to build like that? She tenderly shared how in her childhood she pushed against gender stereotypes. Her father wanted her brothers to do the building, but it was Julia who was created for it! She told me about her first building experience. “I helped my grandfather, who was building a boat, when I was a child.” She said it was her grandfather who nurtured her. She continued to develop that skill in her life and now as an adult there really isn’t anything she can’t build. Really! In her 40 year career she has built 4 personal pottery studios. Her last one she built completely by herself, “with only a little help from my brother [now passed away], lifting the windows into place when he happened to be here visiting”.

Julia’s last personal pottery studio and kiln shed
that she built, by herself from the ground up,
before joining us here at The Village.

Julia the potter! Julia is a masterful potter and a fully engaged talented teacher. When I asked her about making pots she said, “I cant ever see myself not making pots”.

Julia’s Pitcher

Julia’s Canister Set

Julia’s Teapot

Julia the sister, friend and studio mate! Julia is an introvert who deeply loves of people. Her community is extremely significant to her. Julia has been an active member in a women’s group for 25 years. When I asked her what did she get from her women’s group she said, “the sisterhood, the connection, they know me”. Ah, to know and be known. 

She nurtures her intimate relationships here at The Village, as well. Her immediate family have all passed away with the exception of her sister. They are close, but there are many miles between them. When I asked her about her life here at The Village she said, “You all are family to me. We are a family. I don’t have biological family here. You are my family of choice.” My heart was full when she shared this. We all feel the same! This renaissance woman is our sister and a blessing beyond measure!

Julia with her “family of choice”.
Can’t you feel the love?

Written by sister and friend
Sarah Wells Rolland