Lisa Hanna Vincent
Sitting down to have a cup of tea with Lisa Vincent is a double enjoyment: there is the tea of course, and then there is the wonderful ceramic work that holds the tea and that is Lisa’s passion. Lisa’s many works of ceramic magic that she creates in her home studio are brought to life with brilliant organic colors and natural textures – beautiful and functional works of art that all started as therapy.
One evening in 2002, Lisa Vincent’s life changed forever as she experienced a stroke in her thalamus part of the brain due to a neck injury. She explains the constant pain that she lives with is Central Pain Syndrome. Lisa feels as if flames are burning her arms and legs of her left side or that a side of her body is being skinned. At the same time, her right side feels heavy and thick, so that she feels split in two. As she describes it, part of her brain has died and now needs to be rewired.
“You really are not the same. You become a different person. You have to mourn the person that you were and lost and become a new person.” And this is precisely what she has done; as therapy to rebuild the connections in her brain, she has taken up pottery and has created a new person, one who creates wonderful works of art.
Who or what influenced you in becoming a ceramic artist?
I think we are all born artists. I always have problems with that word artist. Maybe that’s because I grew up with a father (David Hanna) who made a living as an artist. He always encouraged us to make things and create things – it was just how we lived. I can’t really say that one thing or person influenced me because to me everyone is an artist.
What creatively inspires and motivates you in your work?
My work is about escaping my pain. It started with knitting, using my hands, and I found it very meditative, and I escaped. But then when I found pottery and touching clay. I was really worried that it would have an adverse reaction to the nerve pain that I feel all the time. But it actually is very comforting. It is very strange when I think about it, what is clay and mud? It is kind of everything that lived before and turned to dirt. It is all old living matter that you turn into something fresh and new. The cycle continues.
What are some of the influences for your current work?
My children; they amaze me. They’re so pure in their thoughts and how they create things. And when I see them creating things, it makes me want to make something from scratch – finding that inspiration for something new or different. So what if it turns out a flop? It’s all a learning experience.
I do go on the internet and read a lot of blogs about pottery, knitting, and sewing, and see how people are being so creative. A good friend of mine once told me that he doesn’t look at other people’s artwork and what they are doing, because when he finds something he just did and someone else is doing it too, it makes him feel empty. I have to agree with him, so I try not to get sucked in. Art saves me.
What is your greatest fear?
I am fearful that I will have another stroke, a stroke where I lose complete control of my hands. I love using my hands so much, making pottery, knitting, and cooking. Every once in a while, I get very frustrated with my hands, something as simple as washing my hair and I have to shake my hands, because they don’t do what I want them to do.
Also one of my greatest fears is that something might happen to one of my children or my husband Eoin. I don’t know what I would do.
Where do you feel pottery is going?
I think everything goes in fads, in turns; they look modern then ornate. I think everything in life is so cyclical, always changing but the styles and designs tend to come back around again.
Modern pottery has a lot of mass production work. I guess it does have its purpose, so people who can’t afford homemade pottery can have what they need. Artists designing stuff and having it mass produced or having someone else copy it and mass produce it is something that bothers me.
What music are you listening to?
Lately, I have been listening to heart wrenching songs, songs that kind of pull on your heart strings. Love songs. I also really like listening to music that I don’t know what the singer is singing. I have been listening to some French music. I have been really enjoying it.
What are you reading?
I am reading Sunflowers, historical fiction about Vincent Van Gogh. I started it last night. My predicament lately is that I will start stuff and if it isn’t enjoyable, I won’t keep on reading it. I have read so many books up to 60 or 100 pages and then get to a point that I have read enough, and I really don’t care what happens to these characters, I’m done.
I have been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, which is excellent. I highly recommend it. It is a book that you can pick up anytime and open up any chapter and learn something new about yourself.
What role does Rockport play in your work?
I do love the ocean and the way that it feels. I have become more attached to the coastline in Rockport more than I was in Maine, where I grew up. It has lots of stone walls – I love stone walls. Rockport is where I learned pottery. One of the things that is awesome about a community like Rockport is that when I had my stroke, I was really touched by all the people who came out and helped. Over a year or two, it was amazing: people called me, asked if they can get me anything at the grocery store. People here are the best.
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