vacation sally

Sally O’Brien Burns-Denver, Colorado

“Some artists want to be on the walls of a gallery, I want to be in your kitchen”

I came to clay in the way many do, as a second career.  I spent two years trying different ways to be at home with my young son.  I made soaps, baskets, and various baked goods.  Then, I went to a clay class and I was hooked.  I love the way it felt in my hands.  I took a leap of faith and bought a potters wheel and (literally) a ton of clay.  It was much cheaper by the ton.  I worked on clay in-between Storytime at the library and swimming lessons at the rec center.

I made every mistake in the book!  I kept notes, though, and tried not to repeat them.  Then, my son was in pre-school three days a week.  This was my chance to dive deeper in.  I spent 6 hours a day throwing pots at the studio 3 days a week.  When Bruce went to school each day, so did I.  I went to Arapahoe Community College and studied with some of the great potters in a workshop setting.

I have taken workshops with the late Malcolm Davis, Robin Hopper, Connie Christiansan, and Bill Van Gilder.  Each great artist said the same thing:

Find your voice

Finding your voice is always been the hardest part of being an artist.  It’s also my greatest joy.

Some artists want to be in museums.  I want to be in your kitchen! (editors note:  that is a great line.  We need to patent that, or something)  I want you to use my work, not put it on a shelf.  I love the feel of a great mug, the sound of a fork hitting my stoneware plates, and the look of fresh fruit in a beautiful bowl on the kitchen table.

from the archives – an interview with Sally

How did you become so involved with pottery and what led to your passion?

I started working with pottery as something I could do at home to help raise my son.  I took one class, bought a wheel and ordered some clay!

I just became hooked after that class. I now work at rec centers, day programs for special needs kids, Alzheimer’s patients, and with special groups. Disabled people love working with clay, everything is new to them. I’ve been with one group for 10 years. I’ve seen them become independent, and have watched them grow. I like working with all different types of groups because it’s a great way to spread clay around. I like trying new things, I work with a mentor who is 85 years old and I get to do all types of firing; I love trying different things.

What is your favorite piece to make?

Vases or bowls would have to be my favorites; I try to make everything one of a kind. I aim to make everything different. I’m not a production potter so I try to make unique things, or whatever I feel like making on that certain day.


What is your favorite firing technique?
My favorite would have to be horse hair and feather pottery. I do lots of Raku work as well. My son is a hunter so we had peasants and turkey feathers around so one day I just threw that in to see how it would turn out and it worked!

What is your favorite Continental Clay body to work with?

I really like B-clay and high fire white. I’m using high fire white right now but the B-Clay is great to work with as well.

What’s your favorite part about working with Continental Clay?

Michael’s is my favorite, great to have more than one place to get supplies in town. I like working with a family business. Artists depend on people buying their work, so I’d rather be with a small family business.  Heck, I guess I am a small family business. Plain and simple, I like the local company Continental Clay.

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