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Bowled over by pottery

Christina M. Currie

Susan Erikson has two daughters — one who’s a photographer and another who’s a business major.

Both reflect interests they inherited from their mother — who flexes her right brain by day and her left brain by night.

Erikson has worked at The Memorial Hospital since 1973, starting as an operation room technician and becoming the director of health information.



She transferred from direct patient care to “paper pusher” shortly after a divorce that left her a single mother unable to be on call in the operating room. She gave up her position as an emergency medical technician for the same reason.

“(The business office) was just a better set up for my kids,” she said. “I miss the patient care, but I’m tired. At some point you just wear down. I was on call for so many years.”



Being on call during Craig’s boom years meant responding to knifing and shootings and “all that good stuff.”

“It was just crazy here,” Erikson said. “At some point, I just reached burnout and I became a paper pusher.”

Giving up her on-call jobs kept Erikson home at 2 a.m. but didn’t reduce her hectic schedule.

“I never go to bed before 2 o’clock,” she said. “That’s just the way my life is. I’ve always worked hard because I’ve been a single parent since my girls were little.”

Now, she’s about halfway through the 51 credits she needs to earn her degree in health information technology. She’s taking nine credits through an online program this semester and will be taking 12 next semester.

“That’s what my weekends are,” Erikson said. “My life is crazy.”

She started the program two years ago.

Pottery, she said, keeps her sane.

About 10 years ago, her daughter Tamra, who always was looking for artistic outlets, signed up for a pottery class. She was young enough that she was required to bring a parent.

Tamra hated it, but her mother came away with a life-long love, which she now shares with others as a Colorado Northwestern Community College pottery teacher.

She teaches two nights a week this semester but will bump that up to four next semester.

“It’s a great stress reliever,” she said.

Erikson has had the opportunity to work with some high-quality teachers, learning different techniques.

Her favorite is raku, in which pottery is heated to a certain temperature in a kiln and then laid on a bed of shredded paper that catches fire.

The process gives pottery a cracked look but gives the potter little control over the outcome.

“It’s like a big surprise,” she said. “That’s what I like about raku, you get pieces that are art — just bowls, but art.

“Some instructors don’t like it because it’s such an uncontrolled form.”

Erikson learned the technique from Robert Pippenberg “a raku pottery guru.”

“He’s my pottery idol,” she said.

She started teaching about five years ago, but credits her skill to a variety of different instructors.

“(Former Craig resident) Elaine O’Henry taught me how to look at pieces as art,” Erikson said. “I feel really lucky that I had her as a teacher.”

Examples of Erikson’s work can be found around her office and in others — gifts she’s given during the years.

“If I really had my druthers, I’d be a full-time potter, but you know, you just can’t make a living at it,” she said.

She recently expanded her artistic talents when she took a workshop on making Ukrainian Easter eggs. She teaches a college course on the process.

“It was just fun,” she said. “Designing a look like that takes hours and hours, but you just break it down. Anybody can do it.”

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.


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