26 Nov 2019

The Joy Project: Jane Elizabeth

Jane Elizabeth.
From THE JOY PROJECT, 2:20 pm on 26 November 2019

Jane Elizabeth, 42, is a potter. After 11 years in America, she moved back to Wellington and now lives in Eastbourne.

Join us this week as a diverse group of New Zealanders share what makes them happy.

"Everything happens for a reason. I don’t want to sound crazy, but I think the universe has a plan for us. I’ve always had that kind of mindset. I don’t think that I’m Pollyanna though. I can see reality for what it is. 

I’m a single mum to three boys, aged six, 10 and 12, and I’m a full-time potter. My boys are my driving force and I want to create a great legacy for them, but oh my word, trying to get my ceramics business off the ground and to be the best mummy I can be is intense. It’s amazing and I love it, but it’s exhausting. 

At high school I was always in the art room at lunchtimes. I was really drawn to the pottery wheels at the back of the class, but we weren’t allowed to use them. It wasn’t until I was living in St Louis, Missouri, that I went to pottery night classes for six months. I took up classes again after my kids were born and we were living in Kansas. I thought, ‘I love this so much, this is going to become my life’. I started selling my work and everything was going really well, but then my marriage ended and I moved back to Wellington in November 2016. I started working as a part-time art teacher, but I just really needed to do my pottery so I set myself up to do it fulltime at the start of this year. 

Jane Elizabeth.

Jane Elizabeth. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

With pottery, I love that you’re making something that will last for thousands of years. It’s like you’re making immortality with your hands. I used to be a painter, but I was never drawn to it like I am to clay. I love getting messy, I love the tactileness, I love the process. You can manipulate a piece of mud into something that can be breath-taking. I have learned though that you can’t get excited about a piece you’ve made until it’s come out of the final firing and you’ve checked it all over. You can’t get your hopes up. It’s devastating otherwise. I think that there’s a certain intensity that comes with working with clay, but you also have to be laidback. I know there are potters who are perfectionists - and maybe sometimes I wish I was more of one - but in everyday life I’m not a very sentimental person and I love change. If something knocks me off course, I just think, ‘oh my gosh, this is what we’ve got to work with’. I’m a great believer that energy is attracted to like energy. 

Jane Elizabeth.

Jane Elizabeth. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Coming back to New Zealand after 11 years in America and going through a divorce was a really dark time for me. I knew I had to find the things that gave me joy. I had to think, ‘OK, I’ve got these three gorgeous, healthy, hilarious kids and I’m living in Wellington, where there’s this beautiful harbour and these amazing native birds. I never take those things for granted. 

I used to be a hardcore evangelical Christian. I love that now I can think outside that really rigid box. I think we need to be able to think for ourselves a bit more; it’s OK to go looking for a new set of beliefs, or just make a big mash-up of lots of different things that make you happy. I don’t think people should feel judged about the things that give them joy and peace, or be scared about what others think. I’ve never been someone who looks back with regret, I’m always about moving forward. Life is so busy but it’s amazing. I think I can fit everything in until I’m 85 and then I’ll be ready to have a bit of a rest.   

As told to Lucy Corry.

This week RNZ talks to New Zealanders about what makes them happy.

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