“I started taking classes at Castle Hill when I was 15 years old,” Paul Wisotsky says in his comfortable Truro living room. “I’m 57, and now I’m teaching there in the very same studio. It’s a full-circle experience for me.”
Along with Chris Watt, Wisotzky is teaching ceramics at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill throughout the off-season, which Wisotzky calls the “our-season,” for year-rounders like himself. “I teach Thursday morning, and Chris teaches Wednesday morning. The sessions are six weeks. You get three hours a week of instruction, and then open studio time, Monday to Thursday, all for $295. It’s an amazing deal.” (Session II has already started: it began in mid-November and continues through Dec. 19. Session III begins Jan. 8 and runs through Feb. 13. Session IV is Feb. 19 to March 26; Session V, April 1 to May 7.)
“It’s always mixed-level,” Wisotzky says, meaning beginners are with more experienced potters. “The mix works, because sometimes I’m demonstrating more basic skills and sometimes more advanced skills. Then I go from person to person and help them where they are. I do a lot of one-on-one instruction. I’m going around, wheel to wheel, helping people. It’s teaching and coaching.”
Wisotzky, who grew up in Lexington, became a potter relatively late in life. He spent most of his career as a consultant to nonprofits on “organization, program development, and governance,” he says. “I was probably young for having a midlife crisis, in my early 40s, but I thought, I don’t want to do this anymore. I really struggled for a year, thinking, what was I going to do for the rest of my life?”
He had an epiphany when he was asked what he had hoped to do when he was young. “For me, making pots was my first love,” Wisotzky says. “The clay studio was a refuge from the misery of high school. I really kind of bloomed there.” The follow-up question: why not be a potter? “And it was like, duh,” he says. “It’s interesting that a simple question can change your life if you really listen.”
He was living in San Francisco at the time and signed up for a course. “I was really scared,” he says. “What if it didn’t work for me? I sat down at the wheel and within 15 minutes I was in heaven.”
He had some catching up to do. “I created my own clay education at that point,” Wisotzky says. “Apprenticing, taking workshops, eventually assisting master potters in their studios and workshops. And that sort of led me to where I am now.”
He moved to Truro from San Francisco in 2007. “I always wanted to live here,” he says. “I always felt as if my soul lives in Truro. I feel at home. I feel happy. I feel at peace. When I became a potter, I realized that this was something that I could do in Truro. It was also an opportunity to be closer to my family, to help my brother take care of our failing parents, who had retired here.”
He launched the Blue Gallery at 389 Commercial St. in Provincetown in 2010. “The reason I opened the gallery is that there’s a lot of great art in Provincetown, but there’s not a lot of fine craft,” Wisotzky says. “I wanted to create a space for great American craft. I loved the gallery, but it was a lot of work running the business and representing 35 artists. It was successful, but I didn’t feel as if I was satisfying my creative soul as much as I needed to.” A couple of years ago he gave it up and now rents the space to East End Books Ptown.
Meanwhile, he started to get involved with town government in Truro. “It was a natural progression for me,” Wisotzky says. “Because of my background, I was on committees. I was on the select board from 2013 to 2019. The first time I ran, I was unopposed. The second time it was contested, and I won. I loved being on the select board. It was a great experience. And I loved being chair for three years. It was an honor.”
These days, Wisotzky devotes himself to Blueberry Lane Pottery, the line of porcelain and stoneware that he fires in atmospheric kilns (as opposed to electric) on his property.
“I make a living selling pots and teaching pottery,” he says. “And I love teaching.” He also likes to learn. “The learning never stops. To expand my knowledge, to be exposed to other artists, I started doing residencies about three years ago. I’ve been a winter resident at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. I just did a residency in late May at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Island, Maine. The residencies are freeing — they allow you to focus on something you want to develop for yourself, to hone in on a specific technique. And you can fail. You often learn the most that way.”