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Linda & Bill Potter

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Creativity. What is it? How does it start? Where does it reside?

I think the creative spark is inside everyone; we just have to encourage it to emerge. Sometimes it flickers now and then as we make art or it lights a fire under us that we just can’t ignore.

For me, creativity has taken many paths. The most recent was when I offered to house Jo Packham, a friend of a friend, on her Fall trip to Ketchum, Idaho. I was not one of her magazines’ artists nor did I even give myself the moniker of being one…I just love my barns, and I thought Jo would too. However, Jo couldn’t just “sleepover.” She had to know the stories behind my home and my passions, and then, she insisted I also share that story with her readers.

Linda & Bill Porter with Dog

 

Before the barns, there was my passion for teaching. I taught 9th-grade math. I had always loved math because I could check my answers, and no one would subjectively judge my work. I longed to take art classes but was too unsure of having enough “talent” to try. When our family relocated to California, I discovered, to my chagrin, that our local public schools had dropped Art Education. I was devastated that my daughters would no longer delight in stepping into a magical art room at school once or twice a week.

So, I volunteered to teach my girls’ 1st and 2nd-grade classes each week so they and their classmates would know that art was a valued part of the school curriculum. Their teachers trusted me and my art book library to keep a few steps ahead of their classroom kids, and I became an art teacher.

Not long after my solo engagement in the classroom, I was asked to join a larger group—Arts Attack—developed by a volunteer parent and artist in our school district, Marcia Osterink. That led to nine years of bringing art lessons to first through sixth graders in three separate schools. I probably don’t have to say it, but I was way more popular as an art teacher than I was instructing classes in algebra and geometry.

Linda Potter Making Art

 

I knew I made a difference in the lives of all those kids. I did not have to be an “artist” because I was able to share the joy of personal creativity with hundreds of little souls. One young girl who had never uttered a word found more than paint on her hands at the end of the day. Yolanda almost always wore something purple to school. She chose purple paper and purple paint whenever possible. For more than three years, I taught Yolanda art three times a week—one time in her Special Ed classroom and twice a week in the regular classroom with my daughters. One day, we were mixing the primary colors on a paper plate. When we got to stirring red and blue together, Yolanda found her voice and blurted out her first word…PURPLE. Her lifetime in words soon, happily, followed.

Artisconsequential; itworksmiracles.

In 2003, my husband (aka Potter) and I started something bigger and older than both of us. Three vintage barns dating back to 1750, 1800 and 1810 were labeled, dismantled, cleaned and trucked from New Hampshire and Vermont to Hailey, Idaho. While the extraordinary talents and impeccable work that so many individuals put into the construction of our home were invaluable, I believe the essence that sparked our “Three Barns” ambiance was the placement of objects found, made and acquired into the lofts, bents and cavities of those historic structures, releasing dormant stories and giving rise to future life, friendships and joy.

With the Barns’ groundbreaking, I delved back into old scrapbooks, sorting and categorizing until I had a roadmap to create our home. Over the years, I had gathered photos from magazines of objects, furnishings and room ideas— really just anything that spoke to me. Folk art, birds and animals of all sorts became the room anchors that informed furnishings and fabrics. Reverence for items spontaneously and simply-made filled spaces previously occupied by cows and milk pails; horses and wagons; and farmers and crops. We were told to “Honor thy Barn” by Ken Epworth of The Barn People—to keep the soul of the barn part of the fabric of our home–and in doing so, The Barns have honored us with echoes of past voices and promises of future harvests.

Within our barn home, the kitchen is part of my living room because I do a lot of living in the kitchen. The smaller island I designed for a dual purpose. On the kitchen side are drawers that house napkins, placemats and warming drawers. On the backside living behind the cabinet doors is inspiration: art books, nature logs, paper, yarn, paints, jewelry supplies, Sculpy and even a flower press. My kitchen is a place that beckons old and young to put on an apron and linger to cook and create.

The same landscape I designed from my scrapbook draws in the grandchildren to work and play too.

When I’m in the kitchen, I love getting out my oversized bowl and mixing up oats and nuts. It is the place where Three Barns Granola was born—though it happened years after I had stirred the first batch of cereal and following a frightening breakfast. One Thanksgiving, my niece had a big bowl of my homemade granola. She neglected to tell me she was allergic to sunflower seeds; after a couple of bites, she was rushed to the hospital. My daughter, KC, sensing that the granola was potentially lethal, offered to design labels with the ingredients clearly delineated, but there was one catch—she informed me the current name I had chosen for my cereal, ER (aka Emergency Room), was a non-starter.

My love for my kitchen has only grown over the years; it holds adventure, laughter and possibilities. In no time, a red checked vinyl cloth can appear on the breakfast table, and my grandchildren can explore all of their personal creative nooks and crannies. Or, our lab Quigley, will wander in and stand patiently by the treat drawer because, well, it contains treats.

Linda Potter Kitchen

Best of all, within my kitchen, I can be right alongside the grandchildren and Quigley—chopping, stirring, cooking and cleaning up—happy inside and out that the kids are engaged with their hands and souls at the table or just beyond in their own little Pottery Barn kitchen where they can chop, stir and cook too. Quigley is there as well, usually sleeping through all the day’s activities unless they involve food for him.

Creative inspiration and joy also flourish in the woodshop at The Barns. A while back, I purchased an antique dish rack. My husband, “Potter,” of 46 years, upon hearing the price I paid, felt challenged to make one better and certainly cheaper. He accomplished both feats. Now, the demand for dish racks keeps Potter in the shop morning, noon and night.

Back before I even knew him, Potter’s curiosity for dismantling and rebuilding things lit his creative flame. J R Bogen taught him Industrial Arts in 7th grade. That was not only his favorite class but the foundation of all Potter’s tinkering, making and building to come; his first masterpiece was a wooden go-cart made from parts of the family’s Radio Flyer wagon. Much later, Potter designed his first workspace in our San Diego garage to continue his woodworking hobby. There he made cabinets, horse jumps and doors for spaces old and new, near and far.

Bill Potter DNA

Potter has woodworking in his DNA so it is no wonder that he gravitated to the old workbench of his grandfather, a railroad engineer. Many of the antique tools Potter found there—crafted with care and used over the years with purpose—have found their way to his workshop in The Barns, including an old wooden mallet and a vice that hasn’t lost its grip; both useful mementos that never fail to bring back thoughts of long-ago times.

The art loft emerged spontaneously when I bought an antique green desk because I just liked it. The desk really did not fit anywhere in The Barns so I had it lugged up the narrow stairs to the loft in my bedroom. I moved packing boxes, empty and full, and stashed suitcases farther into the corner to clear the way. Who knew the desk would call so plaintively to be engaged; to ignite a spark for old crafts to tumble from the boxes and new ones to find their way upstairs to inspire waiting hands— my old ones and the grandchildren’s young ones.

Linda Potte Loft

The loft continues to beckon me to come and get lost, and find myself all at the same time. When I took my first bookmaking class from Sharon Payne Bolton, I immediately got enthralled with the mini pages, scraps, memories and possibilities. On my next barn jewelry prowl, I found the metal baker’s rack that became the depository of all things “Sharon”— bits of olden days, scraps of dreams, found feathers, old papers and photos, buttons and bows…awls, needles and waxed linen to craft pages recalling the past and expressing new hopes, with whimsy and serendipity. So now, the rack sits amid barrels of wrapping paper, trunks of fabrics and ribbons, paints and felting wool and it, too, calls me to come upstairs and play.

Inspired creativity resides inside all of us; it can emerge as a painting or sculpture, a bowl of cereal, a song or even a dance. These various creations are patiently living inside our souls, waiting in cluttered corners ripe with possibility, waiting for us to liberate them…or, alternatively, just waiting for Jo to “sleepover.”

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings. Always believe in yourself.”   –Anonymous

Creativity. What is it? How does it start? Where does it reside?

I think the creative spark is inside everyone; we just have to encourage it to emerge. Sometimes it flickers now and then as we make art or it lights a fire under us that we just can’t ignore.

For me, creativity has taken many paths. The most recent was when I offered to house Jo Packham, a friend of a friend, on her Fall trip to Ketchum, Idaho. I was not one of her magazines’ artists nor did I even give myself the moniker of being one…I just love my barns, and I thought Jo would too. However, Jo couldn’t just “sleepover.” She had to know the stories behind my home and my passions, and then, she insisted I also share that story with her readers.

Linda & Bill Porter with Dog

 

Before the barns, there was my passion for teaching. I taught 9th-grade math. I had always loved math because I could check my answers, and no one would subjectively judge my work. I longed to take art classes but was too unsure of having enough “talent” to try. When our family relocated to California, I discovered, to my chagrin, that our local public schools had dropped Art Education. I was devastated that my daughters would no longer delight in stepping into a magical art room at school once or twice a week.

So, I volunteered to teach my girls’ 1st and 2nd-grade classes each week so they and their classmates would know that art was a valued part of the school curriculum. Their teachers trusted me and my art book library to keep a few steps ahead of their classroom kids, and I became an art teacher.

Not long after my solo engagement in the classroom, I was asked to join a larger group—Arts Attack—developed by a volunteer parent and artist in our school district, Marcia Osterink. That led to nine years of bringing art lessons to first through sixth graders in three separate schools. I probably don’t have to say it, but I was way more popular as an art teacher than I was instructing classes in algebra and geometry.

Linda Potter Making Art

 

I knew I made a difference in the lives of all those kids. I did not have to be an “artist” because I was able to share the joy of personal creativity with hundreds of little souls. One young girl who had never uttered a word found more than paint on her hands at the end of the day. Yolanda almost always wore something purple to school. She chose purple paper and purple paint whenever possible. For more than three years, I taught Yolanda art three times a week—one time in her Special Ed classroom and twice a week in the regular classroom with my daughters. One day, we were mixing the primary colors on a paper plate. When we got to stirring red and blue together, Yolanda found her voice and blurted out her first word…PURPLE. Her lifetime in words soon, happily, followed.

Artisconsequential; itworksmiracles.

In 2003, my husband (aka Potter) and I started something bigger and older than both of us. Three vintage barns dating back to 1750, 1800 and 1810 were labeled, dismantled, cleaned and trucked from New Hampshire and Vermont to Hailey, Idaho. While the extraordinary talents and impeccable work that so many individuals put into the construction of our home were invaluable, I believe the essence that sparked our “Three Barns” ambiance was the placement of objects found, made and acquired into the lofts, bents and cavities of those historic structures, releasing dormant stories and giving rise to future life, friendships and joy.

With the Barns’ groundbreaking, I delved back into old scrapbooks, sorting and categorizing until I had a roadmap to create our home. Over the years, I had gathered photos from magazines of objects, furnishings and room ideas— really just anything that spoke to me. Folk art, birds and animals of all sorts became the room anchors that informed furnishings and fabrics. Reverence for items spontaneously and simply-made filled spaces previously occupied by cows and milk pails; horses and wagons; and farmers and crops. We were told to “Honor thy Barn” by Ken Epworth of The Barn People—to keep the soul of the barn part of the fabric of our home–and in doing so, The Barns have honored us with echoes of past voices and promises of future harvests.

Within our barn home, the kitchen is part of my living room because I do a lot of living in the kitchen. The smaller island I designed for a dual purpose. On the kitchen side are drawers that house napkins, placemats and warming drawers. On the backside living behind the cabinet doors is inspiration: art books, nature logs, paper, yarn, paints, jewelry supplies, Sculpy and even a flower press. My kitchen is a place that beckons old and young to put on an apron and linger to cook and create.

The same landscape I designed from my scrapbook draws in the grandchildren to work and play too.

When I’m in the kitchen, I love getting out my oversized bowl and mixing up oats and nuts. It is the place where Three Barns Granola was born—though it happened years after I had stirred the first batch of cereal and following a frightening breakfast. One Thanksgiving, my niece had a big bowl of my homemade granola. She neglected to tell me she was allergic to sunflower seeds; after a couple of bites, she was rushed to the hospital. My daughter, KC, sensing that the granola was potentially lethal, offered to design labels with the ingredients clearly delineated, but there was one catch—she informed me the current name I had chosen for my cereal, ER (aka Emergency Room), was a non-starter.

My love for my kitchen has only grown over the years; it holds adventure, laughter and possibilities. In no time, a red checked vinyl cloth can appear on the breakfast table, and my grandchildren can explore all of their personal creative nooks and crannies. Or, our lab Quigley, will wander in and stand patiently by the treat drawer because, well, it contains treats.

Linda Potter Kitchen

Best of all, within my kitchen, I can be right alongside the grandchildren and Quigley—chopping, stirring, cooking and cleaning up—happy inside and out that the kids are engaged with their hands and souls at the table or just beyond in their own little Pottery Barn kitchen where they can chop, stir and cook too. Quigley is there as well, usually sleeping through all the day’s activities unless they involve food for him.

Creative inspiration and joy also flourish in the woodshop at The Barns. A while back, I purchased an antique dish rack. My husband, “Potter,” of 46 years, upon hearing the price I paid, felt challenged to make one better and certainly cheaper. He accomplished both feats. Now, the demand for dish racks keeps Potter in the shop morning, noon and night.

Back before I even knew him, Potter’s curiosity for dismantling and rebuilding things lit his creative flame. J R Bogen taught him Industrial Arts in 7th grade. That was not only his favorite class but the foundation of all Potter’s tinkering, making and building to come; his first masterpiece was a wooden go-cart made from parts of the family’s Radio Flyer wagon. Much later, Potter designed his first workspace in our San Diego garage to continue his woodworking hobby. There he made cabinets, horse jumps and doors for spaces old and new, near and far.

Bill Potter DNA

Potter has woodworking in his DNA so it is no wonder that he gravitated to the old workbench of his grandfather, a railroad engineer. Many of the antique tools Potter found there—crafted with care and used over the years with purpose—have found their way to his workshop in The Barns, including an old wooden mallet and a vice that hasn’t lost its grip; both useful mementos that never fail to bring back thoughts of long-ago times.

The art loft emerged spontaneously when I bought an antique green desk because I just liked it. The desk really did not fit anywhere in The Barns so I had it lugged up the narrow stairs to the loft in my bedroom. I moved packing boxes, empty and full, and stashed suitcases farther into the corner to clear the way. Who knew the desk would call so plaintively to be engaged; to ignite a spark for old crafts to tumble from the boxes and new ones to find their way upstairs to inspire waiting hands— my old ones and the grandchildren’s young ones.

Linda Potte Loft

The loft continues to beckon me to come and get lost, and find myself all at the same time. When I took my first bookmaking class from Sharon Payne Bolton, I immediately got enthralled with the mini pages, scraps, memories and possibilities. On my next barn jewelry prowl, I found the metal baker’s rack that became the depository of all things “Sharon”— bits of olden days, scraps of dreams, found feathers, old papers and photos, buttons and bows…awls, needles and waxed linen to craft pages recalling the past and expressing new hopes, with whimsy and serendipity. So now, the rack sits amid barrels of wrapping paper, trunks of fabrics and ribbons, paints and felting wool and it, too, calls me to come upstairs and play.

Inspired creativity resides inside all of us; it can emerge as a painting or sculpture, a bowl of cereal, a song or even a dance. These various creations are patiently living inside our souls, waiting in cluttered corners ripe with possibility, waiting for us to liberate them…or, alternatively, just waiting for Jo to “sleepover.”

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings. Always believe in yourself.”   –Anonymous

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