Julie Wellings is a dynamic example of a brave and creative senior. She discovered ceramics in college and found a way to return to it after retirement. Here is her story.
Julie grew up in a fairly creative household. Her mom was in a sewing club for years, and engaged in several other arts and crafts – upholstery, needlepoint. Her dad, a Naval officer, was a ” fix it” guy and Julie liked knowing how things work. Although born in California, Julie grew up on the East Coast and then went to college at Bennington in Vermont, as a math major. In college Julie discovered ceramics – but received a very clear message from her family that college should not be wasted on an art degree – a message many of us received!
Julie moved on to UC Berkeley where she began an MA in mathematics. She also discovered Buddhism and became involved in the Zen Center. Following the pull of her heart, Julie dropped out of school and went to Japan for six months, and then Nepal, searching for a teacher. Spending two years in the Peace Corp allowed her to continue to pursue her interest in meditation and yoga. After her two year Peace Corp stint, Julie took her severance stipend and moved to South India where she lived in an ashram for the next 8 years.
Eventually feeling the pull to return to her home country and not be so separate from the rest of the world, Julie moved to Ojai in 1979 – and has been here ever since. For many years, Julie and a friend owned and ran a successful jewelry store in town. But even at its best, it was a meager living. So, Julie returned to school and got her MBA. She then went on to have a successful and lucrative 10 years as a Marketing Director for a tech company. When the company reorganized, and she was laid off, Julie realized it was time to actually retire and explore her former interest in ceramics rather than look for another job.
She took classes at Ventura Community College and then became involved in Frank Masserella’s Clay School in Ojai. In the midst of all this, Julie continued to strengthen her Buddhist connection, finding a teacher to work with, a local group to connect to, and began teaching free community Qi Gong classes. Her creativity extends its reach into the community in many ways, at many levels.
Masserella put the Clay School up for sale and here is where Julie’s courage really moved her forward. After her years in business and marketing she had all the info and experience she needed to put together a business plan and create a group to buy the clay School and turn it into a 501C3 – an educational non-profit. Although she had created a pottery studio space at home, she realized she didn’t want to become an old lady working alone. She wanted to be with like-minded people in a creative venture and invest in what she really believed in. With a “what the heck!” attitude, Julie created the new Ojai Pottery and Clay School as well as buying into a co-op Gallery in downtown Ojai. For her, ceramics is the engaging expression of wisdom awareness and she treasures how it calms, focuses, and relaxes. She loves watching the daily issues fade away as she and other studio members get into their work.
Retirees form the bulk of the School’s students as they finally have the time and money to devote to creative projects. For Julie it is all about the process, and providing a place for people to come together to participate in that is a great joy. For more information about the Ojai Pottery and Clay School, visit their website: http://ojaipottery.com