LARSON: Woman finds prophet-able career in pot making

When she was in her 90s God told her she’d give birth — and Sarah laughed.

When she was in her late 30s, Pam Koehler-Camp was a highly paid accountant who’d just gotten a dream promotion, yet a voice inside her told her she’d become a potter. And she laughed.

Koehler-Camp had never touched a ball of clay in her life. Then, in April of 1996, as though answering a divine call, she abruptly quit her fast track job and enrolled in a pottery class. At first she was so intimidated she only observed, then for 10 hours a day, six days a week she threw clay in her basement in Lilburn. Three months later, she sold out at her first pottery show.

What gave birth to this new found talent? When Koehler-Camp threw her first decent looking pot, she made up business cards and gave a few to her dad. While entering a liquor store, he held the door for a woman whose hands were covered in clay. “My daughter’s a potter,” he proudly said as he handed her a card. The woman, coordinator for the Celtic Arts Festival, called his daughter that evening and asked if she had anything to exhibit. She had only six pieces, but that was enough to mold her new career. All six pieces sold within three hours at competitive prices.

A month later she exhibited some bowls in a shape she happened to like. A Japanese tourist bought them all to take home for a tea ceremony. He said they were the perfect size and shape.

Within months she developed her own style of Celtic pottery with traditional symbols as well as a whimsical style of her own incorporating leaf prints in the design.

About a year later, a relative from Florida visited and said, “Since you’re a potter, I thought you’d like some of your great-grandfather’s stuff.” It was then that she learned her great-grandfather was the first commercial potter in Florida and that his pieces are still exhibited at the historical society and several museums.

“Why did I never know this?” she asked.

“It was just his job,” he replied. “Some people are farmers. Some carpenters. Some potters. No big deal.”

As she examined his works, she discovered he used rose leaves in his designs – the same technique that had already become her trademark.

Two years after laughing at the thought of being a potter, Koehler-Camp started teaching at the Joan Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts and has been conducting classes there ever since. Her works are included in how-to books on ceramics and are exhibited worldwide, including of course, the Hudgens Center.

Each pot bears a tag reading “Every pot is a prayer as God led me to this place, using my art for God’s purpose.” Her studio is called “And Sarah Laughed” (www.andsarahlaughed.com.), but she’s taking her new calling in life quite seriously.

Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com.