By Christina Whiting
For the past 12 years, Chris Story has made a name for himself in Homer as a real estate agent, well known for his quirky ads and numerous radio programs.
As a young man, Story dreamed of being a potter and 20 years ago, this dream became a reality. He was selling his one-of-a-kind work in galleries, museums and gift shops throughout Alaska and the Lower 48, as well as on Princess Cruise’s ships. Eager to have a solo exhibit, Story approached a gallery, but the curator said no. And, so Story tucked his dream away and his passion for pottery slowly faded.
“I went in a completely different direction and became a capitalist artist selling whatever would sell the best,” he said. “I was a fast studio potter and perfected that craft, selling as much as humanly possible in bulk quantities.”
He was creating a good quality product of saleable pottery, but his heart and soul were no longer in it and he began to view his art as a job.
“While I enjoyed the work, I was no longer following a passion as much as I was filling orders,” he said.
In 2002, after creating pottery for 15 years, Story decided to try real estate as a hobby. He was soon working for Bay Realty full time, finding a new creative niche in real estate and he sold his pottery equipment.
“I loved writing descriptions of homes, being creative in my advertising and helping people achieve their dreams of home ownerships, so I didn’t feel a void or vacuum of creativity,” he said.
In 2007, he started Story Realty and the following year, created Radio Realty, a weekly, half-hour radio program.
“From creating the content to building the website, this show became one of the most creative outlets I could ask for,” he said.
Radio Realty soon became an hour-long show and within a few years, Story had created additional programs, including Alaska Matters Radio and the Alaska Real Estate Podcast.
In 2013, Story’s daughter Zoe asked him to take a pottery class at the college with her. Together, they registered for the class taught by Carl Bice.
As Story quietly and methodically worked clay for the first time in 10 years, he remembered his early love affair with pottery that began when he was in high school, when he took a class with pottery teacher Jack Walsh.
“The first time I ever laid my hands on clay, I felt like I’d found a long lost friend,” he said.
As Story sat at the wheel for the very first time and worked a lump of clay, Walsh touched him on the shoulder and whispered, “You get it.”
“In that moment, being young and insecure and with no real bent toward athletics or academia, those words helped me find a purpose,” Story said.
Story bought a wheel and with his grandfather’s help, moved an old building onto his parent’s property. This building became his studio and for the next four years, Story threw constantly, spending hours beneath the light of a single bulb in his small studio. He also continued to take as many classes as he could and when he was a senior, his conceptual, wood-fired teapot gained him Honorable Mention in a Kenai Potter’s Guild competition.
After high school, Story moved to Anchorage, with his wheel and raku kiln in tow and found work with well-known Alaskan potter Edith Parsons.
“What I observed of Edith’s life was this idea of ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,’” Story said.
In 1994, Story and his wife Tiffany moved back to Homer and bought K Bay Ceramics. He taught wheel thrown and hand-built pottery and did custom firing. Selling his work at a Homer Council on the Arts Street Faire one summer, Story realized that creating and selling pottery was what he wanted to do fulltime.
And so, the couple started Story Pottery, making their unique work with Alaska motifs of salmon, halibut and forget-me-not flowers that sold around Alaska, in the Lower 48 and on cruise ships. And so, Story sought out a gallery again, hoping to hold a solo exhibit, but was turned away a second time. And he didn’t ask again; that is, until this year, when he took the class with his daughter.
“After the second class, I was ready to again seek out a gallery to show my work,” he said.
Story approached Fireweed Gallery owner Irene Randolph and when Randolph enthusiastically agreed, Story got to work and created Zen Gardens and ceremonial tea bowls. This exhibit of raku and high-fired stoneware is on display at the gallery for the month of May.
“This exhibit is proof to me that you should never give up on your dream,” Story said.
Twenty years ago, one gallery curator’s rejection provided a hard blow to Story’s confidence. Since that time, he has learned the importance of what he calls ‘picking you.’
“‘Picking you’ means not waiting for permission from somebody else to do something that you want to do,” he said. “You just have to try it, whatever it is, for you.”
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