Hiraeth Never Fades: Reclaiming My Identity through the Studio

Most of us tend to hang on to greeting cards, some longer than others. Some you never end up throwing away. This year I look fondly at cards from my aunt, my brother, and my sister, from our time together over the holidays. It was our first in my thirty-two years around the sun. Their cards, I will never throw away. At a very early age, I was orphaned and placed into the closed adoption industry. In 2018, I was able to secure my true identity. This was the year that it became legal to access a non-certified copy of my original birth certificate in the state of Pennsylvania and begin searching for my family. As a disclaimer, I grew up with good parents and continue to maintain close relationships with them. To drive the point home on the basics, neither of them could tell me about predispositions to disease or be a match for bone marrow or a kidney should I ever need it. None of the family I grew up with could tell me where I came from, because they did not know either. That was all taken care of before I even met them. You see, "The experts of yesteryear maintained that close adoptions hastened the end of birthmothers' grief, spared them shame, enabled them to go on with their lives, and ensured that their offspring would grow up with secure identities."1 In my case, none of this was true. 

My studio practice has been the key to building a bridge to my past while constructing a future with the family I thought I had lost forever. For all those non-believers out there, it turns out that art does have the power to change lives. It certainly did mine. For better or for worse, I committed myself to make work about the shockwaves that were about to unfold. In the process, I became more of the me I was always supposed to be.


After spending the better part of a decade as a potter, education director, and ceramics area head at a contemporary art museum in Montana and after a foray into abstract sculpture with fused glass, I was accepted into graduate school at Georgia State University. GSU turned out to be the perfect environment not only to focus on my studio practice, but also to work through the most difficult part of my life – finding out where I came from, the circumstances leading to the gaping hole in my personal history, and unfathomably connecting with my blood for the first time.