In early June, mornings are cool and peaceful as the sun rises over the rich, verdant landscape of Fernwood Farm. Birds harmonize with the whir and clang of early morning chores, yet there is stillness in the air. Evanescent microdrops are poised in suspension over the pasture and coat the 1947 turquoise Studebaker truck.
Dawn Soltysiak begins her day dressed in a T-shirt, jeans, and a red scarf tied over long, chestnut-brown braids. She sets out across the lawn toward a classic red barn, which houses her studio, kiln room, workshop, gallery, and a popular community gathering place. She makes a slight turn down the drive towards the back pasture. Before entering her studio, she pauses to glance across the road at the perfectly pitched roof of a neighboring long barn, which supports seventy-eight solar panels that supply the energy needed to fire her kilns and run the studio. On a perfect day, Dawn will work in her studio till early evening and spend a little time with her livestock before heading back to the house for a relaxing dinner on the porch.
Fifteen years ago, Dawn and her husband, Rob, bought this thirty-acre working farm, located in southwest Michigan near the town of Fennville, as a major step toward living more sustainably. They raise grass-fed cows and pastured chickens and keep bees. During the first few years, Dawn commuted fifty miles to Grand Rapids to maintain her real estate business, while making art in her spare time. She knew that if she didn’t start a new life as a full-time artist soon, she might never do it, so in 2010, she ended her career in real estate to devote herself to ceramics.
Her love of ceramics dates from the time she spent as a child in her mother’s ceramic studio; years of living on the farm, close to the seasonal cycles of the land, have also made their mark on Dawn’s artistic vision. She explains, “I see preservation, nature, and knowledge as key to my life’s journey. I enjoy exploring the interplay of organic forms, unique firing techniques, and natural processes. My work is the result of these explorations. I enjoy working in a diversity of styles, creating nonfunctional objects of beauty and functional work that my customers can use and enjoy daily. ”...