Tuesday, December 24, 2013

For Carol Glenn, life comes full circle

Valley ceramist tells her story in a colorful new book

Express Staff Writer

Ceramist Carol Glenn takes a break from work in her home in the Gimlet subdivision south of Ketchum, where she lives with her husband, actor Scott Glenn.
Express photo by Roland Lane

    One doesn’t have to spend a lot of time in Carol Glenn’s world to recognize she is a self-contained person with an uncanny ability to take life on its terms.
    And despite plot twists and the occasional slight of circumstance that to other artists would dilute the meaning of their work, Glenn strikes one as a personality who, when the world isn’t shouting out her successes for her, contentedly throws herself a cupcake-sized “hurrah” party, in the quiet afterglow of a physically intimate cycle of contemplative work completed.
    Carol Schwartz Glenn will tell you her life started small in Brooklyn, N.Y., within a very Orthodox Jewish family, continued to the wild-yet-conforming life of a model (once of famed photographer Irving Penn), which led to her red-carpet life as an “elbow” in her actor husband Scott’s career, to a mother with a side passion for pottery.
    Today, in the elongated studio adjacent to her Gimlet home south of Ketchum, her arms are thrown out wide in anticipation of the next phase of her life. Her current story, the one in which she finally steps out and embraces her life as a respected ceramist with a great backstory, is told in a beautiful new book titled “Carol Glenn,” which is being released in a limited quantity for Christmas.
    Scott Glenn, 72, is clearly ready to assume the role reversal. Breaking from an amble through the snow with his 4-year-old barefoot granddaughter, he doesn’t assume the arriving reporter and photographer are there for him.
    “You must be here for Carol—she’s just in here,” he said.
    He stays out of the interview save for a few pop-ins to alert Carol that another package has arrived from UPS.
    Glenn admits hers is a somewhat accidental life.
    “I’ve been extraordinarily lucky. I am here and things have come to me,” she said. “I work hard and I work without expectations. I never know what is going to happen when I throw and I never created anything with the idea of selling it, and yet, here it is.”
    The book, coaxed from her by local editor Karen Oswalt, provides intimate snapshots of her life and her work as it intertwined with her husband’s travels and their children’s growth.
    Her first kiln was plucked piece by piece with the help of actor Herve Villechaize from a Topanga Canyon estate sale. She later had a portable “studio” that she took on movie sets, where she gleaned tips from local artisans while Scott worked.
    While her husband’s Hollywood connections did allow her to sell work to the likes of Burt Lancaster and Donna Karan, and, to teach Demi Moore how to seductively pull off that famous scene with Patrick Swayze in “Ghost,” it was her Sun Valley life that took her from the wife who putters with pottery to the ceramic artist married to the actor.
    “The Sun Valley Center changed my life,” she said. Back when The Center’s founder Glenn Janss had a pottery workspace at what is now the Community School, Glenn was able to take classes with some of the leaders in the field, including longtime mentor Jim Romberg.
    She fell into a rich ski life when skier Dick Dorworth recruited her husband to join the ski club and it finally occurred to her that she lived in a resort and perhaps ought to learn. She stayed in, he bailed out, but now they together enjoy the sport with their children and grandchildren.
    This is her time—a psychic told her so.

I didn’t stop working, thank god, and here I am.”
Carol Glenn

    “I went to a psychic out in west Ketchum in my 40s who told me that she knew I was working hard, but that not to expect anything to come of it until I was old,” she said, tossing back a mane of hair that once was used by Vidal Sassoon to introduce his new line of hair products. “I was sooo mad! But, I didn’t stop working, thank god, and here I am, and I guess I’m old.”
    The book began with a challenge from a magazine publisher who had come to speak with Scott during the Sun Valley Film Festival, and happened to inquire who she was.
    “I’m his wife, I’m an artist, a potter,” she said, thinking the conversation dead. “If you’re an artist, where is your book? And I thought, where is my book. I need to tell my story for my grandchildren or it won’t be told.”
    And so, she began.
    Frequent collaboration with Bellevue photographer Kirsten Shultz helped the idea take shape simply as a photo book, but Shultz saw so much more.
    “The first time I photographed her work was in 2005 and I was completely inspired and blown away,” Shultz said. “When she called in 2010 to say she was thinking of doing a book and what did I think, I couldn’t have been more honored.”
    Things of beauty are often hard to translate on film, and a three-dimensional object is “always tricky to convey,” but she called on her magazine experience and relied on the help of a designer named Drew Furlong to best present it.
    “We live design together,” she said. “Carol started sharing stories with us. Carol’s work and her voice is so beautiful, she would leave and we would both be in tears. The success of the book came from the ability to showcase the work in the best possible light. We are so grateful she trusted us.”
    Glenn said seeing the completed book does give her a different view of her career, “but still, you never know what will reach you or anyone else. You never know how the piece is going to go until it does.”
    “Doing the book was so much fun,” she said. “Taking the time to look at each piece and remember what it came from, what was happening at the time.”
    But no matter where the latest adventure takes her, she already longs for the time she will be back in her studio, Tupak blasting over the speakers, heat rising, wheels spinning.
    “That’s when things are really jumping in here and I am most alive.”

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