Monthly Archives: February 2022


Sometimes pots break during the bisque firing. Usually because I haven’t allowed them to dry enough. If the bottom breaks out, I keep it. I glaze it, and then later, when I have extra room in the kiln, I’ll fire it again. It lets me try things with the glaze that I might not want to risk on an intact pot.

They go into the aquarium, and the fish make them their homes. I still get to display them in my home and look at them. It ties back into what I always say about shipwrecks. And imperfections.


I’ve said from the very beginning that I want my pottery to look old. I was inspired by the rock walls along riverbanks, with their lichen and mineral deposits. I looked at a lot of colonial pottery from New England, and find some of their characteristics surfacing in my own pieces.  I look at neolithic bowls and ancient Egyptian artifacts. Several of my new bottles/vases remind me of the “Baghdad Battery.” Others look like canopic jars or kohl pots. These influences mix with my own experiences and ideas. Obviously, my pots are contrived. I have to have a plan for what I am going to make.  Sometimes the clay seems to have a mind of its own, and brings surprises to the process of throwing clay. The glaze always brings surprises. In this way, I can look at my own work almost as an outsider.

“Baghdad Battery”
The Nile Delta (view from the ISS)
Voluptuous Jug

From Liberia to Minnesota: Reflections of a Small-Town Nurse


By Timothy Young, LPN

My father is a retired surgeon. He ran a mission hospital in Monrovia, Liberia (which has since become an Ebola center), and moved the family there in 1975. This is where I grew up — on a palm-lined, West African beach.

As a child, I helped out in the pediatric ward and sometimes watched my dad perform surgery. That’s how I learned that I am not squeamish, which planted the seed for my future in nursing. Though it would be a long time before it became a reality.

After graduating in 1978 from the American Cooperative School in Liberia, I returned to the States and attended Bible school and art school in Michigan.


In the mid-‘80s, I moved to the remote town of Grand Marais, Minnesota, on the western shore of Lake Superior. Grand Marais, with a population of less than 1,300 people and only one stop light, has been described as the coolest small town in America. Built on lumber and fishing, it’s a beautiful town surrounded by the Superior National Forest — a place where you can become whatever you want to be. Here is where I discovered my artistic path. I am a painter and am best known for painting fish in the branches of trees.

There wasn’t a college in the area, and online learning wasn’t an option at the time, so returning to school never crossed my mind. But years later when online learning became an option, I entered a practical nursing program.

At 50 years old, I was finally fulfilling a dream — one that I had kept in the back of my mind for 30 years and that was going to help me create a better life for myself and my daughter.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how young you are. You are incredibly special whether you realize it or not.

If I can do this, you can too.page19image1943581920


Living in a tiny town, I had to do much of my schooling online, but I also made frequent trips to the Itasca Community College campus in Grand Rapids, Minnesota — a three-hour drive each way. I was afraid the whole time that I would not succeed. Being the oldest student in my class, I wondered if I would be able to keep up with the younger students, but we all got along well. I had already been mentoring high school students for over 20 years, so I took on an unofficial role as a mentor to my fellow students, particularly the ones from Africa.

I graduated with honors and was the commencement speaker for the class of 2012.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the staff at Cook County Higher Education in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. They held my hand and guided me through the process. They even coached me in math.

There were certainly challenges, but I was determined. I not only wanted to achieve my personal educational goals, but I wanted to set an example for my daughter, who was struggling in high school.


Following graduation, I worked for eight years in long-term geriatric care. My daughter grew up and moved away, as children do. I did not want to be an empty nester. My heart and my home were open, and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others in both my professional and personal lives.

Just as I thought I was too old to go back to school, I also thought I was too old to adopt children. But my daughter cheered me on. I just kept telling my caseworker to put the next hoop in front of me, and I would jump through it.

I adopted a teenager with special needs and became the legal guardian for his sister. This meant I could no longer work nights, so I became the school nurse for our local school district. This way, I had the same schedule as my kids.

My story is unique, as is everyone’s. My hope is that other people will hear my story and follow their dreams despite the obstacles.

I have spoken with students at career fairs on behalf of nursing, and I often tell them this: There has never been anyone just like you in the whole history of the universe. Your strengths and your weaknesses are gifts that no one else possesses. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how young you are. You are incredibly special whether you realize it or not. If I can do this, you can too.



Timothy Young, LPN, retired from his position as a school nurse for Cook County Schools in Grand Marais, Minnesota, in May 2021.

Not being

I often see beautiful things that I can not afford. That can be the driving force behind me trying a new skill, or attempting to incorporate the appealing characteristic into my work. In this way, I can hang big, original art on my walls, and fill my cupboards with handmade crocks.

When I first borrowed a wheel so I could learn to make clay pots, a friend of mine said that I couldn’t just do that. You can’t just borrow a wheel and become a potter. Why not?  If you want it bad enough, you can do it. All potters started out not being potters.


In order to find my truth, I must be willing to question everything.  Everything I thought was true. Everything I have said. It changes… the way a shoreline changes with each wave that laps. With each ripple. It is altered by evaporation and by rain showers. Riverbeds and seashores, species and science adapt. They are redefined by facts. Some people like to nail things down. They may feel threatened by new information.

I’m nostalgic. I love outdated things that hold memories for me. My house is filled with artifacts from my youth. I try to instill my pottery with a sense of antiquity. Those old things were once new, even cutting edge. They may now seem naive. Cumbersome. Like ideas that have made way for better information. 

Sometimes a whole storyline goes crashing down, to be replaced by something else, or replaced by the absence of it. Sometimes the best thing to do is loosen my grip. The truth is still the truth, regardless of how I feel about it. I only hope I will embrace a buoyant, open mind rather than a pretentious argument.