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Making her mark

Potter Holly Heaslip

Photo by Holly Heaslip

When Heaslip returned home to Barnstable, she began making pottery full-time out of her home studio. While she says she’s also painted here and there over the years, pottery is her passion. “I’m a real hands-on person, and I like constructing. I might’ve become an architect, but I couldn’t do math,” she says with a smile, adding, “It’s funny because I don’t get as excited about the end product; I love the process of it.”

Heaslip says half of her work—primarily functional pieces like mugs and tableware—is created on the potter’s wheel, with the other half—including her wedding cake toppers and ring bearer shell dishes—done by hand building, in which she rolls clay out flat and then shapes it. “People are astounded that you can make anything by hand that you can make on the wheel—actually a lot more things,” she notes.

Within her quaint basement studio, numerous inspirational quotes line the walls like hidden treasures. One quote in particular, from 19th century Pennsylvania potter John Neis, stands out: “I am made of potter’s thoughts. When I break, I will be gone.” The sentiment deeply resonates with Heaslip. “I put everything into my pots,” she explains. “If I’m at a show or I’m demonstrating somewhere, there’s always somebody in the crowd who asks, ‘How long did it take you to make that?’ It sounds corny, but my standard response is ‘a lifetime,’ because everything that I’ve experienced up to the point when I make that piece somehow goes into that piece and informs it.”

Though a full-time career in art education never panned out, Heaslip’s work has led her to recently start teaching pottery part-time at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth. On weekdays she teaches a pottery wheel class, and on Saturday mornings a class on hand building. “It’s a wonderful place,” she says. “I’m really lucky to be there.”

“She’s extraordinarily talented,” says Amy Neill, director of education at the Cultural Center. “She has so many years of experience, and I value her as a teacher because I know she has so much respect for each step in the process of making a piece. We feel lucky and honored to have her on our team with us.”

Whether it be through her pottery or her classes, Heaslip says she hopes to inspire others through her work. “When I meet a former student and they tell me they were influenced by my class, it’s the ultimate,” she says. “In the same vein, if someone has a piece of my work and it brings them joy, I’ve made my mark.”

Holly Heaslip’s work can be seen at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, The Little Beach Gallery and the Cape Cod Museum of Art. To shop her wedding-themed collection, visit

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