It was while she was baking cookies one morning that Buffalo Grove resident Donna Chung broke a bowl and began the path to a new career.
“I was mixing dough in a beautiful ceramic bowl,” she recalled.
When she went to place the bowl in the refrigerator, she bumped the bowl and it broke. Chung soon learned that the bowl was not made to handle food, and she decided that she wanted to learn how to make her own functional earthenware.
Chung, a long-time opera singer, was soon taking pottery classes at suburban studios. Now, three years later, her work can be found on display and for sale at art festivals, local stores and galleries and most recently at Harper College.
“I wanted something I could touch and feel,” she said of her career change. “Unless you’re recording your rehearsals, music is sort of vaporous.”
Pottery is a five-step process that requires a combination of skill, patience and luck, Chung explained. After throwing a pot, she must wait for it to dry and then trim it to create its final shape. The pot is then fired in a high-temperature kiln at a local studio before it is glazed and fired again.
“You pray the whole time, ‘Oh please, kiln god, let it come out beautiful,’” Chung said.
Finally, she sands the bottom to create a smooth finish.
Chung forms high quantities of olive oil jars and dipping bowls in her garage-turned-home studio. The final products are available for sale at The Olive Tap in Long Grove, Someone's in the Kitchen in Libertyville and, most recently, at Harper College’s Studio V.
But, she said, she still has skills to master. She’s learning to make lidded containers, and her goal is to create a “beautiful, large platter.”
“I’d make one for everybody I know,” she said.
Chung also makes her own ceramic beads, which she incorporates in her handmade jewelry. Her jewelry is also currently on display and for sale at Studio V.
When Chung isn’t producing tangible art, she’s sharing her first love with others. A vocalist whose professional pursuits took her Germany and Sweden, she now teaches voice lessons and helps instill confidence in her students, for whom she organizes an annual recital.
She’s also found a way to enjoy her favorite music while she’s working on her pottery. As her pottery wheel spins, she hums along to Mozart, she said.
For more information about Donna Chung’s work, visit her website.