Becketwood Cooperative
An Active, Independent 55+ Community of Owners in Minneapolis

My Artistic Journey from Pottery to Chinese Painting

by Vanjie Bratt, Becketwood Member

Some of Vanjie’s paintings and pottery will be in the October Art Show in the Becketwood Galleries and Display Case. The photograph is in front of a Scandinavian hutch that she designed and had constructed.

The flower garden Mother planted in front of our small 1888 farmhouse is one of my favorite childhood memories. As a little girl, I loved picking flowers and placing them on the kitchen table, on the dresser in the tiny bedroom my sister and I shared, and in the upstairs hallway and attic bedroom where my five brothers and parents slept. Mother’s passion for natural beauty, in spite of challenging times, inspired my own desire to be creative.

My first formal art class was at the University of Minnesota studying art and design in the Home Economics Department…along with organic chemistry.

Early in our marriage, John and I took a painting class together, but then there was my teaching schedule and his preaching schedule and then the arrival of three little girls in just over two years. My brother sold his small green VW to me when our five-year-old twins began kindergarten. Thus, a time to explore. I began thinking about creative possibilities and enrolled in a pottery class at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, a short distance from our home in Puyallup, Washington. That was 50 years ago.

Throwing pots was fun, inspiring and addicting. As John wrote in our 1968 Christmas letter, “It’s been school…school…school for Vanjie since September, a ‘ceramic explosion’ is the only way to describe the shower of pots that have flown off the wheel in all directions. And the completion of her requirements for the ‘fifth year’ teaching credential.” Serendipitously, I was then given the opportunity to teach an early morning interior design class at a Puyallup high school nearby.

FAST FORWARD: After 10 years in Puyallup, Washington, and 30 years in Denver, Colorado, John and I moved to Minneapolis—only a couple miles from his childhood home. Yes, to Becketwood! That was 15 years ago. Challenging times came with Parkinson’s and John’s need for more care. He was in a nursing home for almost five years. For myself, it was a time for some kind of therapy.

I needed support. My therapy began by throwing pots again, taking classes at the Edina Art Center. John took pride in seeing the results. It was fun to see what I could create, experimenting with shapes and glazes and handcrafted figurines. After almost a year, creating lots and lots of pottery, I decided to quit due to irritating dust in my sinuses. My final big sale of pottery was at the Lola Art Crawl in 2010. The pieces that will be in the October display case are the few I have saved from my years of throwing pots.

WHAT NEXT? The Lola Art Crawl is also where I met Bob Schmitt, a highly regarded teacher of Chinese painting. With his studio only about a mile from here, I have been taking his class for six years now and absolutely love it. You will see in my paintings the child within me that loves picking flowers and finding the beauty in all kinds of creatures.


Leave a Reply

  • joy nelson September 21, 2018, 3:34 am

    VERY interesting Vangie! I’ve done a little pottery. You REALLY have! Anxious to see it!


  • Catherine Nicholl September 21, 2018, 4:56 pm

    I am so happy to have one of your pots from that Art Crawl, Vangie and looking forward to the exhibit.


  • Ruth Gaylord September 21, 2018, 6:51 pm

    Vanjie, It is so good to read your story!! You are talented, adventurous, faithful and full of energy. Continue to enjoy the journey!!!

  • Dee Schaefer September 22, 2018, 6:17 pm

    It will be wonderful to see your paintings displayed in Becketwood’s east and west galleries, Vanjie. One of them may include your mother’s flower garden in front of your country house. That will be special! -Dee

  • carol bechtel September 24, 2018, 4:20 pm

    I love the lightness and the light in this piece. Looking forward to the paintings and the pots!