When her mother was diagnosed with breast and lung cancer, Susan Grogan retired to take care of her.
After her mother died in 2012, Grogan, 69, said she found herself with an abundance of time on her hands and a void to fill in her life.
She tried a plethora of activities such as volunteering at the local hospital and training therapy dogs, but nothing molded her life together like making pottery and creating ceramics.
“I tried all sorts of things,” Grogan said. “But the minute I put my hands on the clay, that was it. I knew that was my life from then on.”
After discovering her newfound passion, Grogan said she started taking pottery classes in 2014 at Ceramic Artist Studio Inc. in Newhall, where she met her friends Marlene Bernstein, Amy O’Brien and Michelle Maga, who later together formed the SCV Potters Club.
Prior to the pandemic, Bernstein, 59, said the group bonded over their overwhelming interest in clay artistry. They would share their work, give each other feedback, and even express their frustrations when they broke their molds.
Once businesses closed their doors, the sense of community in CASI fleeted and led to Grogan creating a Facebook group to officially mark the beginning of the SCV Potters’ social media presence.
“Part of the beauty of being at CASI was the camaraderie and the talking and the sharing and just simply being with someone,” Bernstein said. “When you’re at home and doing it by yourself and the only person that hears you cussing when you mess up is yourself, no one really gets to share.”
The SCV Potters group on Facebook gave the former members of CASI a way to interact with other pottery enthusiasts in the area. One way the group interacts with the community is through an activity called the SCV Abandoned Art Project.
The group started the Abandoned Art Project in 2017 when Grogan stumbled upon an article about the concept itself. Artists hide art in certain places around town and whoever finds the art piece gets to either keep it or leave it for someone else to find who may want it.
“It was easier at [CASI] because there’s so many artists there and once we asked them if they wanted to participate, they did,” said Bernstein about how engaged fellow artists were about the idea. “Everybody really jumped in and now, we’ve been doing it every year, twice a year, right before our big pottery sale.”
Grogan, Bernstein, O’Brien, Maga and several other members of SCV Potters are the “hiders,” as they take their homemade pottery pieces and hide them in select locations around the Santa Clarita Valley for people to find. Once they are hidden, the group will post clues on their SCV Abandoned Art Facebook page for people to solve so they can locate the art piece.
Each art piece will have a small tag attached to it showing the name of the artist, the date of the art sale coming up, and a request to tag the group on social media to show where you found it.
“It’s really joyful for us to do,” Bernstein said. “It’s like giving a gift. You’d love to give a gift.”
Grogan recalled a time when she hid a pitcher in front of an Olive Garden, and the lady who found the art piece said it made her feel better after having an awful day.
“She said, ‘I found that and I was having such a horrible day and it really made my day, plus someone put money in it,’” Grogan said.
The group said when they first started the art hunt, they had around 200 members in the Facebook group. Now, around five years later, they have more than 1,500 members.
“It’s just a fun way to share your artwork, too,” O’Brien added. “It’s just a great way to get other people interested in art and handmade objects. It’s nice to know that somebody’s using the things that you made.”
This year’s Abandoned Art event will kick off on Monday, April 18, and will go on until Friday, April 29, all leading up to the SCV Potter’s Spring Sale in Castaic on Saturday, April 30.
Maga, 69, said they came up with the idea to host a pottery sale in her driveway because she noticed many of their fellow SCV Potters members wanted to sell their art without having to pay the fees of other art and crafts shows and venues.
“I had been doing craft shows at the parks and hauling all of my stuff there and it was always a hassle,” Maga said. “That’s when I just decided to do one [at my home].”
Rather than buying mass-produced products from corporations, Maga and Grogan said this pottery sale gives the community a chance to establish a connection with the artists who made their piece of pottery.
“I have different memories associated with pieces of art,” Maga said. “And I hope that that’s what people take away when they buy something at our sale. I want them to say, ‘We went to this cool sale and we saw all this great pottery and now I have a piece of art and I met the person who made it.’”
“Why would you go and buy something that’s mass produced?” Grogan said. Why give that to someone, when you could have something that’s unique? Nobody else in the world has an item.”
Despite none of the ladies having any background in art or pottery before taking classes at CASI, they have all accepted it as an integral part of their lives.
“I just like to surround myself with all different types of art every day of my life,” O’Brien said. “Life’s too short to go to Walmart and buy dishes there. I’d rather have something that another human being touched and made.”