June 24, 2013
Retirees craft second careers as artists
One was a stockbroker, another a computer whiz. There's a therapist and a small-business owner. Each retired from a traditional career and launched into another in the arts.
"Do I still have nightmares about the other (job)? Yes," says Bill Sanders, a Steamboat Springs, Colo., ceramics artist who is retired from the lumber and wood flooring business he owned for 20 years. He says he still wakes up sometimes in a cold sweat worrying about whether some shipment is making it to a job site on time. Then he realizes he doesn't need to worry about that anymore.
These days, Sanders, 64, keeps to the outdoors -- he skis during the winter and volunteers for the U.S. Forest Service during the summer -- and creates his artwork, which includes dishware, decorative pots and sculptured horses.
He learned the basics of ceramics as a teenager living in Southeast Asia. He kept at it while growing his Honolulu lumber and flooring business to include eight employees and more than $1 million in inventory by the time he sold the company in 1997.
Then, he and his wife, Barbara, also an artist, moved to Colorado, and he turned to his lifelong love of ceramics more intentionally.
"Clay is kind of cool. It's just dirt," says Sanders. "If you don't like what you did, you just throw it back in the bucket and then you can make something else."
Jennifer O'Day, 61, of Austin, Texas, is a former stockbroker who says her mixed-media artwork nourishes all her senses.
"It really sharpens my ability to see visually and perceptively and I think tactilely," says O'Day. "It's not just about my mind and my hand accomplishing something. It engages that whole mind-body-soul thing."
She was born into a business-oriented family, so that was in her blood, she says. The art she nurtured.
"I wanted to do something that was closer to the bone and less about the money," O'Day says about the portraits she now assembles.
It's not just about my mind and my hand accomplishing something. It engages that whole mind-body-soul thing," she says.
There's one aspect of her old stockbroker life that she sometimes misses: engaging with clients.
Geri deGruy, 59, also enjoyed her previous career, as a therapist in private practice, although it was emotionally grueling working with many of her clients, who were abused women.
"Toward the end of my practice, there was a feeling sort of like PTSD," she recalls.
She turned from being a therapist to the textile arts, which required that she slow down.
"I started seeing form differently. I started seeing repetitive patterns," says deGruy, who creates small art quilts and mixed-media collages. "My eye was developing, my seeing was changing."
She still works every day.
"Always our time is short -- we never know," deGruy says. "I have that urgency every day. I don't want to waste this moment. I don't want to miss this opportunity to play with color."
Judy Hoch, 72, of Salida, Colo., finds parallels between her former career, as a computer engineer, and her current one as a jewelry maker.
"Jewelry making is just engineering on a very small scale," she says.
Hoch spent a dozen years at IBM, where she became a senior engineer and earned two patents, then moved into a computer software job, from which she was laid off in the early 1990s.
"I had to do something after that," she recalls. "Going back to work in high tech when you're 50-something, it wasn't a real good idea. It wasn't going to work."
She took jewelry and metals classes at a Denver-area community college and got hooked. She relies on her mechanical engineering training when fusing metals or cutting stones.
"It's a lot of fairly sophisticated measurements," Hoch says. "There are so many technical things . engineering is a very useful skill to have."
While she describes her years in high-tech as fun -- "like working with puzzles" -- jewelry-making taps her creative energy.
"You spend a week away from it and you get terrible withdrawal," she says.
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