Shlumpy pumpkins. Stumpy tree trunks. Vases crowned with dragonflies and flowers. Nancy Legault’s whimsical earthenware is displayed in galleries and shops from Michigan to Florida.
Nancy has been shaping and glazing her pottery for nearly 20 years in White Lake, Michigan. In her journey, she has been pressed hard, just like the clay she molds. She has passed through the fire to make something beautiful.
It all began with Bloody Marys, “served ice cold with three olives and a pickle!” Nancy recalls. “I was a stay-at-home mom, running a home for assisted living in my house. I needed a night away from kids and seniors, so I joined a group of girlfriends for a craft night.”
They gathered on Monday nights to drink and play with clay. “I made a little pumpkin night-light for my daughter who was a year old. My friends went crazy for it.”
One enterprising friend took the night-light to a boutique in downtown Milford, Michigan. The store owner ordered 15 more on the spot. “I was in business right away,” Nancy recalls. “I bought a kiln and all the supplies with my first wholesale order.”
She named her company Three Olives and A Pickle in honor of that first creative evening and the favorite drink of her supportive, crafty friends.
Nancy was ready to put her degree in Design and Business to good use. “The only hiccup was being able to grow my business,” Nancy remembers. “I was a wife and mother first, and an artist second. The more successful my business became the more demanding my responsibilities became. My family always came first, and my business suffered from the loss of my attention.
“I lost myself to being a wife and mother, and I forgot who I was inside.”
“I lost myself to being a wife and mother, and I forgot who I was inside. I am not sorry that I invested in my family and children. I am just sorry I wasn’t better at balancing a successful business and family life.”
As Nancy wrestled to find that balance, an even greater challenge was on the horizon.
“Have you ever heard the expression that necessity is the mother of invention?” Nancy continues her story. “After my divorce, I was financially strapped. The only way I knew how to make money was my art. So I put my nose to the grindstone and found a house that could accommodate my business. My girls still came first, but I needed to make money to support my new life as a single mother.
“My youngest was 14. I got up early, saw her off to school, and went to work. I worked until she got off the bus and I became ‘Mom’ again. I needed to create cash flow to support my family. Sometimes after she went to bed I would go back down to work in the studio.”
“At the same time I was creating my art, I recreated myself.”
There in the struggle, Nancy began to find herself. “I was free to create,” she recalls. “At the same time I was creating my art, I recreated myself.”
Nancy sold the clay vegetables and fruits of her labors at little art fairs and weekend craft shows. Soon her pottery was featured in quaint shops and galleries throughout the region. “I am blessed with some very loyal customers who helped support me through some very lean times,” she shares.
Now, with her children grown, Nancy is hitting the road, and enjoying a new level of creative freedom. Traveling the western coast of Florida – from Hommasass Springs to Key West – Nancy builds relationships with local galleries and fellow creatives.
“I found a community studio in Bonita Beach,” she says. “Working in a community studio was different for me because, in general, I work independently in my own studio. In a community studio you can share ideas and get inspiration from people.”
“As you can see, I was very inspired by the Florida coastline. Lots of bright colors and flowers,” she says of her recent designs. “My latest obsession is orbs in all sizes and uses. Most have a function as a bud vase or a water feature. Some are purely decorative.”
Now with a steady stream of orders, Nancy reflects on her journey. “I have always been creative my entire life. I think pottery was my calling. It found me. I didn’t find it.”
Nancy’s advice for someone starting out? “Never give up on your dreams.”
story by Audrey Woodhams