Mark Bateman and Dog Ear Pottery

Creative sparks ignite new endeavors.


Creativity begets creativity, so they say. Dabbling in something new can spark ideas, open doors, and sometimes help us break through creative blocks and other challenges life throws our way. Trying new endeavors isn’t just about gaining inspiration, though, it’s also about personal growth. As a visual artist, actor, and writer, I’ve experienced the many ways various disciplines strengthen one another. I can also say that pushing myself to work in mediums where I don’t always feel comfortable has greatly enriched my life. Not that it’s always easy. 

The first thing I ever did onstage was improvisational comedy. Not because I’m fearless, but because I fell in love with it. And when you fall in love with something (or someone), you have to at least try, right? Not to sound overly dramatic here, but even though I was stone-cold terrified, joining that improv group changed my life. It led to other amazing opportunities, gave me confidence, and allowed me to use my visual art skills in new ways, through propmaking.

Though drawing and painting are my first loves, I’ve always wanted to try wheel-throwing. So my husband Eric — also a virgin wheel-thrower — and I took a class at Featherstone Center for the Arts, taught by Mark Bateman. His story is a great example of how creative risk-taking can pay off.

“I went to graduate school for creative writing, and am a writer by trade,“ Bateman said. “When my husband Kyle and I moved from New York City to Vermont in 2010, I’d had some losses in my family, and was experiencing some serious writer’s block. But I knew I needed to stay creative.” It just so happened that Bateman’s hometown had a pottery studio called Mud Studio, and his husband Kyle gifted him a class in 2011.

“I just kept doing it. There were people in the studio who had been doing pottery for 50 or 60 years, mixed in with people who were just learning,” Bateman said. “It was such a great way to envelop yourself in pottery and learn everything you needed to learn, because everyone was doing everything — wheel-throwing, handbuilding, raku, and different glazing processes. I was a sponge.” 

Eventually Bateman started monitoring classes a few days a week, which helped him pay for his classes. Then in 2017, another artist in the studio opened her own place, Blockhouse Studio, and asked Bateman to teach there. 

These days, Bateman teaches pottery at Featherstone Center for the Arts. He and Kyle moved to the Vineyard full-time in 2021. “We bought our house in 2020 — the year we both turned 50 — and we decided to come here for the summer,” Bateman said. He went into Featherstone, where potter and teacher Frank Creney asked if he wanted to teach in August. “So I taught that month, and they said if I ever wanted to teach more classes, to let them know. So I did. I started teaching wheel-throwing and handbuilding.” 

Bateman and Kyle’s original plan was to retire on the Island. “We lived in a ski resort town in Vermont, which had the same real estate issues the Island has. And the winters were getting harder,” he laughed. Kyle landed a job with Tea Lane Associates, and Bateman had a home at Featherstone: “So we were both like, ‘Why wait until we’re 65?’ The Island has always been super-special for us, and when we were able to get jobs at such amazing places, it felt like a no-brainer.”

Aside from wheel-throwing and handbuilding, Bateman also runs open studio classes at Featherstone. “Watching people become as passionate about pottery as I am is amazing. Seeing people who are frustrated in the beginning grow to love it, and sell their work at craft fairs, is so rewarding,” he said. 

“I was one of those frustrated people. My wrists hurt, my neck throbbed, and I physically struggled to lift the clay up into the tall-ish funnel shape that Eric and the other students were forming. It quickly became clear that I wasn’t going to be featured in Bodybuilders Magazine anytime soon, and that I better level up on my weight training. As a result, my bowls wound up looking like ashtrays, and were so thick and heavy they could probably be used as doorstops. I did have fun, however, and I learned a lot.” Bateman was also great at reminding us that we didn’t have to be amazing.

“I say in every class to just allow yourself to be bad at something, so you can learn,” he said.

“Having expectations that you’re going to be great holds people — especially adults — back. Give yourself permission to suck, knowing that if you keep working at it, you’ll get better. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t get better with practice.” 

Wheel-throwing is precise, a bit fussy, and physically challenging, which isn’t for everyone. “Pottery is finicky,” Bateman said. “But it’s like catching a bug. All of a sudden, you start watching YouTube videos on it, noticing shapes in the street and wondering how to build them, and it becomes a passion instead of a hobby.” 

Handbuilding is a little freer. “People who are artistic tend to gravitate toward handbuilding because they can make anything they want,” Bateman said. “They come in with ideas, and I provide techniques on how to do it. What I love is that people do so many different things in class — no two pieces are the same.”

Bateman has a working studio in his house, and he’s named his brand of pottery Dog Ear Pottery. “I converted a section of my basement into a pottery room for wheel and handbuilding, and another room off it has a kiln and my glazes,” he said. Which is awesome. A space of one’s own is every artist’s dream, but I simply had to know where the name Dog Ear Pottery came from. “I’m a big dog person,” he said. “And it’s also a bit of a wink-wink, nudge-nudge to stories I’ve read about dogs, as well as paying homage to my love for writing.” 

Bateman sells his pottery at Featherstone, the Galaxy Gallery, and at Craftworks Gallery. This summer he plans on selling at the Chilmark Flea Market. “This is the first time I’m doing any kind of craft fair on the Island, outside of the Featherstone Holiday sale,” he said. 

Speaking with Bateman reminded me that I have to go pick up my doorstops — I mean my bowls — this week. It’ll be interesting to see how the glazes I chose turned out. I also signed up for a handbuilding class with him in August. Though I’m unsure if I’ll continue wheel-throwing, I loved trying it, and I greatly appreciated Bateman’s patience as I asked him 500 times, “Wait, what do we do next?” 

As for Bateman, he’s a smart cookie. He not only recognizes how important it is for people to try new things, but he jumps into new things himself. “Be brave enough to be bad at something,” he said. “I’ve had people in classes who struggle, and instead of allowing themselves to learn, they just give up. And that’s fine, but for me, I want to keep learning. When I was in my 30s, a woman I really value said to me, ‘The only thing that can never be taken away from you is your education,’ and that really stuck with me. I try to do something new every year.” Bateman and Kyle have done scuba diving, sailing, horseback riding, and more, just to expand their horizons: “Watching people realize that they don’t have to be a Picasso to create something they enjoy working on is great. Seeing them tap into something they haven’t tapped into before is so rewarding.”

Oh, and by the way, pottery did help Bateman with his writing block. As a matter of fact, he wrote a piece about his experience and sent it in to Ceramics Monthly Magazine, and wound up writing for them for two years. If that isn’t a mic drop, I don’t know what is. 

Follow Mark Bateman on Instagram at, and on Facebook at Please visit Featherstone Center for the Arts to learn more about pottery and other art classes.