HawkPride: Erin Hoekzema found her passion for art and made it her career

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H FC alumna Erin Hoekzema was studying criminal justice at the University of Michigan-Dearborn when her long-time boyfriend, Jeffrey Karp, took a ceramics course at HFC. Thinking it sounded fun, Hoekzema joined him.

And she fell in love with ceramics.

After that first class, Hoekzema, a Trenton native who graduated from Carlson High School in Gibraltar, changed her major and transferred to HFC.

“I loved ‘playing in the mud’ in ceramics classes at the College,” said Hoekzema, of Adrian. “At the end of the first ceramics class, HFC art instructor Steve Glazer gave us a taste of the next class – wheel throwing. I was able to center the clay immediately, and absolutely fell in love with being able to take the earth and make it into a functional piece. I was not great at it, but I really enjoyed it.”

Hoekzema later became a flight attendant. One day, a passenger asked her if she loved her job and if she could see herself doing this for the rest of her life.

“I told him, ‘You know what? Honestly, I miss clay,’” she recalled.

“I was hooked!”

After leaving the airline industry two months later, Hoekzema became a bartender and registered to take more art classes at HFC.

“I was hooked! I found myself giving up shifts at work so I could spend more time at the College in the art studio. I practically lived there. I had to learn how to do this well. It was calling me,” she said. “After completing the first three ceramics classes, I took a directed studies program (Advanced Studies in Ceramics), which was like an independent study where each semester we would lay out our goals, have them approved, and work toward reaching them under Steve’s instruction. I repeated the directed studies course multiple times.”

Hoekzema’s first art show was with the HFC Ceramics Club, of which she was the president. This was a great experience to have her artwork seen by the public in a small venue in the cafeteria of the Student & Culinary Arts Center (Bldg. M).

“We then decided we needed to go bigger. Steve and the Club worked like crazy, and we put together the HFC Pottery Boutique. This was a much larger weekend sale. We brought in some outside artists to learn about display and pricing and to drive traffic and sales. It was a great hands-on learning experience,” she said.

Flying solo

In 2014, she did her first solo show at the Wyandotte Street Art Fair.

“It was an amazing success. I did a few other local shows that year, including the Allen Park Street Fair, some church vendor pop-up shows, a show at the Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi, and the Annual Potters Market in Southfield,” she recalled. “It was time to try this starving artist gig out!”

“The kid who came into the clay world to support one love found another, and is now a full-time professional potter,” said Glazer. “Erin started doing small art fairs a few years ago, then made the move to the big leagues over this past winter by doing a string of weekends in Florida. She had been juried into the Ann Arbor Art Fair for this year before the pandemic struck.” The Ann Arbor Art Fair is an international event and is competitive to get into.

For the first seven weekends of 2020, Hoekzema’s artistry could be seen in seven art shows in Florida. She drove to the Sunshine State with a trailer loaded with her wares.

“It was such an amazing experience being on the Florida circuit with amazing high-end artists. It was a great learning experience and a blessing. It is fulfilling and rewarding knowing that my hard work has paid off. It can definitely be surreal at times,” said Hoekzema.

She had high hopes for 2020, believing it would be her “breakout” year as she had more shows scheduled than ever before.

“When people ask for an order, and then tell me, ‘You’re the artist, you decide,’ I’m a bit taken aback,” said Hoekzema. “I am an artist. It is a great feeling to be able to work for yourself and also very scary, especially in today's climate. The coronavirus pandemic definitely put a damper on my big art career move.”

“Erin is the perfect example of what a community college can do”

Recently, Hoezkema purchased a home in Adrian with a 30x40 foot pole barn that she’s converting into her art studio. She’s also been asked to teach pottery in Naples, FL on a seasonal basis while she is there doing winter art shows.

“The thing I like most about pottery is being able to take literal mud from the ground, chemicals from the earth, and make countless items of beauty, functional or not. There is always something new that can be made or tweaked, and there is always more to learn,” she said. “The ceramics studio at HFC is amazing! I was able to experience glaze chemistry, reduction atmospheric kilns, oxidation kilns, raku kilns, salt kilns, and learn about so much more than just the basics of clay.”

Glazer has enjoyed watching Hoekzema’s growth as an artist.

“It has been a lot of fun watching Erin's growth from being excited about ceramics to wanting to do more and more with ceramics, to turning into a sponge concerning ceramics, to making her own mark as a professional potter,” said Glazer. “She has always been willing to take part in events we have done, whether it has been the sales on campus, Dearborn Homecoming, when we had a booth at various art fairs, or just helping out around the studio. She was always smiling, always willing to help the students that were not as advanced, hoping to spread the clay bug. She was just a joy to have in the HFC studio. She kept taking ceramics classes over and over, paying out of her own pocket, so she could get better and better.

"Erin is the perfect example of what a community college can do. We changed her life!"

Hoekzema’s work is currently on sale at The Vintage Market Home and The Artsy Umbrella in Berkley. Visit Hoekzema at www.centripetaldesigns.com.

2022 update:
This article describes Erin's continuing journey and many happenings over the past few years in her journey to be a full-time potter.