Husband and wife duo build a life around creative endeavors.
In a case of never knowing where Cupid’s arrow will land, Amy and John Gresens had followed their individual interests in art without crossing paths. But part-time jobs at a Tinder Box tobacco shop at Gwinnett Place Mall put these two creative types together 26 years ago. Since then, the couple has shared artistic projects and developed their individual styles. Amy, a jewelry maker, is also the education director at the Spruill Center for the Arts in Dunwoody, where John is a ceramics instructor. Here, they share their insights into making a life around art.
When you met, did you know you had art in common?
AMY: We had a lot of the same interests, but we didn’t think about being artists. I knew I wanted to have art in my life but didn’t know it would end up being my career. I worked in the advertising industry and did art on the side for years before coming to Spruill 15 years ago. Now I’m fully immersed in art, and that’s where I want to be.
JOHN: As a kid, when people asked what I wanted to be, I said an artist. I knew I was a creative person, but growing up in the ’80s, the idea of going to art school wasn’t something a lot of parents got behind. When Amy and I met, we were both into woodworking. We did it together for a while, and that was exciting.
How did you find your own mediums?
AMY: We did start by outfitting our garage as a woodworking studio, but we eventually found different mediums to explore. If you’d asked me 20 years ago if I would make jewelry, I’d have said no. But it clicked when I started taking classes.
JOHN: In 2003, I went to Georgia State and majored in art education and discovered ceramics. The minute I took the wheel, I was smitten. I still love it.
What classes do you teach at Spruill?
AMY: I teach beginning and advanced jewelry. Some people have been taking courses with me since 2018. They like the demonstrations and projects, but it’s as much about the friendships and camaraderie. At Spruill, we say people come in for a class but stay because of the teacher, and they stay with that teacher.
JOHN: I’ve been teaching ceramics for seven years, and I took classes there for a long time before that. I see a broad spectrum: On Tuesday nights, I have students in their 20s and 30s who are just starting, and I have teens on Tuesday afternoons. I also have a lot of people who have been taking the same class with me for a long time. Each class has its own personality.
What advice do you have for someone who is interested in art but thinks they have no ability?
AMY: People often come in and say, “I don’t do anything creative.” But you don’t have to. It’s more about perfecting the craft, and the creativity happens naturally after that. There’s a lot of science and chemistry involved, and I did not like those subjects when I was in school. Now I’m in this world where there is so much science: the way you heat the metal, getting it to certain temperatures and more. If you follow the science, it will work for you.
JOHN: Ceramics is the same. It doesn’t require artistic ability; it’s really about process. You have to learn the mechanics of the wheel, and if you trust the process, then creativity comes with that.
PHOTO: Joann Vitelli
Atlanta-based writer and editor contributing to a number of local and state-wide publications. Instructor in Georgia State’s Communication department and Emory’s Continuing Education division.