In conjunction with its annual Art City Days happening this week, the city of Springville has chosen Alison Watson as its Resident Artist for 2019.
Earlier this year, however, the artist who specializes in pottery couldn’t even move her arm, let alone throw a pot.
It was on Jan. 17 when Watson, who is also a ski instructor at the Sundance Mountain Resort, was getting ready to teach a class. It was a stormy day, and visibility was low. Watson had some time before her class to do some free riding on the back mountain, so she took advantage of her alone time to get in some good snowboarding runs.
That’s when it happened.
In an instant, Watson found herself colliding with another snowboarder at full speed, around 20 to 30 miles per hour. While being thrown in the air, she caught a glimpse of her mangled, dangling arm before landing on the hard snow below.
“I really thought I was the only one out there until the accident,” Watson said. “I ride regular, and the other border rides goofy, so we had our backs to each other. Neither one of us was aware that the other was there until the crash. It was really by all accounts an accident.”
Thankfully, the other boarder was able to walk away uninjured, but the impact of the crash ended up breaking Watson’s humerus in 10 pieces. That day, she went in for surgery that required putting in 15 screws and a rod to piece her arm back together. Worse than that, the accident threatened her future as a professional potter — something she had worked toward for many years.
“I have always been an artist, but learned ceramics 20 years ago in college,” she said. “I took to it naturally, and even sold a few pieces in college. I had to put ceramics behind me while putting my husband through school and raising our four kids. I dabbled in it here and there over the years, mostly as a hobby, but it was in 2017 when I decided that I wanted to pick it up again, and this time make it a business.”
Her natural knack for throwing pots proved itself when in no time, Watson became a local hit, selling pieces at Lemon & Sage Market, Hobble Creek Coffee, making pieces for shops near Zion National Park, and creating custom pieces for individuals locally. Early success made Watson feel like her choice to pursue a career in pottery was the right one. And even following the accident, she said she never lost hope in that dream.
“Doing pottery for a living just felt right,” Watson said. “It is a good antidote for me that makes me feel good, and I like being able to make things that are useful. When I had my accident, I instantly thought of the immobility, and not being able to throw pots was scary. But I also felt like everything would be OK because I have a wonderful family, I live in a great community with people who would help, and I had faith in my body’s ability to heal.”
Following the surgery, Watson said she began focusing on being positive and healing.
“I went after healing like it was my full-time job,” she said. “I read good books, listened to good music and podcasts, and really focused on positive things that fed my soul. When I felt good enough to get up and move around, I did, and slowly my hand began to come back to life. I was so happy when I could do things on my own, like tie my own shoes.”
Her ability to do things started coming back bit by bit. Watson was even able to teach some snowboarding classes at Sundance the last few weeks of the season. Pottery, however, took a little longer to come back.
“After three months of rehabilitation, I was finally able to start throwing pots,” Watson said. “I started out slowly, and fully expected to struggle for a while. I was surprised when the first day back, I was able to throw 10 pots that all turned out. It was a sunny day, and I decided to work outside. I had the neighbor kids out there cheering for me. It was so amazing! I have really appreciate the community support.”
It’s the community of Springville that Watson said has helped her to get where she is today, and she says she is honored to be the resident artist at Art City Days.
“My family and I moved to Springville from Washington, D.C. seven years ago,” Watson said. “It was actually the name, ‘Art City’ that drew us here to begin with. Not only am I glad to be part of a community that celebrates the arts, but one that is filled with such wonderful people. To have the community I love, support me in my work during Art City Days is such an honor, and I am so grateful for the opportunity.
Watson will be honored at a City Council meeting and during the Art City Days Grand Parade on Saturday, June 8. To see some of Watson’s work, follow her on Instagram @alisonwatsonpottery.