Getting to Know your Neighbor

Submitted photos

Jan Pacifico is a professional potter and is a founding member of the Tomé Art Gallery. She also is an adjunct professor of ceramics.

Janice “Jan” Pacifico is a professional potter who has lived in Tomé in the historic stage stop since 1991. She is originally from Mineola, N.Y., where she lived for 20 years, before moving to Brooklyn, N.Y., where she lived for three decades and owned Home Pottery.

Pacifico is a founding member and manager of the Tomé Art Gallery for the last 26 years and the owner of Pacifico Clay Works for 30 years. She has been an adjunct professor of ceramics at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus for six years.

Pacifico is married to George Ridgeway, mother to Christine Weidmann-Wilson and Jeffrey Weidmann, and grandmother to Drake Wilson, Einin Wilson and Stella Weidmann.

Other family members include stepchildren Nancy Ridgeway, Amanda Ridgeway and Lucas Romero-Ridgeway, and step grandchildren, Neely Ridgeway, Ava Rubio, Bodhi Lovato, Luna Lovato and Orion Ridgeway.


 

Submitted photo

Jan Pacifico works on a hanging lamp in her studio in 1971.

Q

What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?

A

“I’m usually thinking about issues that are current in my life and trying to find resolutions. I often plan my day or think about what to cook for dinner. Sometimes I play the radio with loud oldies music and sing along, savoring the memories that classic rock and folk music bring up. I think a lot about my kids and grandkids and plan for getting together with them. I think about my work, especially any orders I might have or projects that my students are working on.”

Q

 What’s a myth about your profession you’d like to bust?

A

“Okay, this is an easy one. Everyone who thinks about potters immediately thinks of the movie “Ghost” and Demi Moore sitting at her potter’s wheel in a pristine, spotlessly clean apartment. Patrick Swayze always comes up behind her and reaches around her to guide her hands as she works on her pots. As a matter of fact, when the movie first came out, registration boomed for the classes I was teaching in my studio. But I can guarantee that in 60 years of doing pottery, no one remotely resembling Patrick Swayze has ever come up behind me to help me throw a pot. Actually, no one at all. In addition, having a potter’s wheel in a pristine apartment isn’t even a possibility.”

 

Q

 What were you like in high school?

A

“I was very timid and shy in high school, and very conscientious about studying. I went to a Catholic girls’ high school, Our Lady of Mercy Academy for Young Ladies. My dad was very strict, and I think he thought he could make a ‘lady’ out of me. However, I really loved sports and art and wearing jeans, so the white-gloved-lady type part of my education didn’t really stick. I was on the basketball team, and we played games all over Long Island. We had so much fun on the bus rides to and from games, singing silly songs like ‘100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.’ But I think you could safely say I was very innocent and sheltered.”

 

Submitted photos

Jan Pacifico and her husband, George Ridgeway, at Fourth of July canyon about five years ago. George proposed to her there on the anniversary of their first meeting.

Q

What is the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?

A

 “I think the best advice I ever got was from my father, who said that I should get a teaching degree in college because I would ‘always have it to fall back on.’ Once I took pottery as an elective, I knew that was what I wanted to do the rest of my life. However, I took his advice and went on to get my master’s degree, and while I was at it, I got a degree in education. I had various jobs on and off as an educator, but mostly I taught in my own studio. However, in 2017, the day after my 75th birthday, I started a teaching career at UNM-Valencia, and it has proved to be one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. Thanks, Dad.”

 

Q

 What did you want to be when you grew up?

A

I think I always wanted to be a mom! It always took precedence over any career options. When my children were young, my pottery studio was in my house, so I could be around my children, even when I was working. They spent a lot of hours in my studio with me and made lots of things that I still have on display in my home. Their classes in elementary school would often come on field trips to the studio and my kids would know all the explanations that I used to teach my students, and they would go around from student to student and help their classmates. I come from a close-knit Italian family, and family is always put before anything else.”

 

Submitted photos

Jan Pacifico with her older brother, Chuck, about 1943.

Submitted photos

 Jan Pacifico, center, with her younger brother, Bobby, left, and older brother, Chuck around 1947.

Q

 Who inspires you?

A

“That’s a hard question to narrow down to just a few people. There are so many women who have put their lives on the line to secure equal rights for women and secure better lives for themselves and their families. I think of everyone from the suffragettes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to women who traveled thousands of miles with small children to emigrate to a place where they can start a new life in a safe place with better opportunities. I especially think of all my grandparents who left behind family and friends in Italy and traveled in steerage on steamships to New York to start completely new lives in a place where they were not really welcomed, where they didn’t speak the language, but where they had hopes and dreams that they thought could be fulfilled. I think that took incredible courage and I am in awe of them.”

 

Q

 If you could work any other job for one day, what would it be and why?

A

 “I think I would love to be an archeologist. I am fascinated with ruins and remnants of other cultures and civilizations. I would love to explore Egyptian archeological sites and places like Machu Pichu in Peru. Seeing how pottery was such an important part of earlier cultures is so relevant to the study of pottery today. I teach a class in Ancient Clay Techniques, and I would love to learn more about the differences and similarities between ways of making pots in different cultures.”

 

Q

What do you do in your free time?

A

“The only free time I usually have is after dinner. I love to knit, and I love to garden. I also love to cook and have family over for dinner. This year, I sustained several fractures, so I haven’t been able to work very much in my studio. Instead, I have spent a lot of time working on a family cookbook. It contains stories and pictures of my family members and includes lots of recipes and pictures of food in my pottery. I enjoyed writing it and I think I’d like to do more projects like that in the future.”

 

 

Submitted photo

Jan Pacifico in 1963 as a junior in college working on the potters wheel.

Q

What’s something about you most people don’t know?

A

“This is kind of a hard question to answer because I’m pretty much an open book. Something I think most people don’t know about me is that for a while in the late ’60s early ’70s, I worked doing textile conservation for the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I was sent to Washington, D.C., to learn how to wash and mount ancient textiles. I then worked on the Coptic collection at the Brooklyn Museum for an installation of Coptic art. I wrote a monograph on the project which was published by the museum. The process included stitching the fragile textiles to backings by inserting a needle between individual warps and wefts. It was tedious and very hard on my eyesight, so I gave it all up to concentrate on my pottery.”

 

Q

What three books would you to take to a deserted island?

A

 “‘Gift From the Sea’ by Anne Morrow Lindburgh, ‘The Four Agreements,’ A book of Toltec Wisdom and Chesapeake, or any book by James Michener.”

 

   

Q

You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

A

 “I would pay off the mortgages and student loans of everyone I could. Then I would donate the rest to education and scholarships, hunger and homelessness relief and efforts to save the environment.”

 

Q

 Who is your best friend and why?

A

 “This is a really hard one to answer. There are so many people to whom I am close and who are such an important part of my life. But when it really comes down to it, I would say my husband, George, is my very best friend. We have been through thick and thin together, sickness and health, good times and bad times. I know that I can tell him anything and he’ll never judge. He is a very quiet man, definitely a man of few words.

“But I especially remember one day when we were in pre-op, waiting for my surgeon to arrive. She was very late, and I was very nervous. He talked to me non-stop for an hour and a half to keep me calm. I have no idea what he talked about, or that he could possibly talk that much. He always listens to my rants and only gives me advice if I ask for it. Any advice he does give is always on the mark, practical and thoughtful. We could not be more different, but we often seem to read each other’s minds. We never feel compelled to talk, but I feel safe and comfortable with him, always.”

 

Q

What’s your favorite song to sing when you’re alone?

A

 “Anything by James Taylor. Especially, ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ and ‘Whenever I see Your Smiling Face’.”

 

Q

 Where is your happy place, and why?

A

“I think there are two happy places. One is working at my potter’s wheel, alone in my studio with ’50s and ’60s music playing. I almost feel that when I’m making pots it’s like a meditative experience. I feel like I not only center the clay, but I center myself at the same time. I spent many nights when I was younger, in my studio until the wee hours making one pot after another. I feel so lucky to have worked all my life doing what I love. My second happy place is in my kitchen. George renovated my kitchen exactly the way I wanted it, and cooking there is such a joy. I love making Sunday family dinners and hosting holidays there. I love to use my pottery to cook in or the pottery of other people. Using pots made by hand, infused with individual personalities, adds another loving dimension to a home cooked meal.”

 

Submitted photo

Tomé potter Jan Pacifico with two of her micaceous pots.

Q

Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today?

A

“Yes, in 1989 I took a workshop with 96-year-old Acoma pottery treasure, Lucy Lewis and her two daughters, Emma and Dolores. The workshop was held in Chaco Canyon, and with two of my friends from Brooklyn, we camped there for 10 magical days. It was my first visit to New Mexico, and I immediately felt as though I had come home. I decided then and there that this was where I would spend the rest of my life, making pots and helping to keep traditional methods of making pottery alive.”

 

Q

What teacher had the greatest impact on you?

A

“I’d have to say there were three. The first was my third grade teacher, Miss Malone who made me feel comfortable in my own skin as a human being. The second was John Blackley, my sophomore theology professor in college. He brought theology past the confines of organized religion and into the realm of spirituality and forever changed my views on religion and the spiritual. And third was Felipe Ortega, who taught me to work with micaceous clay. He learned his craft from his great aunt and dedicated his life to keeping the ancient process alive. He taught us how to dig and process the clay, to build pots in the traditional coil and scrape method, and how to do pit firing.

“We collaborated on many workshops here in New Mexico, Brooklyn, Vermont, Baja, Calif., and Belize. In Belize, we worked with potters in a Mayan village and helped them re-establish traditional methods of building and decorating pots with local clays and mineral paints, and how to do pit firings.”

 

Submitted photo

Thanks to her daughter’s costume-making skills, local potter Jan Pacifico, and her husband, George Ridgeway, had some Smurf-tastic fun one Halloween. Pictured, back row, from left, are Jan’s son-in-law, Wade Wilson, her daughter, Christine Weidmann-Wilson, Jan and George. In front, from left, are her grandsons, Drake and Einin Wilson.

 

Q

 What is your favorite movie scene and why?

A

“This question always brings to my mind a scene in ‘An Affair to Remember’ with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Cary Grant is waiting for her on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. They had met on a cruise and fallen in love. They agreed to meet in six months at the top of the Empire State Building if they still felt the same way. He waits all day, but she never shows up. He has no idea that rushing to meet him, she has been hit by a car and taken to the hospital. I think I love this scene because it always reminds me that what seems obvious isn’t always true. We should never jump to conclusions.”

 

Q

 If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive ­­— who would it be and why?

A

“I would love to have dinner with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, AKA the Notorious RBG. I have great admiration for her principles and her ferocity in fighting for them. I would like to ask her about how she was able to become close friends with another justice who held such opposing views from her, and how they built a friendship based on their mutual love of opera. I think our world is in need of that kind of wisdom right now, where we can respect and enjoy each other in spite of our differences.

“I would like to discuss with her how she thinks the fight for women’s rights will unfold over the next few years. And lastly, I would like to tell her how much of an inspiration she is for so many, overcoming illness and the constraints of age, to continue doing her job until the end.”

 

Submitted photo

Jan Pacifico and her husband, George

Q

   What are you most proud of?

A

 “I am incredibly proud of our children and grandchildren. Every single one of them has a kind heart and loving nature. I don’t think there is anything that could make me prouder of them. I am also proud of the Tomé Gallery and our place in the community. Our Soup R Bowl event is currently funding five $1,000 scholarships every year for arts and humanities students at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus. We built this event from grass roots, with potters donating thousands of bowls over many years, and volunteers from the gallery, the campus and the community donating soups, breads and desserts. As a faculty member, I am acutely aware of the impact these scholarships have had for students. It’s a legacy that will continue long after I’m gone.”

 

 

Q

   How would you like to be remembered?

A

“I would like to be remembered as a kind and loving human being who used the talents I was given to make the world a little better than I found it. I hope that as a wife and mother, I have made a warm and welcoming, safe and fun home environment for our family. As a potter, I hope my work will bring beauty and joy to all the homes it lives in. As an educator, I hope that I added a new dimension to others’ lives and have enriched and changed them for the better.

 

 

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