It's the rare artist who doesn't have a day job.
It's rarer still for a family of artists who all make their livings with their craft. But the extended Strecker family has done just that.
Family matriarch Chris Strecker set the stage for the diverse familial creativity that is on display at the Central Library Gallery through Sept. 13.
The show features the pottery of Strecker and her son-in-law, Michael Frasca; the multimedia work of Zoé Strecker, who is married to Frasca; and the sculpture of husband-and-wife team Erika Strecker and Tony Higdon.
"The main thrust of what makes this kind of odd and special is that we all make 100 percent of our living as an artist," said Erika, who is Chris' daughter and runs a studio and metalsmith shop in Lexington with her husband.
But, sister Zoé said, "we have never had a show together before."
The works range from Chris Strecker's functional pots to Zoé's high-concept quilt, printed with an array of hilarious warning labels, such as one saying it is a bad idea to wrap your body around a giant turbine. There are personal touches, such as the miniature sculpture of the kiln that Chris used for many years. The chimney slants, just as the original did.
The show also is a bit of a look back at the career of the family matriarch, who turns 65 later this year.
That career started decades ago, when, as a forestry major at the University of Kentucky, Chris found herself drawn to pottery. By 1976, she'd restored an old toll house and established Old Harrodsburg Pottery. She and her daughters literally lived at the studio.
"I started full-time when the children were in school," she said. When she went to art shows, "I'd drag them with me."
They learned to understand art and commerce.
Chris recalls that once when Zoé needed a bike, she made little clay animals to sell in the family shop to raise the money. Zoé priced them at $5 and quickly learned a lesson about marketing and price points. She went down to 25 cents, and they sold like crazy. Eventually she settled at $1.25.
After Harrodsburg, Chris moved to a 50-acre farm near Shaker Village called Peace Roots. She continued to make beautiful high-fired reduction pots, selling them at a once-a-year home sale or directly to customers who sought her out. In 2003, she sold Peace Roots Farm to Zoé and her husband.
Not quite in her footsteps
But it wasn't always clear that the daughters would follow their mom into an artist's studio.
There was a time, Chris said, when her daughters, like most girls, diverged from the path their mother had taken. Erika decided on a biology major. Zoé majored in English.
Their mother continued to produce her pottery. She jokes that the sale of thousands of batter bowls put the girls through school.
Both found their way back to art, albeit to different kinds. Zoé, who also is a writer, does a variety of multimedia and is working on a documentary about three men restoring a hydroelectric dam. Erika works with her husband on large-scale metal structures, including the sail-like work outside the Department of Transportation building in Frankfort.
Chris said that when it comes to creating new work, "we talk all along the way."
Yet the greatest thing her mother did, Zoé said, was show the good and bad of life as an artist.
"She showed us the gritty side," Zoé said, and "she showed us what was possible."