Bill Van Loon has spent decades in the I.T. industry. In addition, he earned a seminary degree in his 50’s, and has served as a church leader, a volunteer police chaplain, and a board member of a ministry based in Jerusalem.

In 2013, he took up an entirely new pursuit when he enrolled in a pottery course at a local community college. As part of this month’s emphasis on the blog on creativity at midlife, we’re introducing you to Bill and his work. At the end of this post, details on how you can enter our drawing to win one of Bill’s beautiful bowls.

You can follow Bill’s creative journey on Instagram here.

Q. What led you to try your hand at pottery? 

Bill: My wife (PerGen co-founder Michelle Van Loon) and I had been traveling in North Carolina that year. I saw a lot of pottery in shops we visited. I remember thinking, “I want to do this.” The thought wasn’t really a new thought to me. When I was a kid, I remember visiting one of my uncles at a university where he was teaching pottery and glass blowing. I got a chance to work some clay on a wheel and I remember liking it especially after seeing some of my uncle’s work.

Q. What was most frustrating about your early learning process when you started in pottery six years ago? What helped you persist through the learning curve?

Bill: I started with hand building, which is where most people learning pottery start their journeys. Once I started working on the wheel, the most frustrating exercise was centering the clay and being patient with learning how to do it. I had to learn how to slow down which helped me with the resolve to learn since I convinced myself I could do it. Also the encouragement of my instructor and other people in the class helped motivate me. This might sound strange, but it seemed that having lower expectations helped with the process. I quickly determined that perfection was not my goal.

Q. What has brought you joy in this creative pursuit? 

Bill: Seeing the finished product after firing, knowing it took part of me to make it. You draw or imagine what you want to do, and applying learned technique, you begin to see what you imagined begin to take shape. It might not be exactly what you intended but there is reward in the effort it takes to form something from a lump of clay. It’s amazing.

There is also a meditative quality to creating pottery which brings me joy. When I throw clay and go through the centering process, I often think of how God works me to get me centered, slowly, deliberately with the intent of making me in the image he has of me. That’s a joyful thought.

Q. What advice would you give to someone else who is thinking about learning a new skill or trying a new hobby at midlife? 

Bill: I am sure staying active is key to enjoying midlife. Learning a new skill, an art, a hobby stretches your creative boundaries. It can help you stay connected to others of likeminded intent and purpose. Generally speaking, God didn’t make us to be sedentary beings in mind or body. So if you can apply yourself to learning however you can and staying connected with others as much as you can, you’ll have more fun, maintain good brain function and stay in touch with the world.   

In order to enter this month’s drawing to win the beautiful bowl pictured above (also pictured from a different angle on the cover of this post), simply click here to fill out our contact form by midnight 1/31/19. Please include YOUR NAME AND POSTAL MAILING ADDRESS (U.S. addresses only).