Linda Chizk, one of the vendors at Footloose in the Foothills Shopping Extravaganza, hasn’t been practicing her craft for as long as some of the other artists and crafters. With each piece of pottery, however, she has a story to tell.
Chizk is a retired nurse who discovered a talent for making pottery after moving to Maryville in August of 2005. Hurricane Katrina damaged her Gulfport, Miss., home and she and her husband, Don, evacuated here and stayed with family following the storm.
“I’m from Gulfport, and my husband and I were retired and had lived there for quite a while when the storm damaged our house severely. We moved up here, considering it a temporary stay,” she said. “My son and his family, our three grandchildren lived here. We decided to make the move permanent.”
While Chizk had a pottery wheel and had dabbled in pottery while in Gulfport, it was six months after they moved to Blount County when she began taking pottery classes at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
“At age 66, it’s kind of hard to make a big move like that. That’s how I came to get involved with pottery,” she said.
St. Andrew’s has a pottery group led by Ann Hayward. “I got involved with it there and met lots of great people,” said Chizk. “Soon I had set up a studio in my garage, I have my kiln and slab roller. I do hand-building as opposed to working on the wheel.”
Chizk said she has a pottery wheel but prefers hand-building. “I liked it so much I just stuck with it,” she said. “In Gulfport, I was a nurse, but I’ve always like arts and crafts and done painting and quilting and other similar things. When I tried pottery, I knew that was the thing I would be most interested in, and I have been.”
Chizk said when she started learning from Ann Hayward and other potters at St. Andrews, she knew very little about the art form. “One of my biggest resources was the Blount County Public Library. I’ve checked out all their pottery books - some two and three times. By observing others and studying books and trial and error, I feel I’ve made a lot of progress but I’ve put a lot of time into it,” she said.
Part of her signature for her pieces is to incorporate nature in her work. “I like leaves and frogs and lizards and things in my pottery,” she said.
Chizk said she also enjoys getting to know other potters in the area. “One of the neatest things is meeting so many great people who also enjoy pottery,” she said.
Footloose in 2007 was the first show Chizk ever did.
“I really didn’t know what to expect, and I went and they had food and drinks and music and so many vendors with crafts,” she said. “The thing that surprised me, however, was that it was so busy. I was so busy I never got through to see everything. I hope this time to go early and see what everyone else is doing.”
Chizk said she also was impressed with how the planners had decorated the Preservation Plaza where the first Footloose in the Foothills was held. “It was beautiful. They had Christmas trees and decorations. It was a real festive atmosphere, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was just a good experience.”
Chizk said she appreciates the goal of the Blount County Senior Citizens Home Assistance Service to keep seniors in their homes when possible. “That makes this even more special,” Chizk said. “It’s a wonderful cause and something that benefits the whole community. I’m glad to be a part of it.”