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The old adage “Listen to your Mother” means a lot to John Papin ’16 because his mom, Mary Ellen Papin, gave her son some great advice that helped him land his dream job.

Back in May, John graduated from Alfred University with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a focus on printmaking and ceramics. At the start of his senior year, he was more than a little nervous about finding a job, and when the pandemic hit “all hopes of getting a job went out the window.” His plan was to ride it out, and if necessary, cobble together side jobs until the job market opened up.

But let’s back up a moment. In the Fall of 2019, John began work on his senior project. The arts program at Alfred University is a unique one in that your final project is not an assigned project, but a self-driven one. All seniors are given two advisors and periodically through that final year, you check-in with them and make sure your project is moving along. Because of his connection with a particular ceramics advisor, Linda Sikora, he was added onto a list designated to ceramics majors and received emails that Linda shared weekly about job opportunities for artists.

In mid-to-late October, he received one of the coveted emails and a production potter job in Boston caught his eye. Although still a student, he sent an email about his interest in the position. The owner of the shop, Jill Rosenwald, wrote him back and said that although his resume looked great, they needed someone to fill the job now and since he was a still student, they could not hire him. She followed with, “But, if you are ever in Boston, stop by and visit the studio.” John took her offer to visit as a kind gesture and was going to leave it at that, but his mom encouraged him to write Jill back. He sighed, but did, and gave her a hearty “Thank you!” and said he’d be in touch if ever in Boston (though he didn’t have any plans to head there anytime soon).

A couple of months later, his classmate, Kelly Prister ’16 (then a student at Boston’s Northeastern University), invited him for a visit. Encouraged by his mom, John decided he would reach out to Jill and take her up on her offer to visit the studio. The tour of the studio was planned. He had zero expectations for the visit and just hoped to see the studio and make a connection with a fellow artist. He got all that and much, much more. John not only met a talented artist in the Boston area, but Jill gave him names of other artists and studios to connect with in the Boston art community, and then, to his surprise, asked him to hop on the pottery wheel and show her what he could do. He said he was very nervous and was able to throw some “mediocre cylinders” but she was impressed and said, “If you ever decide to move to Boston, maybe we can hire you for some part-time work.” He was excited and thanked her for taking the time to meet with him and returned to Alfred. One month later, the university would close due to the pandemic.

Alfred’s usual end-of-year senior art shows were canceled, but they were all asked to put together a digital show of their work from the year. John put his show together and, feeling bold, decided to send a copy to Jill in Boston. He figured the show was a way to get in touch, to show off his talents, and to let her know that he graduated and was available! He wasn’t even sure if she would reply, but she sent a quick note back congratulating him on his great work and his graduation.

The job market was dry and John, as stated above, planned to cobble together a few jobs until the market opened up. Then, the last week in July, he received an unexpected call. It was from Jill Rosenwald and they needed a full-time potter and could he start right away. This is the same position that he had applied for as a student almost one year ago.

John’s talents are now on display at Jill Rosenwald Studio: in Boston and he loves his job! Although he is not currently working on his own designs, he knows that the experience with Jill and her husband will make him an even better artist and he enjoys seeing how a studio runs. He’s taking copious notes because one day he hopes to open up his own studio.

John gives credit to the English department at Harley (especially Kim McDowell) for teaching him how to write. From applications, to cover letters, to professional emails, he said his education in writing has helped him immensely while in college and in connecting and networking with fellow artists.

John would be remiss if he did not give a shout out to the stellar art department. He says, “I am crazy thankful for the fantastic art classes I took at Harley!” and for the guidance from Lyn Parsons. He says Lyn and Harley’s entire team of art teachers is so supportive and encouraging. They not only inspired him to stick with his craft but so many other students and their creative endeavors.