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Pottery and Science

Pottery: When Science and Art Converge

For Charles “Chuck” Manuel ’73, there are four ingredients to a perfect job:

1. It requires you to use your hands.

2. It satisfies your creativity.

3. It involves problem solving.

4. It helps people.

Chuck’s problem? He found two jobs that met his criteria: a chiropractor and a potter. Luckily for Chuck, he could have both.

Chuck PotteryChuck never touched clay or spun a potter’s wheel until his senior year at Graceland. A Biology major and a Chemistry minor, Chuck’s interest was Marine Biology. As he entered his senior year, he was finishing up electives and decided to try his hand at pottery. A semester later, he was hooked.

“I just fell in love with the clay. I wound up spending more on pottery alone than on my other classes combined. I decided that if I’d ever go to graduate school, I would get my Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) and become a potter,” said Chuck.

After graduation, Chuck and his wife MaryAnn moved to Grand Cayman. Pursuing Chuck’s passion for Potterymarine biology, the couple aspired to help start a lobster farm—but when they hit a snag with environmental regulations, Chuck returned to school to pursue his MFA in Ceramics at the University of Puget Sound. At Puget Sound, a back problem afflicted his health. After seeing a chiropractor, Chuck became inspired to go to chiropractic school despite his passion for pottery. Chuck thought he could help more people with a chiropractic career.

The Best of Both Worlds

During chiropractic studies at Palmer College, Chuck continued working with ceramics and entered pottery shows to help pay his way through school. After finishing his degree, Chuck and MaryAnn returned to Lamoni to raise their children, and Chuck opened his own chiropractic practice. Now operating for more than 30 years, the business focuses on lifestylepottery bowls management and takes a wholeness-based approach to wellness. The outside of the chiropractic building reads, “Helping people help themselves.”

Although Chuck took the chiropractic path, he frequented Graceland’s pottery room, calling himself a “studio rat.” Then, seven years ago when a ceramics instructor position came open, MaryAnn encouraged Chuck to apply. Now an Adjunct Instructor of Art, Chuck focuses on wheel throwing and hand building. He challenges his students to think positively and learn from the mistakes that might cause a piece to crack, or not survive the ceramics process.

“With ceramics, students really have to learn to take things in stride and learn from their mistakes. Wheel throwing is extremely difficult, and I love seeing students finally get it and really succeed,” said Chuck.

pottery bowlsFor Chuck, his two careers blend together naturally. He sees the role of a doctor and the role of a teacher in a very similar light, noting that the primary role of a doctor is to teach people to live healthfully. He also sees artistry in adjusting patients in his chiropractic practices; and a science in the process of ceramics—from glazing to understanding why certain methods work.

Chuck combined his medical and artistic talents to build special chairs for Graceland’s ceramics studio. The chairs drop the knees lower than the hips and relieve stress on the lower back.

“Science explains why certain things are the way they are, but art is the process along the way, the expression of that. The two go hand in hand,” stated Chuck.

Bringing the Community to Campus

Chuck isn’t the only person in the classroom to spend most of his time off campus—his ceramics courses often attract members of the Lamoni community. Last fall, half of his students were non-traditional.

“It’s fun working with community members. Those students are here for a very specific purpose—they want to learn. It’s enjoyable to work with them and watch them; they’re not afraid to experiment and try new things,” said Chuck.

pottery bowlWhether working with future art teachers or community members perfecting a hobby, Chuck’s days are spent sharing knowledge and improving skills. Balancing his chiropractic and teaching careers is demanding and sometimes requires late nights and early mornings, but ultimately it’s his thirst to help others that keeps Chuck going.

“I do this because I love it, not for the money,” said Chuck. “I’ve always enjoyed sharing and teaching is a natural expression of my desire to share. This is a great opportunity, and I have a great studio where I can work with people and help them.”

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