Buffalo Boss Babe: Sarah Cozzemera
Todays Buffalo Boss Babe is Sarah “Bear” Cozzemera from Everyday Earthware. When i first met Sarah I was instantly drawn to her. she had this kindness and rad-ness that I love. We instantly connected and chatted like we have been friends for 20 years. She is a real gem and an AMAZING potter! Her pottery is beautiful and oh so sassy- every time I see it in a store I want to buy it all! We chatted with Sarah and before you read on I want to commend Sarah for her empowering words and bravery in the words below.
What made you start or brought you to where you are today? Tell us your story and what makes you a Buffalo Boss Babe.
Magic is real. I finally said it. Something I’ve known + searched for in everyone I’ve ever met and every thing. It doesn’t matter how we are born, or where we begin. But who we become -- that is the life’s legacy.
I rejected God, or He rejected me. But that doesn’t matter now. I’m not here to play the “blame game” anymore. Just here to sing my song. So there I was, 8 years old, sitting in church thinking this is such a crock of horse-shit...this pew makes me feel the furthest from Divinity. What I knew of love and beauty and truth lived a life entirely its own. No thing to be commanded + conquered by the pettiness that comes with being human. Nature is my church -- I want to grow with it -- wild + free. But I was scared to speak this aloud. I kept the spark of this flame, this secret worship alive -- tending this flame (I still do) with every beat of my heart.
But, then I started to get caught up in the world of mirrors -- representation/illusion, language, other people’s projections + expectations. I let them dictate (tyranny) what I could see.
“There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” (Leonard Cohen). If you’re “lucky” your cracks are invisible + maybe you can build up thick enough armor that nothing and no one ever really gets in. I came to this place ready to do battle, world weary, and wearing my scars.
My “crack” shot all the way up the side of my left leg -- a port-wine stain and vericose veins. The doctors did not give my mother a clear explanation, and so I was never given one either. And even though the marks on my leg were only surface decoration -- a streaking piece of the sky -- I could only see the flood coming my way, and the fear swept me underneath.
Maybe it’s always been a reminder to keep looking up -- beyond the grey sky -- because the storm clouds soon rolled in. Other kids picked on me because of my “weird leg”. Or they asked questions about it and said nothing re-assuring like, “Oh, ok. That sucks or whatever,” when I told them I couldn’t help it. I was born this way. NO, I didn’t fall and bruise it. NO, my parents do not beat me. Eye roll after eye roll after silent, tearful sigh. Great, just when I thought I could “escape” my scar/mark, just when I thought I was free -- someone else dragged me back down and wouldn’t let me be. I couldn’t accept my imperfection -- my wild streak of sky.
So this cycle of fear + hiding started to overtake my young, sweet life -- I never wanted to leave the sun, but the shadows rolled in. I stopped wearing shorts, always wore tights with dresses and skirts; started planning my outfits and activities around minimizing exposure of my “secret” but visible “imperfection”. Everything became about control. Controlling my activities, my body, and my re-actions/responses towards others. And when I couldn’t control them, I just shut it out and walked away. I stopped participating in life. Something I perceived as a disability -- which had NO ACTUAL effect (just affect) on my abilities -- turned into a handicap. And because my mind thought this way, my body learned to agree. I stunted my growth, pruned my own leaves; further retreating and self-isolating. I “limped” through life, wounded, while the other kids shot up like weeds.
At home, with my sister and parents I bloomed -- we had horses, and dogs, lessons about hard work, and the freedom of endless summer days. We built a garden with our lives -- rich, colorful, and nourishing. We laughed, and cried, and fought like hell. But, always we did love each other fiercely.
The picking at my skin started in 1st grade. Anxiety would wrack through my body like lighting -- paralyzing and frying my insides to smithereens. So I picked at my cuticles, and my face, and any loose skin on the bottom of my feet. What am I doing wrong? Why don’t they like me? Why can’t I be perfect (not make mistakes -- ie: live/experience) so other people will stop picking on me? Try harder, work harder to understand and then figure out how to make it stop...it’s not working. Why don’t I fit in?
I faded further and further from my self -- drifting -- lost at sea. Reading, studying, getting smarter became my life raft. I wanted to know WHY everything was happening. If I couldn’t “control” it -- maybe I could read the signs, feel any slight shift in the breeze, and prepare myself for the coming storm. I was always standing at the window, looking out on life. Reading and obsessing over history, literature, and archeology.
Art saved my life. Finding a way to externalize the pain I was feeling + transforming it into something beautiful; that could reflect the world I wanted to see. To be who I (we) know we could (can) be. But, all the art in the world couldn’t save me from the torrents of hurt, fear, and shame I absorbed from others, and then turned in to my own self-inflicted pain. I had to fire walk. Give myself over to the flames. Live my darkest nights during my brightest, youth-filled years. But I have been reborn. And I know God(dess) is in the rain.
The picking continued through middle school, as the bullying increased. The trauma of adolescence escalated my need to physically wound myself to mirror the psychological wounds I received. As above, so below. It started with digging my nail into my arm to leave a line + a quicky lasting sting on the skin. Then I started scratching my arms till they bled. In 9th grade I used to draw on wrists to make it look like I slit them open and blood oozed down my arms. And, by 11th grade I was bulimic. I did not really want to die. Ever. I probably could have accomplished this. But the pain...anything for the pain to leave my body...even if it meant causing myself more pain. At least then, I was “in control”.
At Fredonia I begin my college years by spinning out of control. I disappear from my family's life for months. I don't come and visit. I call a couple of times a week. But, I don't call my sister. I don't visit her.
I just leave that life and those people, my REAL people behind me. I am running now...it hurts more and more to look back. I ache for green hills and my sister's laugh and my dog's dirty paws and my mom's blue eyed smile and my dad's flannel shirts and the smells and sounds of my grandpa cooking, tending. To us. My sleep is erratic. I wake up in so many different people's beds.I smoke hundreds of dollars worth of pot in a couple of weeks. I drink 4 nights a week. I stop studying, I fall asleep when I am reading.
I fall asleep in class. I can't shit in the dorms, I have to go to Dod's hall, the 2nd floor women's locker-room. My friends are starting to get uncomfortable with my sleeping around because it is causing problems for them: mostly because I am an emotional train-wreck. Even though I always use condoms and am on birth control, I take a pregnancy test every month. I thought I was “winning” by indulging all the “cool adult stuff” I thought I was missing out on, I just kept piling on the distractions and putting a shitty, hollow, sex,drugs, rock-n-roll bulimia band-aid on the REAL pain.
During this time, I tried to burn all the bridges to my past, and nearly got consumed in the flames. But, in my slash and burn campaign (2003-2009) -- which incidentally did land me a B.A. + M.A. in literature from Fredonia, a 2 year T.A. position teaching English Composition, and some badass critical comparative literature skills -- I did not realize that I was clearing the ground, making space for something new. I was looking for a way to plant a new garden in its place.
I met a gardener named John -- an absolute vision of masculine beauty and tender strength, with piercing aqua eyes and shining vitality. He entered my painful, limping existence in 2005. John helped me remember and experience sheer, unencumbered joy and wonder. He seemed to move so effortlessly, and live so comfortably in his skin.
Like all of life's most valuable teachers, he led by example. John ate what his body required -- even on a shoestring budget, or via campus meals, he consistently made balanced food decisions. He drank water, almost no soda or caffeine. And, he walked, ran, climbed trees, or biked as often as possible. He didn't insist that I choose healthier options for my own body, but he made them seem like the more attractive path. He was the illusive mirror I’d been searching for all those long, lonely, pain-filled years. I stopped binging + purging because I could see balance was a possibility.
If debate arose during our meal preparations, he frequently answered my questions or contentions or complaints with solid reasoning. And, if I showed hesitation, he was willing to hold my hand. He was patient, loving, and we got through it together. I was emotionally and psychologically worn out from self-imposed withering years that should have been full of the most exquisite sort of bloom, so I began to attempt to thrive. And when I did, John started to call me his Bear Flower.
Pottery became a significant part of my life in January of 2009, when I took my first class at Mudslinger's Pottery School and Gallery in Fredonia, NY.
When sat down at the potter's wheel for the first time...the course of my life shifted in so many ways that evening. Touching and attempting to shape that first lump of clay was challenging, breathtaking, mesmerizing, and an act of meditation that cleared my mind and rooted me in the present moment. I had the garden prepared (break with the past to focus on the future), the gardener (John/love), now I had the chance to re-grow.
I left three hours later, chapped hands, pant legs covered in cold wet slop, with a few stubby, lumpy, uneven bowls to show for it. But, I was totally and madly in love with clay. I started dreaming about it -- seeing forms in my head that I wanted to give a physical life, to translate through and with my hands.
It has taken YEARS to learn the language of clay, but I approach every day ready to listen. Ready to learn the lesson. There have been hard-won gains, and some fairly discouraging losses. But I have never given up, and have very rarely settled for less than what my hands are capable of at any given moment. I look forward to a life filled with unfolding and blooming in my deepening understanding of this artistic medium.
My business, Everyday Earthware, was started in 2011, and since July of 2012 I have been a pursuing pottery as a full-time career. Most of my current work explores 3 specific elements of art -- form, texture, and color -- to create pieces that are vivid and engaging.
I have been carving into pots as a means to establish the visual metaphor that our scars make us beautiful. After initially throwing the pots on the wheel, I use various tools during the trimming phase to create intricate patterns that are full of movement. The carvings are "scars" that I create on the surface of pieces, which give each piece a unique character. As with human beings, it becomes clear that our scars make us beautiful. This is also another way I think I externalize the trauma I’ve inflicted on my own body...the picking, the scratching. Here, on the surface of the clay, my past of pain + fear cannot live in the shadows. What has been done to the vessel (body) must be seen (witnessed) -- then we can find true release.
Dishware is a priority in my work because I very much enjoy the duality of function and art embodied in one form. Since my initial interaction with throwing pots on the wheel and taking home dishes to use and enjoy, my entire relationship with food has continued to evolve. Eating out of a handmade dish is shifts my experience to something much more visceral; there are echoes of the maker on the piece, which helps me to see my self as a vessel being shaped by the experience of what I am eating. I am both the potter and the clay. The dishes are another mirror (externalized source) I use to show myself that food is a way to show your body that you love it and care for it. Nourish yourself from the Golden Bowl of Love.
I’ve always had my head in the clouds, and my eyes on the lookout for rainbows. Just a glimpse of such ethereal beauty, this desire haunted me. What I realize now, is that I could not see: You’re the pot of gold, bitch! That’s the ALCHEMY. Now, it’s in your power to go create rainbows. To LIVE in rainbows.
Who are your favorite people to follow?
Sarah Haykel -- we worked together for life coaching session in 2012 + it unlocked so much for me to begin the healing process. You can find more about her work: Dancing and life coaching -- here.
Shaun Silverwood -- Road Kiln Jewelry, Shaun has taught me some powerful lessons about alchemy + been a great mentor.
H.E.A.L. Buffalo -- Cheryl + Joce...these women are amazing + inspiring + out in the community changing lives!
Nikki at Cosmic Lotus Jewelry is an artist and healer with so many gifts! Her knowledge of stones, chakras, and yoga is as wide as it is deep. This mermaid gal knows how to swim + how to stand on her own two feet.
Western New York Book Arts Center is one of the coolest resources in Buffalo. The team -- Gail, Rosemary, and Melissa (and all the volunteers!) are so creative + helpful. They have helped so many people write their stories, tell their stories, and share their stories. Not to mention -- if you need prints for your home, THIS is the place to go! INCREDIBLE, one-of-a-kind + often in-house-made art.
Buffalo Architecture Prints is the love-child of my sister-in-law + her husband. They work together to create fresh, interesting, vibrant linoleum prints of iconic Buffalo buildings + spaces. It will change the way you see this city + its vitality. Jacque is the printmaster general + Dan draws/carves the linoleum blocks for their images.
GeeGee Go Go is a handsewn wonderland of cool prints and designs. Mary Cozza, my mother in law, runs this business. And, I have been fortunate enough to product test for her over the past few years. Her sewing quality is excellent, and she knows how to use fabric in such inspired ways!
Honorable mention goes to Mary Ann Cozza Photography -- who took the portraits of me working in the studio. Mary Ann is currently developing her photography portfolio, because clearly this lady already has the skills! Hopefully M.A. will be re-joining us in Buffalo someday, we will be so lucky to have her as one of our Boss Babes.
What are your favorite things to do in the area (Buffalo and greater WNY)?
Well, it’s Buffalo, so EATING ANYWHERE ranks in my top 3. Also, I love the Lake and spend as much time in + on its shores as possible. Generally just being outside...there are so many cool spots in + around Buffalo to explore. We live in a metropolitan city area of gardens + parks + beautiful art. Thanks to everyone who’s working to see this place grow.
Tell me about your favorite collaborations or a dream collaboration?
I’m gonna hold my cards a little close on this one...I have a bunch of ideas brewing, but I haven’t contacted some of the people I’m hoping to work with yet. **** ( cant wait to see ) ****
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world who would it be?
I’m really looking forward to the 1st Buffalo Boss Babes meetup!
What are your hopes, dreams, goals? Big or Small.
SHE WILL RISE (then WE will rise)
Women (include here all the under-priviledged, over-worked, and under-paid) work organically, in the background of everyday activities with our un-paid emotional labor, holding up the world since Atlas Shrugged it off on us. So let's use the tools they understand, the thing they want most (which is of course their weakness): MONEY, POWER, GREED. It will be their demise. We are not of the machine (yet), and we refuse to be ground down by its gears. We will tend to our own gardens (local businesses + communities) and watch each other bloom.
"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house," is still true. BUT, we're building a garden. So their tower will crumble organically.
We will work like water droplets collecting in the bucket --PAYING OURSELVES + OUR BROTHERS + SISTERS WHAT WE DESERVE. We don't need a trickle down. We are the rain. Hope floats, so "don't fight what you hate, save what you love”. This is the year we plant seeds.
Tell us about your family?
My family are all involved in the arts -- my Dad designs and builds houses, including the interior carpentry. He’s also a stained glass artist. In addition to being an investment banker, my mom runs an antique business with my sister. My sister is working on developing her Shabby Chic style and producing some really cool furniture. My husband’s family -- who is also my family -- are involved in the medical field, teaching, and the arts.We’re all healers in our own way.
I live with the yang to my yin, the patient gardener, John + our critter parade: 2 dogs + a cat. We live in Derby (near Hamburg), near the lake, and I work from home in my “Bear Cave” studio.
Feel Good Five :)
Color: The WHOLE EFFING RAINBOW baby, AND the pot of gold!
Super Power: Alchemy
Season of the year: Spring
Be sure to follow along with bear on social IG: @bear_in_a_clay_shop and on Facebook everyday earthwear. She is inspiring and making beautiful AS HELL things our of clay. I can not wait to see what is in store for Sarah and everyday earthwear
until next time babes!
Buffalo Boss Babes is a woman run blog series featuring woman in and around the city of Buffalo N.Y.
If you know someone doing amazing things for our community, past and present, young and old..... send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
Be kind to everyone you meet.
Here's to strong woman! May we know them. May we be them