The most powerful thing we have to offer is our story. Be inspired by lovely stories of lovely lives.
What prompted your move to Europe in 1994?
I was working as a regional manager for products in the interior design industry. It was a well paid position. We were living in Philadelphia and the company had rented me an apartment in Manhattan, so I split my time between the two places cruising up and down the I-95 in my company paid car. I thought I had “arrived” in one sense, but in the other I knew that I was desperately unhappy with the person the job forced me to be. I couldn’t face it though – I was scared to make a change for fear that I’d fail at whatever new thing I’d try. I felt like my soul would die if I stayed in the job, but had nowhere to escape except into a tunnel of depression.
One day, my husband came home from work and told me he had been offered a job in Germany through his company to run a new joint venture group they had interest in, and to integrate it into the the American organization. It would be a huge move, one with far reaching implications. My husband is German, so it would be an easy switch for him, but for me? My self esteem was so tied into my job that even though I knew it was killing me,I wasn’t sure I could give it up.
The following Monday morning, my boss flew in to New York to meet me. Long story short, they had reorganized the entire sales force, and I was being replaced. I don’t think I reacted as he thought I would, because I just smiled and said, “You know what? I don’t like working with you anyway, so it’s probably best.” I turned around, dialed my husband and said, “We’re going to Germany. I’ll call the movers.”
The timing of everything just melted into place, as it so often does. Three months later, we were on a plane to Germany with our cat.
What was the best thing about moving to a new country and new culture?
For me there were a number of things. Moving out of my country and an established career meant shredding how I viewed myself. It took me years to come to grips with this, but once I did, I realized that I was free to define myself by something other than how large my paycheck was. I had to learn to crawl before I could walk or thrive. I learned the language, got a job teaching English and eventually started a Business English Consultancy, doing things I never imagined I could.
The German culture is clean, organized, polite and reserved. Learning the language and mastering daily life there showed me with great clarity that there are many other ways to live than the culture in which I was raised. It opened my eyes, made me more flexible and showed me that the paradigms I had about my own country were often based upon things that were not true. I could view America with distance and objectivity.
Because Germany is so centrally located in Europe, I was able to visit many other countries during our years there. It was because of this freedom that we discovered our love of Italy. At some point, we knew that when my husband didn’t want to be in the firing line of corporate business anymore, we’d relocate to the bel paese. We didn’t know how, or what we’d do, but the seed to make that change was planted by our travels.
When did you start creating your beautiful ceramic and glass art?
Thank you for the compliment! When I lived in Germany, it was the first time in my life that I actually had time to think about creative things. I always felt I had creative potential, but I’d spent so much of my life trying to achieve financial/professional success that I put every creative idea I’d ever had on the back burner. One day, a friend of mine convinced me to take a pottery course. I thought, “Ok I’ll go there and paint little plates.” But my friend had actually stumbled across a Meisterschule, one of the few remaining master ceramics schools in Northern Germany, where professional ceramic artists could learn the trade through apprenticeship. I apprenticed five years and opened my own studio in Hamburg in 2000.
When we came to Italy and bought this property in 2003, I put the ceramics aside for awhile as we worked on restoring the buildings here, coming back to a normal rhythm of ceramic studio work in 2008. I started experimenting with adding Venetian colored glass to my glaze formulas last year, and have had some interesting results. I love the alchemy of the pottery studio, the waiting for the kiln to cool, the joy of shutting out the world and creating organic forms that feel beautiful to the hand.
Was it challenging to identify yourself as an artist after years in the corporate world?
That’s an interesting question. For years, I couldn’t own the title of artist. I was so lost after I gave up my career in business. I was harder on myself in the creative realm than I had been in business, and I had been pretty hard on myself there, too.
But the path to artist has been like stepping on cobblestones, without any clear picture of where they lead. First I gave up my job. Then, when we came here, we gave up every modicum of “security” to start a new venture from scratch in a place where we didn’t even speak the language. I had to find new cornerstones for my self-image. What eventually developed was a much simpler, more frugal life than the one we led before, dictated by the seasons, and a sense of freedom that comes from living in nature. That proved to be a very creative backdrop. While I was in the thick of the change and the pain of the adjustment, I had started to journal to track our experiences.
It wasn’t long before the Universe responded to my request for understanding and growth. I opened the New York Times Online one day and there was an article about Tammy Strobel, her blog Rowdy Kittens and her philosophy about simple, minimalistic living. So much about Tammy’s story resonated with me that I contacted her and though her recommendation ended up joining the A-List Blogging Club, which took my blog into a more professional realm.
The result is that many more people have read my words and have seen my pottery throughout the world. That catapulted me ahead creatively, and I’ve now signed a book deal for a novel that will come out in November. My ceramics are in demand, mostly selling out before they come out of the kiln. I’ve just had new business cards printed where I’ve finally given myself the titles of Writer and Ceramic Artist. I feel that I can own both of those titles now.
What is the loveliest part about living in Italy and owning a B&B?
Meeting and sharing experiences with people from all over the world is surely the most amazing part of owning a B&B. It’s opened my eyes and heart to so many new ways of seeing the world.
We believe that everyone has unique talents and call these talents superpowers. What is your superpower and how does that power make your life lovely?
My superpower is the ability to recognize open doors in my life and to have the chutzpah to walk through them. It makes for an interesting (albeit sometimes difficult) life and I have the sense that when I leave this earth, I will have done so having lived life to its fullest, a fact that makes me very content indeed.
Diana Strinati Baur is an innkeeper, ceramic artist and writer in the wine hills of Piemonte, Italy. After life as a marketing executive in America and an English language consultant and ceramics apprentice in Germany, she bought, together with her husband Michael, an abandoned farm in Acqui Terme, Italy and restored it into an elegant, creative B&B. Around the same time she started her blog A Certain Simplicity (focused on creativity and life change). She writes articles about her beautiful region for popular travel sites such as the Slow Travel Website and Italian Notebook, and creates organic stoneware vessels that are sold internationally.
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