He’s always known he needs to work with his hands to create something because that’s what he’s always done since an early age while growing up in Bridgeport, Ohio.
Adam Bedway began with leveling and covering pool tables for his father’s Wheeling Billiards business when he was a mere 12 years old; then it was landscaping in high school; and then in college it was the construction industry, a career he stumbled into while mowing grass and crafting shrubbery for one of his college professors.
“I thought it was pretty impressive at the time because I had never really worked in construction before, but there I was, doing construction,” he explained. “From there, I and my business partner at the time continued doing the landscaping jobs in between our college classes, and during the summers we got into the construction business, too.”
But it wore on him; it wasn’t his medium; and this 34-year-old lover of people started to not appreciate people very much at all.
“I just kept doing what I was doing, and all of a sudden I had been in that business for more than 10 years, and I had had enough of it. It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing,” Bedway admitted. “It was time to make a decision, and I made it, and I am way happier doing this now. It was a good decision.
“I got to the point to where I wasn’t happy anymore with doing the construction business because it just got to be very frustrating,” he said. “You always hear people say that when you work for yourself as a contractor, you only answer to yourself, but that’s not true. You’re not your own boss because every one of your customers is your boss.
“Those customers want to get a hold of you night and day because you are working in their house for an extended period of time,” Bedway added. “And they want everything done their way even though most of the time they don’t know what they are talking about because they aren’t a contractor. It just got to the point to where I said to myself, ‘I have to be done doing this.’”
A terrific student at Bridgeport High, Bedway graduated in 2000 and headed off to New Orleans to major in art at Tulane University. He returned to the Upper Ohio Valley following his freshman year when his father became ill, but it took time for him to settle into a local college. He tried West Liberty University, then Ohio University Eastern, and then OU in Athens.
But those institutions didn’t fit, so off to Bethany College Bedway went and he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2007.
“It’s kind of funny because when it was time for me to go to college, I knew I wanted to major in art, but when I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be a comic book artist,” Bedway explained. “But then I went to Tulane in New Orleans, and I settled with metal sculpture, and I was doing iron casting. It was a lot different from becoming a comic book artist; trust me.
“I’ve always been a fan of three-dimensional art, and that’s why I enjoy working with the metals and doing the castings,” he continued. “And one part of doing metal castings involves building your patterns out of clay, or at least I did. Plus, I had friends who were in the pottery studio, and I remember seeing one of my friends making really tall pitchers, and that’s what changed my mind. I wanted to do that.”
So now Bedway has founded East Wheeling Clay Works at 43 15th St. and has been a vendor for several festivals this summer, and he plans to open his studio to the public before the end of this year.
“I bought this building with my construction business partner, William Wallace, and one of the reasons why is that we own the apartment building a couple of doors down from here,” he explained. “Originally we wanted to house our contracting business here, but it’s zoned commercial, so that would not have been the legal thing to do. That’s when I asked if I could put a ceramics studio in here, and the city officials said yes. So here we are.
“I first thought about making a communal studio with multiple artists working here, and I would still like to continue that direction right now,” said Bedway, who is also a resident of East Wheeling. “And soon customers will be able to come in and see a lot my work on display but there still are improvements I need to make before that happens around September or October.”
Although there are several complicated steps to take while creating his works, Bedway relies on simplistic language when explaining his passion for pottery.
“I make mostly functional pottery. I make the things that we use every day like bowls, plates, and mugs. Just about anything you eat off, drink from, or put things in,” he insisted. “The approach I take to it is making what you like. That’s really a lot of it. There’s a certain design element to it that I enjoy, and I try to be a mix between a country potter and a modern potter. I don’t like just a plain cylinder to be called drinking cup.
“Anybody can do that, and I believe you have to show a certain level of skill with your work, but at the same time you have to have a good balance with the aesthetics,” Bedway explained. “It’s also something you’re always improving upon because I am very critical of my work, and I am always working toward perfecting the forms I want to create.”
But opening a showroom? Working the festivals? Do those activities not involve the public and customer service?
“I do still have customers, but it’s completely different because the amount of time I deal with those customers is far shorter,” Bedway said with a chuckle. “And people tend to get a lot less upset if they break their coffee mug or a bowl versus when you are in their way while renovating their kitchen for several weeks.
“I love working with my customers now when I am working as a vendor at a festival or something like that because it’s completely different from it was in construction,” he said. “But I also like the solitude that’s included with what I am doing now. Now, I do have a lot of my friends who come to the studio to hang out during the day, and my girlfriend, Beth (Patsch), is here a lot, too, and that’s great because when you are by yourself a lot, it can get to you.”
Is he settled in? Has he fulfilled his destiny? Bedway believes so.
“Now, I do work all of the time. Most often I work here from 10 a.m. until midnight, usually,” he continued. “But I love it. It’s on my mind all of the time, and when I was in the construction business, I avoided thinking about it when I wasn’t at a job site. Plus, with this job there are a lot of different facets that come into play. Plus, I do the marketing, and I am the one who makes everything.
“And I also want Beth to be able to do what she loves to do, too. She’s not really into the ceramics thing, but she has the idea of opening up a dog boutique that would have the really good dog foods and things like that,” he added. “So the dream come true is to be able to pay off my student loans and have the life that Beth and I want to have while being able to do what we love to do instead of just going to work to be able to pay the bills. That wasn’t very fun at all, but this is. This is where I belong.”
(Photos by Steve Novotney)