Georgia ceramicist Billie Mitchell began her career as a painter, but two bouts of Hodgkin’s lymphoma left her with shaky hands—so she turned to clay in 1993.
“I just looked at it as another challenge,” Billie says. “If someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m going to prove them wrong. I’m a strong person, and I just don’t let obstacles get in my way.”
Billie faced another life-changing challenge. The record-breaking storms in late September 2009 caused a deluge of 14-18 in. of rain to fall on her home in Acworth, Ga. The storms also caused a 23-ft section of her house’s foundation to collapse entirely.
Billie was away in New Mexico when the storms hit and a neighbor called a few days later to tell her that the water, which had cascaded down the hill, had now puddled into a veritable lake in her front yard. There was more bad news: Her walkout basement studio had been badly damaged. A wall of mud forced its way through the cinder block, pushing her 350-lb kiln and sculptural clay pieces across the floor of her studio.
A month later, Billie was stuck. She could not work, and she could live not in the house. FEMA had given her some money, but she did not have flood insurance; she estimated that it would cost thousands to replace the foundation of her house.
Meanwhile, her friends in the art world rallied around her, raising money and offering to help her cart off the mud and cinder blocks. CERF+ was right there with them, giving her cash so that she could replace her equipment and get back to work.