Member Spotlight - June 2021

Jim & Kathy Manna


Before Jim and Kathy “discovered” Fine Line, they met far away from St. Charles in Alaska. Kathy was in high school and worked at The Cat and Fiddle, her mother’s teenage nightclub in Anchorage. Jim was based with the Air Force in Anchorage and managed a GI band that played at the club. After Jim left the military, he worked as an insurance inspector but longed for less severe winters. Following her graduation from high school, Kathy and Jim married. They left Alaska the next day and moved to Lombard where Jim was born and grew up. He began a 31 year career in management with the Northern Trust Company in Chicago and Kathy over the years worked with in data processing, as a personal banker and occupational therapist. In 1987 the Manna’s moved to Geneva where they continued to raise their two daughters. 

Having been advised to choose activities that they could share as a couple, Kathy was inspired by the ceramics classes she took at College of Du Page, and she suggested that they take classes at Fine Line. By the late 1980’s, Fine Line had moved to its new location on the west side of St. Charles. Making the trek from Geneva to Fine Line proved to be very challenging in the winter since Randall Road was not the developed road it is now and the wind would blast their car as they made the trip. Their first ceramics teacher was Martha Griffith. Jim focused on hand built work for the first five years, but then decided to give the wheel a try. He was encouraged to perfect his skills when his father asked Jim to make vessels that would be used as urns

for him and Jim’s mother. Jim found he had a knack for wheel throwing and ended up creating urns for many of his relatives. He submitted several of his pieces to be considered for the 2009 book 500 Raku. The piece that was chosen features the intense Raku colors that he learned to use at a Raku workshop. He has described his work as decorative, and he found that throwing on the wheel provided a release from the work regimen of his day job. Kathy continued to work on the wheel and called her work functional. At Fine Line, Jim and Kathy participated in the inaugural Raku Day, which evolved spontaneously outside of the Barn. In the beginning, before there was a Kavanagh building, ceramics classes were taught in a small room in the north side of the barn (now the knitting studio). Each class did a Raku project, so Raku was an integral part of the ceramics program.

The shared “couples experience” that Jim chose was golf. This choice inspired the Manna’s to travel south during the winter months to play golf and find studios where they could work on pottery. It turns out Kathy became an accomplished golfer. They have learned many techniques from the many ceramic artists and instructors they met over the years. Jim and Kathy found that ceramic techniques varied depending on the instructor’s approach to the discipline. Some teachers advocated “following the rules” while other shared tips for “breaking the rules”. The Manna’s found value in both approaches and made many new friends along the way. 

In addition to their shared love of ceramics and golf, Kathy and Jim also became dedicated Fine Line volunteers. Kathy was instrumental in creating beautiful garden spaces around the buildings and along the new Bolcum Road entrance. Many of the plants she nurtured were perennials and native plants, and the gardens thrived. It was not uncommon to find her watering plants and shrubs and pulling weeds in all kinds of weather from spring through fall. Jim began mowing the grass in 2000 when Geraldine injured her shoulder and could not run the tractor. What began as a short-term lawn mowing job became a long-term commitment to Fine Line. He also helped out with many other jobs around the campus - there certainly were always many jobs that needed to be done! Jim and Kathy acknowledged that Denise was the driving force for Fine Line and had a magnetic personality. No one ever turned down her requests, but she also invested great amounts of time and creativity to make Fine Line a thriving community. The three Fine Line founders – Denise, Geraldine and Peter complemented each other and contributed to the development of Fine Line. Jim’s connection to Fine Line had another twist - Geraldine had been his 7th grade teacher at Sacred Heart School in Lombard. Along with devoting many volunteer hours, Jim and Kathy had many fond memories of the annual Fine Line Christmas parties, dinners and making cookies as they watched Fine Line grow in size, programs and class offerings.


When asked what words of wisdom he would share with people, Jim said that he and Kathy found that “luck played an important part in their lives and that people should be willing to accept opportunities that come up.” Fine Line is a richer place because the Manna’s chose to “seize the day” and make Fine Line an important part of their lives.