Kip O’Krongly: Potter of the Month

This month, I’m delighted to feature Kip O’Krongly as Potter of the Month!  It turns out that Kip and I both grew up in Anchorage, Alaska although our paths never crossed until recently.  We met at Arrowmont’s Utilitarian Clay Symposium in 2012 and although we didn’t have much opportunity to get to know each other during the symposium, we now correspond regularly as members of the Objective Clay collective.

okrongly_2I’ve been intrigued by Kip’s work for a long time and was excited to learn more about her layered surfaces.  Kip’s work is sensitive to ideas of food and energy and the links between consumer and environment.  In the interview, she talks about what prompted the new direction in her work and what piece of literature helped motivate her to make the shift.

Enjoy!

How did you first get involved in ceramics? Can you briefly describe your background and education?

image_1I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. While my childhood was brimming with art classes and creative activities, being an artist never occurred to me as a possible path. Ceramics wasn’t even on my radar when I was a kid – I’m so envious of the many schools I’ve encountered in Minnesota with amazing clay programs for youth! I was a sophomore at Carleton College when I first stepped into the clay studio, and as the story so often goes, I was instantly smitten. Carleton was a great clay kick-start, but it was in the years following undergrad that I truly learned what it would take to run a clay business and find my own ceramic voice.

image_2Despite plans to set up a studio in the San Francisco Bay Area after leaving Carleton (where my husband was starting graduate school), I quickly came to realize my undergraduate skill set paired with an extremely high cost of living was a tough mix. From that point on, I’ve often partnered my work in clay with other jobs to cover my expenses and take pressure off selling work as my primary income. From things like working as a dental assistant, baking part-time, running a community center clay program, to teaching clay classes and workshops, these jobs have given me the resources to continue developing my studio work.

image_3There were a few educational opportunities that have profoundly shaped my artistic path. First was an apprenticeship at Whitefish Pottery in Whitefish, MT from the summer of 2003 – summer 2004. There I beefed up my undergraduate skills and learned the ins and outs of running a production studio (I fired an endless string of bisque kilns and pulled 1,000’s of handles!). Along with gaining experience in a production setting, came the space, materials and time to develop and push my own work (for the first time outside of an academic setting). It was a transformative year of working intensely alongside a group of artists passionate about clay.

In addition to my time in Montana, applying to take workshops at places like Haystack, Anderson Ranch, Penland and Arrowmont have been invaluable supplements to my undergraduate training. While two weeks doesn’t seem like much, it’s amazing how working so intensely with such talented people has helped my work evolve.  All of the craft schools across the country offer scholarships and work-study options, so despite the high initial price tag, there are some more affordable ways to participate.

image_4I can’t talk about my education in clay without mentioning Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. I worked in a number of positions at NCC starting in 2008 as a student, transitioning to a studio artist in 2009, the Material Technician and a Fogelberg Fellow from 2009 – 2011, and the Anonymous Potter resident from 2011 – 2012. While I moved into my home studio in 2012, NCC is still a huge part of my ceramic life. I continue to teach and exhibit work regularly in their gallery and was just awarded a $25,000 mid-career McKnight artist grant. The amazing support from NCC, along with the insights of staff, studio artists and visiting residents has been like my own little version of graduate school. I am immensely grateful for Northern Clay’s dedication to clay education and ceramic artists and can’t imagine being without the support of this fantastic community.

image_5How do you feel that your formal education (undergraduate school) prepared you for your career in ceramics?

Once I discovered clay, the studio art component of my undergraduate education became an intensive time of repetition and daily practice (or: I spent a lot of time in the studio wrecking pots and slowly learning techniques). While the formal aspects of my education were immensely valuable (from skill building in the studio to the broad education a liberal arts degree provides), it was some of the informal experiences that truly left an impression on my ceramic career path. One of the most memorable moments being a trip to Linda Christianson’s and Jeff Oestrich’s studios along with two other ceramic students (Kristin Pavelka and Juliane Shibata – both of whom still work in clay!). Meeting with working artists in the field (and such lovely ones, at that) was what ignited my desire to become a full-time clay artist, and gave me a sense of what a career in clay could potentially look like.

Your work made a huge shift when you lived in Pittsburgh. What prompted the change from traditional pottery ideas to politically charged narratives?

My husband and I took the extra-long route from our home in Seattle to his first teaching job in Pittsburgh via a road trip through Alaska and Canada. Back in my home state of Alaska I physically witnessed for the first time incredible changes happening in our climate – temperatures were undeniably hotter and glaciers had retreated miles since I left Anchorage in high school. I decided during our visit that I wanted to somehow talk about issues of climate and energy in my work, but I wasn’t sure how to make that happen just yet.image_7

image_6These ideas gnawed at me for another year and a half until the tipping point finally came in 2007 when reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. His narrative following foods from their sources to our tables (and the complicated food-energy web that results), gave me a written framework to visually explore. Pollan’s book, along with the vast array of food and energy related documentaries that pepper our current foodscape continue to inspire my food and energy themed ceramics to this day.

How do you come up with new ideas? Can you walk us through your creative process when coming up with new forms/ideas?

Developing new forms and ideas is a slow process for me, but comes most often through steady work in the studio. I’ve found that ideas drift into focus as I’m in the act of making and I need to be present enough to grab hold before they slip on by! In an effort to nab image_8these bits of inspiration, I keep a whiteboard in my studio to easily jot down thoughts and sketch forms. I am an avid NPR listener and new ideas are often sparked while I’m working away and listening to the radio (Radio Lab is one of my favorites!). Sometimes I’ll mull over an idea for months (like how to make a solar panel stencil, or what form makes sense for a teapot body), while other times things seem to snap quickly into focus (like the need to talk about livestock generated methane via farting cows). It seems like working consistently, listening carefully and tuning into intriguing or unexpected connections has been the key for me as I develop new surfaces and forms.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

One of the most challenging aspects of being self-employed is balancing work, social and family life – especially when you work from home. While I certainly think keeping to a schedule is helpful for anyone who is self-employed, one of the things I value most about my job is the flexibility I have. Some days I’ll spend 12 hours just working in the studio (although, that’s not actually my favorite way to work!) and some days only 3 – 4 hours in the studio and the remainder of the workday doing some assortment of answering emails, photographing work, packing and shipping pots, mixing slip and glaze or loading a kiln (and a walk with the dog!). There are times I’ll focus solely on applications, class proposals or be off teaching or at meetings – it all depends on what deadlines are coming up. I’m an avid list maker (there’s nothing more satisfying than a big fat sheet of crossed off to-do items), love to organize and plan, and am an absolute slave to my digital calendar alerts!

I find the drawn narratives on the surface of your pots intriguing. Why is it important for your drawings to be composed on pottery forms? Why do you choose the forms you do?

okrongly_6I find drawing on pots to be a slightly subversive way to get an idea into people’s homes and lives. A pot is something that you use and see on a regular basis, share around the table with friends and family and it’s my hope that this work promotes discussion and dialogue in a personal space that other art forms can’t often do. I like that you can hold pots in your hands and really explore them and their surfaces – they feel so intimate as a result. My interest in pots that participate in meals means that my work tends to live in the realm of functional ceramics. I gravitate toward forms that are simple and sturdy (so they can survive many runs through the dishwasher!), while at the same time giving me a smooth and open base for decoration.

How long have you worked at your home studio south in Northfield? What were the most important steps you took to market your work to your local audience?

My husband and I bought our house in the summer of 2012 and I began converting a playroom into my studio space that fall (as my Anonymous Potter residency at NCC came to an end). The studio modifications took a lot longer than anticipated (which I have sense learned is the case for all house projects!), so I didn’t start working in my home studio until December of 2012.image_9

Even though I’ve now been working in Northfield for almost two years, I’m still getting to know my local market. The most important part of developing that relationship has been my involvement with the Northfield ArTour. Every October, over 40 artists in the area open their studios to the public for a full weekend. Inviting people to visit my space and purchase work directly has made me feel much more connected to the local community. This year, I volunteered with the ArTour planning committee, which has tied me into the artists in the area as well. I’m also part of two local artist meet-ups each month (one with potters, and one with a group of artists in multiple media), on the gallery committee for our local arts guild and I attend as many local art-related events as I can. All of these areas of okrongly_3involvement have been a great way to increase my local contribution, to raise awareness that I’m a working artist in the area, and to learn about upcoming opportunities. I’ve also been chatting with two of the galleries in Northfield and am investigating the farmer’s market and fall food and arts festival as potential ways to expand my local presence.

Your work is in numerous retail galleries across the country. Can you talk about how you selected the representation you did? What kind of advice could you offer someone wanting to approach galleries for representation?

Figuring out not only where you want to sell your work, but also where your work will actually sell can be a challenge. Make a list of places you’d like to see your pieces and then do some research. What artists do they carry year-round? What is the mix of functional vs. sculptural work? Does the gallery lean toward high fire ceramics (and are you an earthenware potter)? What price range do you see? Does that fit within your price range? Do they have any open calls for exhibitions? For me, I’ve found exhibitions to be a okrongly_1great starting point in developing a relationship with a gallery. Typically, if your work sells in a show setting, a gallery will be open to trying out a larger selection of pieces. I’ve also found that a number of galleries do some sort of holiday sale where they broaden the number of artists they carry for the holiday season, which can be a low-pressure way test the waters.

When approaching any gallery (either to participate in a show or to be taken on as a gallery artist) having high-quality documentation of your work is absolutely vital. I take my images myself using an EZ Cube (which I love). If your work is complicated to shoot, or you’re not yet comfortable doing it on your own, absolutely pay someone to do it! The quality of your images can make or break any application, no matter your qualifications on paper. If you have any questions about your images, seek out the advice of someone who knows what to look for – an instructor, an artist who exhibits regularly, a gallery representative. I’d be happy to look at anyone’s images!image_10

While targeting galleries you’re most interested in makes sense, being part of ANY show is a great way to raise awareness of the work you are making. Be prepared for a lot of rejections. Even if you’re making fantastic work, sometimes it just won’t fit well with the overall space or exhibition vision. And once you do nab an opportunity, make sure you pack and ship it professionally and do things on time. Every interaction is a way to make an impression – good or bad! You’d be amazed by how often galleries receive poorly packed pots or communication that is unprofessional. It’s the seemingly small details that often result in you getting invited back for another opportunity with a gallery or not.

Which marketing venue(s) (website/social media sites /galleries/studio sales/etsy/craft fairs/etc.) have you found to be the most lucrative for your work? What kind of advice could you give someone wanting to market his or her work?

Aaaaah, marketing. Despite the fact that my father’s business is in marketing, I don’t know that the gene was passed on to me! I have found this to be a difficult part of my studio practice because it’s something I just don’t particularly enjoy. While it may not be a favorite aspect of my business, I do know it is what’s required to get my work out into the world. In terms of marketing advice, I’d say that having a web presence in some way, shape or form is mandatory. A website is a great way to house your body of work so interested folks (consumers, galleries, fellow artists, etc) can see a collection of pieces and learn more about what makes you tick as an artist (here again, images are paramount!).

okrongly_7While I do have a website, I’ve largely outsourced a good deal of the day-to-day marketing by electing to work with galleries rather than pushing the work myself.   Either way you’re paying for the marketing. You take the 50% gallery rate, or you pay with your own time and money.  A hybrid of these two options for me has been working online with Objective Clay. We’re a group of 14 ceramic artists, from all over the country, who work together to create a unique online space for content and selling work. Pooling our resources has been a wonderful way to broaden the audience for, and awareness of, all of our work – I’m excited to see where this virtual space goes in the future.

In terms of craft fairs, I’ve found the initial financial investment to set up a stellar booth and lighting situation, along with the often-expensive booth fees, keeps me from diving into that particular market. There are some local fairs that I could envision as a starting point, but right now the gallery work (along with my fall studio sale and Objective Clay web sales) make the most sense for me.

Finally, what advice can you give aspiring potters trying to make a living?

okrongly_4Making a living working in clay has meant a lot less time in the studio than I initially envisioned. Running a small ceramic business (any business, really!) requires so much more than making the product (from photographing work, packing and shipping, finances, marketing and promotion to seeking out new exhibition opportunities, teaching and writing grant proposals – just to name a few!). And while I never would have imagined this as I started working in clay, there have been times when going into the studio felt like a job with a capital J.

When you solely rely on pots to cover your expenses, you put serious pressure on how much work (and the kind of work) you make. You’ve got to make a lot of pots and have them in a lot of places just to support daily life and studio expenses. You may find that after awhile what once brought you joy, now has lost that initial spark. I know, I know, how could you ever feel sour about working in the studio? Trust me, it can happen. It happened to me. I have found though, the best times in the studio come when I’m bringing in (at least a little!) predictable income and the direct pressure is off my pots.

As I talked about earlier, I’ve had many other jobs to supplement my own creative work.

okrongly_5So, I’d suggest getting a (ideally part-time!) job and keep the freedom to make what you’re passionate about making in the studio. Spend all the time you want to develop strong forms and thoughtful surfaces. Play, experiment, apply for shows, take some business classes, talk to lots of artists; slowly build your business. But most importantly, recognize that there are as many ways to work in clay as there are people. There is no ultimate path, no right (or wrong) way to make a living. Keep yourself open, set some goals, be willing to make mistakes and you’ll get to where you want to go.

 

For more information about Kip and her work, please visit her website:

www.kipokrongly.com

Meredith Host: Potter of the Month

host plate decoratingI am pleased to announce that this month’s potter is the super-fabulous Meredith Host!  Meredith and I met at The School for American Crafts (at RIT) when we were both studio residents during the 2002-2003 school year.  Hard to believe that was over ten years ago…yikes!

It’s been a treat watching Meredith’s work evolve over the years.  I have many pieces of hers from our time at RIT and I just recently purchased one of Meredith’s current works from the Schaller Gallery.  I’m in awe of the layered imagery in this new tumbler I own…the amount of depth Meredith is able to acheive with seemingly flat colors and patterns is remarkable.

For those who know Meredith, her work is indeed a reflection of her personality…full of life, colorful, playful, cheerful and refreshing.  Whenever I open the cupboard and see her pots, they put a smile on my face…and using them truly does heighten the dining experience.

For more info about Meredith and her work, visit the links listed at the end of the post.  Enjoy the interview!

How did you first get involved in ceramics?

I started taking ceramic classes when I was 11 at a local art center where my mom taught printmaking & painting.  Her friend was the ceramics teacher, so she signed me up.  Ceramics became my favorite after school activity – and I ended up going to a college prep high school that had an emphasis in art.  It had an amazing ceramics studio (although I didn’t really realize that at the time). By the end of high school I was taking 2 hours of ceramics vs. taking any free hours.  Ceramics became the thing I couldn’t live without.

Can you briefly describe your background and education?

I grew up in Detroit Rock City in a household that was very supportive of the arts.  My mom is a painter/printmaker and has helped run a co-op gallery for over 20 years.  I ended up going to Kansas City Art Institute for undergrad and finished my BFA in 2001.  Then I moved around a bit to various ceramic studio opportunities such as The School for American Crafts at RIT and Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts.  I went to The Ohio State University for grad school and finished my MFA in 2008. I’ve lived in Kansas City, MO since finishing grad school.

How do you feel that your formal education prepared you for your career in ceramics?

When I graduated from KCAI, I felt confident in my making skills/craftsmanship. They instilled a great work ethic, which has certainly helped me along the way.  I still feel guilty at times when I’m not in the studio! My time at OSU helped me figure out how to hone my skills and make a cohesive body of work.  Also, grad school gave me the confidence to make the move into working full time in the studio.  It was a scary step, but I can’t imagine doing anything else now.

meredith host ramekinsEvery summer through high school and college I worked as a bookkeeper for my family’s sand and gravel business in Detroit. Overall this office background has definitely helped me navigate self-employment. In theory I should be AMAZING at all the paperwork associated with having a business…but I admittedly am not the best at staying on top of it!

You’ve been awarded numerous residencies over the course of your career? Can you talk a little bit about how they impacted your career path?

Being at RIT helped me bring more of my personality into my work and develop my own artistic voice. I like referring to my time there as “fake grad school”. Also while in Rochester, I assisted Julia Galloway in her studio.  I learned a ton about the business side of the job and saw the reality of what it would take to be a studio potter. Hard work but worth it!

At Watershed I was the Salad Days artist, which meant designing and producing 500 plates for their annual fundraiser.  This project was challenging and helped me figure out efficiency in my making process.

I’ve had a few post grad school short term residencies: a factory residency at Dresdner Porzellan Manufactory in Germany, a Surface Forum at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, and an Artist Invite Artist session at Watershed.  These short term residencies have helped me get out of my normal studio routine, spice things up a bit, and take some chances with my work.

And, of course, a huge impact of residencies has been meeting and networking with so many amazing people!

Like many people, you took significant time between undergraduate and graduate school.  What made you decide to attend graduate school?

host teacups in use 72Grad school was always a personal goal; I knew I would go, but I just needed to figure out when would be the right time.  I developed a body of work during my time at RIT and Watershed, and this was the work I used to apply to grad school.  At that point, I knew I needed the work to be pushed. I felt I had stalled in my making/designing process and craved some critical feedback. In addition, the year before grad school I was working 3 jobs on top of working in my studio. Honestly, I was very much ready to hunker down and focus on JUST making and taking my work to the next level. I only applied to 2 schools because I thought they were the only programs that made sense for me. I attended Ohio State because the work coming out of the program had a sense of quirkiness to it.  It’s not necessarily a “pottery” school, but I knew the professors there would push my work/creative process in interesting ways. I think having some life experience after undergrad and waiting to attend grad school was one of the best decisions I ever made.

What is the inspiration for your pieces?  How do you come up with new ideas?  Can you walk us through your creative process when coming up with new forms/ideas?

host leaf setting 1 72I’ve worked with a few forms for a while now and each year I think they become more refined.  It’s been a slow evolution, but as my design eye changes, the forms are tweaked ever so slightly. I find a lot of my refining is done during the trimming process…that’s when I feel like I can really get that proper profile line.  I choose to make simple, clean, and smart forms…forms that feel good to hold or to use.  Ultimately I want my work to be easily used for what it is intended.

I’m not much of a sketcher when it comes to making new forms.  Maybe a quick line representing a profile, or a really basic line drawing (and probably completely wrong perspective), but that’s it as far as 2D goes. Usually most of my sketching happens on the wheel.  I can visualize best in 3D.

I’m inherently drawn to the surfaces of your work not only because of the colors and patterns you choose, but because of the amount of depth you’re able to achieve.  Can you briefly describe your surface processes and inspiration?

I decorate my work using paper stenciling and thermofax screen-printing with underglaze to add most of my layers.  Almost of all the color and pattern is put on the piece before the bisque firing, but one last final iron oxide decal layer or china paint decal layer is applied and fired after the glaze firing. Each piece is fired at least 3 times.

host dot tumblers 8x4 300My forms are simple and clean to contrast the complex surface decorations.  Although my formal language is minimal, my approach to surface decoration is “more is more.” I layer these designs and decals to make an intricate, complex surface that would not be possible with only a single layer of pattern. It is a challenge to know when a piece is finished, because my tendency is to fill all the blank space. Decorating is my driving force at the moment; it’s all I want to do!

My patterns come from my collection of what I like to call “overlooked domestic patterns” aka toilet paper and paper towel patterns.  I’ve been collecting swatches of these subtle dimple decorations for over 10 years. I’m taking these throwaway everyday items/patterns and turning them into something permanent and still meant for daily use.

Currently, you produce two separate “lines” of work.  One that is more commercially manufactured and one that is handmade.  Can you talk a little bit about the differences between these two “lines” of work and how you decided to develop both?

“foldedpigs dinnerware” is what I call my commercial/retail line, and “Meredith Host”  is my studio artwork. I started the foldedpigs business completely by accident during host studio foldedpigsgrad school at OSU.  Long story short, I made a few decaled restaurant dishes for a clay club sale to help contribute to our visiting artist fund. There was a crazy snowstorm and school was cancelled the day of our sale.  I had just started an etsy site to try to sell older studio work, so I listed the repurposed restaurant dishes in my shop.  They sold quickly and I started to receive requests for more.  The new line began supplementing my costs during grad school.  Upon graduating, the head of my committee, Rebecca Harvey, gave me the encouragement to continue this endeavor, as there was obviously a demand for my product.  I embraced foldedpigs and ventured into working full time in the studio, splitting my time between my studio artwork and commercial line.

I always knew that I wanted to work full time in my studio and having foldedpigs around has allowed me to do so for the last 5 years.  Eventually, I’d love to just be making my work, but for now foldedpigs helps supplement my income.  My main challenge is the time balance in the studio.  I’ve been able to streamline foldedpigs that I spend less time with it but am able to produce just as much (if not more) than I used to.

I do try to keep the two aspects of my studio separate: It doesn’t bother me that people know I’m the designer and producer of foldedpigs, but I’d prefer it not be referred to as my art.  Sometimes it’s hard to escape that, but I make an effort to distinguish between the two.  I have made a conscious choice to not sell my artwork and foldedpigs in the same places, as part of the separation.

You’ve been successful with both lines of work by reaching a wide audience (one that exceeds the ceramics community).  How do you go about marketing each line?  What are the differences in target audience/etc.?  Is there any crossover?

I’ll be honest…I lucked out with foldedpigs.  I started an etsy shop in the early days of etsy (2007) so I had a decent amount of exposure right away. Within 6 months, I was asked to be a featured seller.  I went into my 3 day stint of being featured with 125 sales, and at the end of the 3 days, I had 250 sales. Doubling my 6 months worth of sales in 3 days was kind of a big deal and launched foldedpigs into a full fledge business.  My exposure on Etsy also opened some doors into product placement in magazines (BUST, Adorn, Country Living, Inked, Everyday with Rachael Ray). Etsy definitely provides a large audience, and most of the shops/boutiques I wholesale with have found me through my shop. I also sell foldedpigs in the indie craft fair circuit, locally here in Kansas City, as well as throughout the country in quite a few cities (Chicago, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Columbus, Austin, Los Angeles, and San Francisco).

I’m at the point now where the promotion isn’t just falling into my lap anymore, so I’ve been trying to figure out how social media can work to generate sales with both foldedpigs and my studio work.  Websites, blogs, twitter, pinterest, facebook, instagram, mailing lists, etc.etc.  There are so many things to update!  I was reluctant to start a facebook “like” page, but I’ve found that facebook reaches people pretty quickly.  I’m guessing no one is going to look at my website daily/weekly, but they most likely look at their facebook news feed at least once a day.  Just a quick example, this past weekend I was a vendor at a one day local indie craft fair.  I forgot to tell people about it…until the morning of!  I posted an announcement on facebook before I left the house, then in the first couple hours posted a picture on instagram of my set up.  I started seeing familiar faces show up and they all said they found out about the show from my status update.  Someone else showed up because of my instagram picture…and these quick little announcements turned into sales.

host doily setting 1 72There is definitely a different audience for each line. Foldedpigs is made for an audience that wants something a little bit more edgy than store bought commercial lines.  Foldedpigs is easily digestible, and at a much lower price point, which widens its audience. It’s straight forward.  Graphically it’s neutral (black, blue & grey on white) so that it can integrate into households easily and match/supplement their pre-existing dinnerware. It’s all uniform and stacks nicely in a cupboard.

The audience for my artwork is interested in handmade dinnerware and is okay with having a piece or two that does not match the rest of their cupboard.  They are willing to invest in a higher price point handmade object and appreciate what goes into making the object.

How did you arrive at the decision to settle and start up a studio?  What were your must-haves when choosing a studio and location?

I chose to move back to Kansas City after grad school.  I was sick of moving around so much and was ready to be in one place to try my hand at working full time in the studio.  Kansas City has a really supportive art community and it’s affordable.  I knew I would be able to live here AND have a separate studio.  I’ve found through the years that I’m happier when I’m around others while working vs. being alone.

host studioRight now my studio situation is amazing; I share a warehouse space with Rain Harris and Paul Donnelly. Because we are in a large warehouse, I’m able to have 2 separate spaces for my work and for foldedpigs, which has allowed for mental breathing space.  I’ve found that I’m much more productive with the two projects separated.  We have enough space to have a plaster area for mold making, a photo set up, woodshop, packing area, and packing materials storage.

I have to say, the photo set up is a must-have…being able to document work easily and at any point in the day has been awesome. Also, our studio is right below Crane Yard Clay Supply, so it couldn’t be more convenient.  If I’m out of plaster or a specific color of underglaze, I just have to walk upstairs.  I feel incredibly spoiled.

host studio plaster areaIn our same warehouse complex, the new Red Star Studios and Gallery are moving in.  I’m really excited to be a part of the amazing clay/art community that is developing.

What does a typical workday look like for you?  How much do you spend on marketing vs. making?

host 3 doily vases 72I suppose there’s a rough outline of what my typical day looks like…  I’m usually up around 8:30, and head to studio by 10.  I enjoy taking my time in the morning; making breakfast, taking my sweet little beast Olive for a walk, checking email, plotting out the day in studio, etc.  Usually the first order of business when I get to the studio is to pack up any orders from Etsy and get them ready to ship.  After that, it’s work time.  I’m very deadline driven, so deadlines dictate what and when I’m making. I go through waves of making, decorating, glazing, decaling…  it’s a bit rare that all of that happens simultaneously. The balance between foldedpigs and my studio art work is a challenge.  If a random foldedpigs order comes in, I’ll run over to my other section of the studio and frantically decal for a couple of hours.  I usually finish up around 5:30-6:30 and head to the gym, afterwards, I go home to make dinner.  In the evening I usually spend a couple hours on the computer dealing with paperwork, emails, updating social media stuff, etc.etc.  If I have a really pressing deadline then I’ll skip the gym and go back to the studio after dinner to work for longer.  I work half days Saturday & Sunday, but once again, if there’s a pressing deadline, the amount of hours in the studio grow exponentially.  Then, of course, there’s the occasional day that is devoted to all computer work and paperwork. Ugh…not my favorite type of day.

I’m not sure what the exact time split between making/marketing would be, maybe 80 making/20 marketing? I’m counting paperwork, emails, and office type stuff as marketing even though it might not technically be. And I might be underestimating the marketing percentage…I spend A LOT of time on the computer.

What is the one studio tool you can’t live without?   Why?

host studio test tilesBecause my work is really layered, there’s not just one thing that would make or break it.  Taking something away would change my work a bit here and there.  So I’m going to go with a cheesy answer of… my hands, creativity, and drive.

Also, if you took away my computer, thermofax machine, underglazes, wheel, and kiln, I would be really sad.

You’ve had an Etsy site for quite a few years now.  How has your experience on Etsy helped your career?

Etsy has certainly helped my foldedpigs line get off its feet and grow for the past 6 or so years.  I mentioned this before, but I have had product in magazines and started wholesaling with shops/boutiques all because of my Etsy shop.  And ultimately, Etsy helps pay my bills and allows me to be in the studio full time.

host biscuit setting 1 72My “Meredith Host” shop is rather new, so I haven’t seen much impact quite yet. I need to start being a bit more proactive and allocating more work for this shop.

Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring potters who are looking to set up a studio and make pots for a living?

host mugs 1 72

Be organized. Don’t forget to document. Work your ass off.  Make, make, make, make, and MAKE some more!

To discover more about Meredith and her work, check out the following:

Meredith links:

Website: www.meredithhost.com

Shop: meredithhost.etsy.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MeredithHost

Instagram: instagram.com/meredithhost#

Studio blog: meredithhost.blogspot.com

foldedpigs dinnerware links:

Shop: foldedpigs.etsy.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/foldedpigs

Twitter: twitter.com/foldedpigs

Objective Clay: Online Artist Collective

Objective Clay is an artist operated collective that I am happy to be a part of.  It was founded by fourteen artists during last fall’s Utilitarian Clay Symposium at Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts.  As potters that live and work in various parts of the country, our goal is to use the internet to create a collective space that will function as both a gallery and a window into our current thoughts and processes.  By sharing our ideas and opening our studios, we invite artists, non-artists, educators and students to actively engage in our practices.  In this virtual “workshop”, the people who love pots can view/purchase new work and form direct relationships with the artists who make them.

Here’s a glimpse of the artists that make up objective clay:

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top row: Doug Peltzman, Sunshine Cobb, Deb Schwartzkopf, Jennifer Allen, Kip O’Krongly, Bryan Hopkins, Brian R. Jones.
bottom row: Blair Clemo, Lindsay Oesterritter, Monica Ripley, Emily Schroeder-Willis, Gwendolyn Yoppolo, Nick Bivins and Shawn Spangler

This Thursday, we will kick off the shop portion of our website with 10% of the proceeds from the first week of sales going to Arrowmont’s Bill Griffith Art Educator’s Fellowship.  Please visit our site and help support both quality handmade wares and a meaningful cause!

www.objectiveclay.com

Potter of the Month: Chandra DeBuse

For the month of April…to help ring in spring…Chandra DeBuse!

Garden Treat Server with Snail, 2012

Garden Treat Server with Snail, 2012

Chandra and I met at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts a couple years ago.  Before we met, I was flipping through Ceramics Monthly magazine and stumbled on images of Chandra’s work. I was immediately struck by her playful pots and imagined how fun they would be to use. Her work is charming and cheerful, witty and whimsical.   Most importantly, the pieces I own put a smile on my face everyday.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of Chandra’s upcoming events and where you can find a piece of hers for your very own:

To celebrate spring, Chandra will post a virtual kiln opening of new work on her Etsy site (DeBuse Ceramics) May 15th.  Also in May (4-5), she will be at Baltimore Clayworks for a two-day workshop.  July 27th, Chandra will conduct a one-day workshop at Red Star Studios in Kansas City and in September (20-22), she will present her work and her processes at the Handbuilt Conference for CERF in Philadelphia.

For additional information, please visit Chandra’s website:  www.chandradebuse.com

Enjoy the interview!

How did you first get involved in ceramics?

My early experience with ceramics was most definitely NOT love at first sight.  I was drawn to the responsiveness of soft clay, but I lacked the discipline necessary to have any kind of success during my undergraduate ceramics class.  Fast forward a few years—I was working a stressful job and I needed a creative outlet, so I took a community clay class.  By that time, I had matured and gained discipline and everything clicked.  I couldn’t get enough.

What made you choose to attend a post-bacc program in ceramics? Can you talk a little bit about how that decision impacted your career path?   

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American Pottery Festival 2012

Going back to school after I had been working in clay for 8 years was a game-changer.  I had been gaining knowledge through community classes, books, magazines and workshops but I was really hungry to know more and academia seemed like a logical next step.  I took two clay classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before applying to their post-bacc program.  Just being in the university environment helped me understand the culture of academic clay, filled in some gaps in my education and helped me start to think critically about my work.  The encouragement and generosity of the faculty, graduate students, and my peers helped me to sort out my vision for my own future.  As a special student, I was at an advantage because I was paying in-state tuition so I took some extra classes: an art history survey course, kiln building, and sat in on the graduate seminar, while working on my portfolio and applications to graduate school.  Being a special student was like being inside a magical bubble where I had a lot of opportunity and not a ton of responsibility.  Seeing how another program’s graduate department operated gave me insights that helped me navigate my own graduate school experience.   Oh yeah, and I made some good friendships that continue to this day.

With a background in psychology, how did you decide to pursue a Master’s degree in Ceramics? 

I have always had fluid ideas of career and education and some days I even ponder what I’ll study next.  After working in human services and nonprofit administration, I was ready for a career change, although I was not entirely sure where my MFA would lead.   I always felt that my undergraduate degree just scratched the surface of the field of psychology and I kept searching for a deeper understanding of the human experience.  That quest led me to making pottery and continues in the work I make today.

How do you feel that your formal education (including your psychology degree) prepared you for your career in ceramics?  

The practical on-the-job experience I gained between undergrad and grad school developed my skills in mediation, listening, problem solving, communication, record keeping, grant writing/reporting, time management, personnel management and statistics. I definitely drew upon those skills during graduate school and I have used every one of those skills as a potter! I feel that the life I lived before I found clay gives me not only appreciation but also a perspective that grounds me.

My work is much stronger because I went to graduate school.  Formal education taught me how to continue asking questions and improving on my ideas. I also grew to understand how educating others through direct teaching and presentation aids my own artistic

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Kansas City Studio, 2012

development.  The support I have received from the University of Florida ceramics community during school and since graduation has without a doubt pushed my career forward.school developed my skills in mediation, listening, problem solving, communication, record keeping, grant writing/reporting, time management, personnel management and statistics. I definitely drew upon those skills during graduate school and I have used every one of those skills as a potter! I feel that the life I lived before I found clay gives me not only appreciation but also a perspective that grounds me.

How would you describe your work?  How did you arrive at working this way?  

I make voluminous pots that incorporate narrative hand-drawn imagery and pattern, candy colors, and bouncing lines to impart a sense of play.   Because I learned about pottery-making in a relaxed community pottery studio, on my own terms, outside of an academic agenda, I approached clay in a very playful way. I trained myself to play with clay for 8 years before learning to think conceptually about pottery.  This shift in thinking was painful for me and I’m pretty sure it was painful for my instructors too.  My early forms and surfaces weren’t cohesive.  Working narratively is a straightforward way of communicating ideas.  I always loved drawing, but I didn’t seriously try drawing on pots until the summer

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Catch Platter, 2010

before my thesis year.  It all started with squirrels, which were always right outside the studio window.  Squirrels are just like students:  they are impulsive and obsessed with a goal.   A metaphor was born.


What is the inspiration for your pieces? 
How do you come up with new ideas?  Can you walk us through your creative process when coming up with new forms/ideas? 

My thesis installation was a retelling of my own graduate school experience:  a playful story of achievement through the eyes of a squirrel.  After grad school, I continued working under the same larger themes of play and achievement, but started working through different stories with different characters and landscapes.

The process of play remains an important part of my studio practice. My formula for creative play is:  low risk + high novelty.  Ideas are born in my sketchbook.  I’ll start with a doodle, turn that doodle into a character and think about the struggle that character is involved in.   I add details to the drawing, play with composition, edit down, and relate the story to the landscape of a vessel.   I throw forms on the wheel and handbuild, using soft slabs with molds that I generate out of clay, plywood and/or craft foam.  These inexpensive materials are easy for me to customize and quickly work through ideas about shape and form.  Even as a novelty junkie, I do believe that great pots are born from discipline and repetitive practice, looking with a critical eye and making adjustments for the next round.

I’ve always been attracted to your use of the narrative.  What comes first, story or form?

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Troublemaker Tumblers, 2012

 It depends on what I’m working on.  I use cups and plates to try out a lot of narratives, so the stories might change, but the forms stay the same.  My loose narratives are based on larger themes, such as achievement or play.  These larger themes tie my work together.  Casual observers may not make the connections between the pieces, but for me, they are all related.  The tiered treat server forms were conceived while I was developing my thesis.  The tiered forms tell the story of desire, as it relates to achieving a goal and reaching the reward.  When I include a character on a treat server, such as a snail or squirrel, they are involved in that struggle of getting to the highest tier.  The function of the server, to hold treats, is conceptually relevant to the story too. It is much different than if I were designing a server for fruits and vegetables. The result is a piece with layers of meaning.

I know that you’ve moved around a bit post-graduate school.  Could you describe some of the most influential or career changing experiences you’ve had?  

Being a resident artist at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (Gatlinburg, TN) was pretty special.  The national summer workshop programming provided me with opportunities to meet renowned artists (like you!), host visitors in my studio, and give weekly public powerpoint presentations about my work.  There aren’t too many places that offer that kind of exposure.  I knew that continuing the momentum built during graduate school would depend on making a lot of work and finding an audience for my work.  I was lucky to land in two year-long residencies (Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, FL and Arrowmont) that provided financial stipends and allowed me to devote the majority of my time to my artistic practice.

Being recognized as one of six emerging artists at the 2012 NCECA conference, being named an Emerging Artist in Ceramics Monthly magazine and delivering an NCECA-sponsored lecture during SOFA Chicago made 2012 a remarkable year.  This happened as I was preparing to make a transition to being a full-time studio potter.  The exposure certainly hasn’t hurt. 2013 has some big shoes to fill though.

Kansas City is a hotbed for ceramics.  Not only is it home to the Kansas City Art Institute, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Sherry Leedy Gallery, Red Star Studios, etc., but there are many private studios maintained by internationally recognized ceramic artists (like yourself) in the area.  Now that you’ve settled and set up a studio, can you describe what attracted you to Kansas City?  

It IS a hotbed!  There are countless benefits to living in a city with such a thriving clay and arts community.  Since moving here, I taught a community class at Red Star Studios, presented to the KC Clay Guild, and I am currently an instructional assistant at the Kansas City Art Institute.  My boyfriend Tommy, the Studio Manager at Red Star Studios, has done a lot to keep me connected to the arts community here.  If not for him, I would probably hole up in my studio way too much.

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Glazing, 2012

After living in some remote areas, I can really appreciate the access that Kansas City offers. I live a mile from Crane Yard Clay, which sells studio materials and supplies, there is even a packaging supply distributor where I can drive over and load the truck with bulk shipping materials, there’s a really cheap place that sells clean scrap upholstery foam.  No more harvesting foam from nasty side-of-the-road couches!  There are some really great restaurants (not just bbq!). When I moved here, I had a full calendar of show obligations, so I needed to set up a studio quickly.  I chose to rent studio space in a quieter place near the arts district.  The cost of living is moderate and I grew up just a few hours north of here, so Kansas City feels like home.

Was there a point in your career that you made a decision to sell your pots for a living? Could you describe how you came to that decision?  

That decision is evolving.  After graduate school, I wanted to spend 3-5 years primarily focusing on my artwork in an effort to build on the momentum I gained during school (I am in year 3). As it happened, I spent the first two years in artist residency programs.  While at Arrowmont, I began to find an audience for my work and started a mailing list to keep connected to the hundreds of people I met.  I have been working as an independent studio potter since last July, piecing together my income from selling pots, teaching and doing workshops.  It has been stressful at times and I have not got the pie chart of income figured out yet. There is much tweaking to be done with price points and time investments.  I am still pretty open-minded about opportunities that take me out of my studio, as long as they present chances for income, learning, and still leave room for me to make pots.

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Squirrel Treat Server in process, 2013

What does a typical workday look like for you?  How much do you spend on marketing vs. making?

I have yet to find “typical.”  So far, deadlines have driven my time.  Last summer and a little bit this fall, I was spending 14 hour days in the studio, preparing for shows.  Teaching, traveling, packing and shipping work, taking photographs, applying for things and writing articles have taken me out of the studio.  When I’m out of the studio, such as doing a workshop or setting up a show, I try to be mindful of marketing opportunities.  A snapshot of me teaching a workshop posted to the web on my blog or facebook page tells my story and serves as a marketing tool.  It not only connects with my audience, but defines who I am and what I have to offer.  Working with other organizations, such as AMACO and Northern Clay Center has resulted in media that has expanded my audience.

How does an artist go about acquiring business and marketing skills? What piece of advice would you give to others just starting out?  

Marketing efforts should reflect your brand identity, which should be cohesive with your artist statement.  If you want organizations to invite you to do workshops, make sure that your online content reflects that.  Share pictures of yourself giving workshops, record a little video demo and put it on Youtube.  Write a how-to article for a ceramics publication, present at NCECA.  If there is a product you love and use in your studio practice, reach out to the manufacturer and let them know.  It may lead to some kind of partnership that can lend exposure to your work.  There are many ways to tackle the marketing monster, but it’s all about finding your audience and creating opportunities.

There is a mythology surrounding a potter’s life and marketing efforts tend to lean toward, “crafting the mythology.”  I think there is a lot of truth to this, especially since it doesn’t make much business sense to promote an image of failure—even if that’s the reality.  Those who are actually making and selling their work and making a living are exceptionally disciplined and resourceful.  I have my eye on those people and I try to learn as much as I can from the ways they have structured their businesses.

What is your relationship with galleries (on and offline)?  How has that relationship changed over time? 

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Garden Treat Server with Snail, 2012

The internet is really changing the gallery/artist/collector relationship.  Well-respected galleries are able to reach a wider audience and lend credibility to emerging artists.  I prioritize galleries who have both a physical gallery and an online presence.  It is imperative that galleries selling online represent my work through beautiful displays, photographs and provide promotional materials, including catalogs, posters, print mailings and social media.  As my work has become more visible in the past year, keeping galleries stocked with inventory has been challenging.  David Trophia of Crimson Laurel Gallery in Bakersville, NC recently offered advice to “under-promise” and “over-deliver.”  It’s good advice and my mantra for 2013.

Although I want to maintain excellent relationships with galleries, the traditional gallery model of sales is not feasible as my only source of income.  Commissions, cost of studio rental, materials, labor, shipping and taxes eats away the profits of making time intensive work like mine.  I am currently researching opportunities to increase the potential for direct sales.

I know that you have an Etsy site where you sell your wares.  Can you briefly describe your Etsy experience?

My Etsy site (DeBuse Ceramics) has been open for 8 months.  Most of my sales through Etsy have been with people who are already familiar with my work.  The biggest challenge for me has been to allocate work to my Etsy site instead of sending it to other venues.  When you look at pure profit, it may seem like a no-brainer to focus on direct sales, but maintaining gallery relationships is a tremendous benefit.  My business plan includes increasing my Etsy listings. I will be launching a virtual kiln opening on May 15th on my Etsy site, where I will be listing 30 new pieces celebrating spring.

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Floral Cup and Plate in use, 2013

Finally, what advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice/style? 

Collect what interests you in a sketchbook or binder.  Make a lot of work.  Seek feedback from people you respect.  Experiment with other solutions.  Allow yourself to play.  Write about your work often (what are the pieces communicating?  How are they doing that? How could they say it better?).  For me, giving a 5-10 minute power point presentation about my work always helps me to condense my ideas and verbalize my intentions.  More often than not the process of preparing a presentation leads to new ideas and gives my studio practice a kick in the pants.

For more info about Chandra and her work, please visit her website: www.chandradebuse.com

And…here’s a shortlist of what Chandra’s up to these days:

Upcoming Workshops:

BALTIMORE CLAYWORKS WORKSHOP: MAY 4-5, 2013, BALTIMORE, MD   HTTP://WWW.BALTIMORECLAYWORKS.ORG/CLASS/MTCLASSES/SPRING2013/WORKSHOPS/WS02_DEBUSE_WORKSHOP.HTML

RED STAR STUDIOS: 1-DAY WORKSHOP, JULY 27, 2013, KANSAS CITY, MO  HTTP://REDSTARSTUDIOS.ORG/WORKSHOPARTICLE/ARTS-WORKSHOPS-KANSAS-CITY.HTML

HANDBUILT CONFERENCE FOR CERF: SEPTEMBER 20,21,22, PHILADELPHIA, PA  HTTP://SANDIANDNEIL.COM/HANDBUILT-2013

Upcoming Shows:

VIRTUAL KILN OPENING, MAY 15, 2013 –FEATURING 30 BRAND-NEW PIECES CELEBRATING SPRING  WWW.ETSY.COM/SHOP/DEBUSECERAMICS

AKAR 2013 YUNOMI INVITATIONAL (ONLINE ONLY), APRIL 19 – MAY 17, 2013  HTTP://WWW.AKARDESIGN.COM/SHOWS/UPCOMING.ASP#SHOW126

SMALL FAVORS VIII, THE CLAY STUDIO, PHILADELPHIA, PA, MAY 3 – JUNE 2, 2013  HTTP://WWW.THECLAYSTUDIO.ORG/EXHIBITION/SMALL-FAVORS-VIII

Lorna Meaden: Potter of the Month

For the month of March…the one and only Lorna Meaden!  Lorna and I crossed paths numerous times before finally getting to work together at the Archie Bray Foundation in the summer of 2006.  Ever since I first saw Lorna’s work, I’ve been a fan…and in meeting her, I

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became an even bigger one.  Anyone who knows Lorna, knows that her laugh is infectious and her company genuine.  Lorna’s pieces fit seamlessly into the home…their undeniable usefulness, exquisite craft and raw beauty make her work a perfect pairing for domestic life.

With the launching of this interview coinciding with a recent kiln firing, Lorna is excited to showcase her latest group of pots in the content of this post.  Unloaded from her wood/ soda kiln less than a week ago, these new pieces reflect every bit of Lorna’s warm and charming personality.

Next month, Lorna will be a guest workshop presenter alongside Doug Casebeer and David Pinto during Anderson Ranch’s Jamaica Field Expedition.  For more info about the Caribbean “Woodfiring: The Art of Fire” workshop with David, Doug and Lorna, click here.   May 24-26th, Lorna has scheduled a workshop at Taos Clay in Taos, New Mexico.   In June, she is part of a three person exhibition at Santa Fe Clay with Ben Krupka and Adam Field.  For additional info about Lorna and her work, please visit her fresh new website: lornameadenpottery.com.

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Coffee Pot, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

Without further ado…enjoy the interview and the pots (fresh outta the kiln)!

How did you first get involved in ceramics?

My interest for making pots began when I took a ceramics class in high school. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Bill Farrell, then faculty at the Art Institute of Chicago, came to our class to do a demonstration. Watching him throw on the wheel captivated me. My interest in making pots only grew from that point forward.

Can you briefly describe your background and education?

I received a BA from Fort Lewis College in 1994, and an MFA from Ohio University in 2005. I did residencies at the Archie Bray Foundation and Anderson Ranch Arts Center following graduate school. I have been a studio potter for the past six years at my home in Durango, Colorado.

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Bowl, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

How do you feel that your formal education (undergraduate-graduate school) prepared you for your career in ceramics?  Is there anything you wish you had known before leaving school?

Well, my education prepared me in so many ways, including some that I’m probably not even aware of. I have to say that I think the most important, and most beneficial thing school offered me, was how to continually challenge myself.

How would you describe your work?  How did you arrive at working this way?

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Ewer, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

My work is utilitarian pottery. It is thrown and decorated porcelain, fired in a wood/soda kiln. Making this type of work has been a slow evolution of discovering what my interests are. I don’t feel like I ever really arrived at a certain type of work or way of working, but more that it has changed slowly over time as I have become interested in different things, and changed as a person. I continue to learn how to challenge myself.

Would you explain your attraction to functional ceramics?

I’ve always made functional pots from the day I started working with clay. When I think about what I want to make, I only see pots. Let’s just say I’ve never closed my eyes and imagined a sculpture…that’s a job for sculptors. I like the challenge of balancing the way something looks with the way it works. People have a simple understanding of pots, giving them a comfortable, basic place in people’s lives.

What is the inspiration for your pieces?  How do you come up with new ideas?  Can you walk us through your creative process when coming up with new forms/ideas?

Currently, most of my ideas come from making work. Making pots for a living requires working all the time. I don’t have as much time to do research as I used to. New ideas can sometimes come from seeing an object somewhere and wanting to make a clay version of it, like a watering can, for example.  I also find myself revisiting the same idea for years. Currently, I’ve come back to a wine ewer I made six years ago. I started making decanters

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Wine Decanter, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

for an upcoming show, and realized it was a shape I had made for my thesis show. I like it when I feel like I’m picking up where I left off a long time ago, but coming at it from a different direction. I look at what I’m making as a continuum of ideas, rather than me coming up with something new.

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice/style?

Don’t look at ceramics magazines too much. It can have a way of either polluting your ideas, or making you feel self-conscious. There are plenty of places to look for source information outside of ceramics. The other piece of advice is, of course, to work really hard. I think if you make enough work, and you’re paying attention to what you’re doing; your own voice/style will emerge. It’s a tricky thing, figuring out who you are, but everyone is an individual, and people’s idiosyncrasies have a beautiful way of emerging.

You took considerable time between undergraduate and graduate school.  What made you decide to go back to school after years of being a studio potter in Colorado?  How did that time away from school inform your graduate education?

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Firing the Wood/Soda

Education was always encouraged in my family, so going to graduate school was a natural choice, on some levels, for me. I had been a potter for 15 years when I applied to grad school. I think I knew enough at that point, to know how much more there was to know. I wanted to make better work. I already had a good idea of what it was like to be a studio artist when I went back to school. I wasn’t as concerned with how I would make a living when I finished, as I was with making better work. I think that helped me focus during school.

It seems as though there were a couple of points in your career when you made a decision to sell your pots for a living (post-undergraduate school and post-graduate school)?  Could you describe how you came to those decisions?  Can you talk a little bit about how your audience/motivation might have changed/evolved?

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Place Setting, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

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Vase, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

Basically, all I’ve ever really wanted to do is make pots. So in order to support my habit, and still spend all my time in the studio, I have to sell my work. At certain point, if you make enough work, you have to get rid of it. My audience has changed a lot in the last ten years. I went from doing local art fairs and the farmer’s market to nationally recognized galleries. The galleries that represent my work do a great job connecting with an audience that appreciates fine craft and handmade objects. One thing that has changed is that I have to make a lot more money than I used to. Recently, I’ve been trying to reach a balance between selling my work locally, and sending to galleries. At different points I have thought I might want a teaching job. So far, I have wanted more time in the studio than a teaching job affords. I like to teach, but I really like to make work. It’s all a big balancing act that I haven’t figured out yet.

What does a typical workday look like for you?  How much do you spend on marketing vs. making?

On a typical day, I will go out to the studio around

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Teapot, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

8:00am and work until 6:00pm, or as late as 10:00pm, with a couple of breaks. I like to take a break and go to the gym during the day. I try to leave my compound at least once a day, so that I see some other humans. Working alone can be isolating, so getting out has become important. My schedule varies a lot depending on approaching deadlines. The way I work tends to be feast or famine. This has been one of the biggest challenges of being a studio potter. The ability to work “normal” hours has become elusive. One of my goals is to maintain a work schedule that is slow and steady, rather than binge and purge.

How does an artist go about acquiring business and marketing skills?  What piece of advice would you give to others just starting out?

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Tumbler, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

The way that I have developed business skills is through practice. I’ve always felt that being resourceful and doing things for myself is important. Because an artist’s income is relatively small, it is practical to become a jack of all trades. For example, I recently took a website design class, and built my new site, lornameadenpottery.com. It took a while for me to have the time to focus on building the site, but it seemed more sensible than paying someone else to do it, and then being dependent on them to update it. It would probably be wise to take some business and marketing courses.

What is your relationship with galleries (on and offline)? How has that relationship changed over time?  What are some of the other ways you market your work (studio sales/craft fairs/etc.)?

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Pitcher, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

I have developed some good relationships with galleries around the country. The places that represent my work tend to be clay focused. This is valuable in terms of the established audience that each gallery maintains. Crimson Laurel Gallery in Bakersville, North Carolina is a great example.  Although, they are in a somewhat remote location, they draw a wide range of customers, and do a great job of educating their customer base. I have made a recent effort to sell more work out of my studio. I had my second annual holiday sale in December. It was a great success. I think that having a balance between national and local participation in the field is important. I always remember something Doug Casebeer once said to me…”Cultivate your own back yard.”

You’ve attended numerous residency programs and presented at countless conferences/workshops throughout your career.  Could you describe some of the most influential or career changing experiences you’ve had?

IMG_1403_2I will always have a fondness for Archie Bray Foundation. I did two summer residencies there, 2005 and 2006. Sometimes it’s hard to explain how great the Bray is. The combination of the history of place, the location in Helena, and the wonderful people I was able to share my experience with, make it sentimental for me. Among the highlights were that Josh DeWeese as the director, Rudy Autio working  in the studio one summer, the International Symposium, and our softball team that lost almost every game in the local league, but had the most fun at the bar afterwards. Not only did my work grow when I was a resident at the Bray, but I also grew as a person.

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Flask, Wood/Soda Fired Porcelain, 2013

Anderson Ranch Arts Center continues to be an important part of my life as an artist. I took my first two-week workshop there in the summer of 2001. I participated in two field expeditions, one to Nepal and one to Jamaica. I returned as a resident artist in the winter of 2006. I have taught summer workshops there three times, and I will be a visiting artist for the upcoming field expedition in Jamaica in April. The Ranch has been an integral part of my development along  the way. I particularly value my travel experiences with Doug. He has made it possible for artists around the world to make connections and find inspiration.

In terms of experiences that have influential on my career, in 2007, I was a demonstrator at NCECA in Pittsburg, and at the Utilitarian Clay V: Celebrate the Object at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. Both were incredible experiences. My work was not well known at that point. Participating at two national conferences in one year, was not only super fun and exciting, but also pushed my career forward.

How did you decide to settle and build a studio?  What were your must-haves when building your studio and choosing a location? 

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The Compound

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Firing the Wood/Soda

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In the Studio

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to have my own studio, kiln, and house. I have that now and I call it my compound. I never imagined I would be able to afford to own a house, especially in Colorado. My place sort of fell in my lap.  I was back in Durango visiting after I finished my residency at Anderson Ranch. A friend of mine was having health problems and needed to sell his place. He was an artist and wanted his place to go to another artist. He knew I would build a studio and a kiln and stay there. There are two houses on the property, making it possible to earn rental income. I did the math and figured out how to make it work. My brother and his friend built my studio building three years ago and I built my kiln two years ago. It has been five years since I bought the compound. It is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place since I left my Dad’s house. It’s not without challenges, but it has been good for me in many ways. I feel so fortunate.

Finally, What advice would you give to aspiring potters who are looking to set up a studio and make pots for a living?

Work hard, be resourceful, and don’t go into debt. You have to really want it to make it happen. It’s all worth it!

Again, for additional info about Lorna and her work, please visit her lovely new website: lornameadenpottery.com.

And…here’s a list of Lorna’s upcoming events:

6th Annual Triennial Canadian Clay Conference: Elementum: Form, Function, Feast. March 23rd, 2013, Shadbolt Center for the Arts, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Jamaica Field Expedition with Anderson Ranch: Wood Firing: the art of fire. April 19th-27th, 2013. Good Hope Ranch, Jamaica.
Taos Clay: Taos, New Mexico, May 24th-26th,
The Art Center: Western Colorado Center for the Arts: Grand Junction, Colorado, July 20-21, 2013.