Bryan Hopkins: Potter of the Month

With a new year on the horizon, I’m excited to close out 2014 in style with Bryan Hopkins!  Bryan consistently impresses me with his innovative, architectural forms and his inquisitive, technical research into soft-paste porcelain.  His range of work is smart and sophisticated, yet approachable and honest.  In the interview, Bryan explains what keeps him engaged with porcelain, what outlets are best for his work and why he chooses to use “common” textures for his surfaces.


tn_1200_909aefc9c6e93c83cf81e0f59573a3b4.jpgHow did you first get involved in ceramics? Can you briefly describe your background and education? Both my parents were teachers, and although my mother taught pottery and sculpture in a high school, my brother and I were not exposed to art. My father taught mathematics and played sports, and I gravitated to those activities. I went to college for mathematics and had to take an art elective to graduate. A friend was taking ceramics so I decided to sign up, too. Within a semester I had dropped my math major and started taking art courses. I graduated with a B.S. in Liberal Studies with minors in Art, Photography, and Political Science. My MFA is from SUNY New Paltz in Ceramics.

e39545fba91c497c82cf75e77452299fYou settled in Buffalo, New York and set up a personal studio. How have you been able to establish yourself in your community and gathered support? When I moved to Buffalo I decided to join a group studio (Buffalo Arts Studio- BAS) as opposed to working in isolation. The BAS had about 20 artists then(we have 40 now), and no specific ceramics area. Another artist and I gathered support to build a clay center as part of the BAS (which is a 501(C)3 org.) complete with a designated kiln room, teaching classroom and 8 clay artist studios. There was an opportunity to run the gallery space of the BAS so I did that for about 6 years, being paid if there was money available- and there usually was not. The time spent doing that was a great introduction to the Buffalo art scene, and led me to have the confidence to curate and set up regional and national ceramics exhibitions

26f0abcdc1b1ca4bf85357ac164bd13eWhat decisions went into you selecting a place to settle? The woman I was dating in grad school lived in Buffalo, and when I visited it seemed like a good place. The idea was to give it a try, and that was 19 years ago. Buffalo has a lot of opportunities for people who are looking, and the city really is what you make out of it. And I did not have to have a full-time job, other than my studio, to support myself. My mortgage now is less than my rent was in college in 1989, and it makes a big difference in my approach to my studio practice when decisions are not based on selling to make ends meet.

You teach part-time at Niagara County Community College.   As a potter who also teaches part-time, I am keenly aware how teaching can cut into studio time. What I am interested in knowing is how does teaching inform your work, studio practice, etc? Teaching does not inform my work or studio practice, and it never has. What teaching allows me to do in my studio is to not care about selling work, which gives me the freedom to push, to experiment, to be unapologetically self-indulgent. What affected my studio practice deeply was having a son (Lucas is now 11). Being the “primary caregiver” meant a complete change in my schedule to keep up with studio demands of orders and exhibitions. I have a good work ethic, but my studio practice became much more efficient and time was much more focused. I do find teaching 3-D design allows me to explore (through my students) ideas not suitable to clay. Like inflated biomorphic forms, or book art. Teaching is fun for me, and I encourage my students to be playful in their problem solving, which is how I approach my studio practice. So for me, teaching does not inform studio: studio informs teaching.


Same vessel as below, but lit from within to showcase its translucency.

tn_1200_02e8c6abdcf0d476f063a12d6208a047.jpg You’ve worked in porcelain for the past 20+ years. What is it about porcelain that keeps you engaged? I am a perfectionist, so porcelain and I are made for each other. White, translucent, smooth, and no grit. I hate gritty clay. Porcelain is not passive in the outcome of a piece- porcelain is a partner I am working with, trying to negotiate simple issues like verticality. It has a mind of its’ own and I feel I do not simply “use” porcelain, but I feel we are in a long-term relationship.

You used to wheel- throw your cups and now you slip cast them. Can you talk about what prompted the change? The change had to happen because I wanted texture fully around the cup, and there is no other way to do that (with porcelain fired to cone 11 in reduction) and keep the cup round. And all the cool kids were casting, so I thought I should try it. I would like to say I hate making molds, but they are necessary, and I can not afford to pay someone to make them for me.

2390c15e39c84a33884417c91f40e85cHow do you come up with new ideas? Can you walk us through your creative process when coming up with new forms/ideas? For about 3 years I did not look at any current ceramics or craft publications that had photographs, and I did not look at any web sites of clay artists. That was about 1999-2002, pre Facebook and Instagram, so it was not so difficult to ignore images. My work went through a major shift then, when I stopped using colored and atmospheric glazes and went to a single clear glaze, to focus on form. I was looking at lots of books of Asian pottery, pre-1900 European porcelain, fabric design from Russia, Hans Coper, modernist architecture, and lots of post World War 2 European ceramics. That detachment was important because I felt influenced by too much- seeing what was being validated in the magazines of craft and art was too much. I got Clary Illian’s book (A Potter’s Workbook) in 1999 and did all the “assignments”, and that was wonderful for me. I was asked to make a salt and pepper set in 2003 for a show, and since then I have found great pleasure in ec4385bac90c423b93c74c6b901dea51trying to revive defunct or little known forms, like egg cups and toast racks. I draw a lot- not well, but I go for quantity over quality. Mostly I draw overhead views of what I make, as I can visualize the side view. Those are re-drawn in my studio on a dry erase board, and then transferred to clay.

What does a typical workday look like for you? I work in the studio M-F, and never on weekends. I get up at 6:30am and make lunches and get my son on the bus. I am in the studio (2.5 miles from my house) by 7:45am. On M, W & F, I work until about 4pm (in addition to making work, that includes all studio business like banking, marketing, etc), then either get my son afterschool or go out on my bike for a couple of hours. T & Th are my teaching days, so I leave the studio by 1pm to teach a 2-5 class, then a 6-9 class. Home by 9:30pm, asleep by 10:30 every night.

What is your most valuable studio tool? I have this weird little wooden stick a painter gave me about 15 years ago I can’t do without. Or maybe my flex-shaft rotary tool I drill holes with.



You recently embarked on a research project that resulted in a couple of successful low-fire porcelain recipes. What prompted this research and how do you plan to add these clay bodies into your studio practice (that had previously been exclusively cone 10/11 reduction)? I had been using a cone 10 porcelain, made in Australia, for almost 9 years, and it was no longer going to be imported to the USA, so I decided to try making it myself. In that quest there are lots of variables, one of which is temperature. I had heard fddcdb04b722379aefbad8be82e98409of soft paste porcelain but knew nothing about it, and a simple internet search came up with stuff called frit-clay. About a month after reading about that I contacted a guy I heard of who was making stuff out of what he calls soft past porcelain. He got back to me a couple of months later with a basic recipe which, coincidentally, I was already using- the clay component is what my cone 10 recipe is based on, so I had lots of very white clay around. After 60 different clay tests I settled on 2 recipes and plan on using them exclusively for light fixtures and cups, adding encapsulated stains for color. They will be at NCECA this year, in the Objective Clay gallery in the Expo Center, and as part of a show I am curating at Bridgewater State University called Dialecticians.

You separate your work into two categories: “Function” and “Dysfunction”. You describe your Dysfunction series as follows: “My work is based on the premise that the clay vessel is capable of more than holding fruit, presenting flowers, or decorating a sideboard, and that there are additional functions of the vessel, such as containing the intangible (light, shadow, idea).” I really love that you address this idea and wonder if you can expand on it a bit more. For instance, how do you decide when the vessel no longer become “capable of holding fruit, flowers, etc…” ? I said that? Well, I guess technically all my work can 77921f79b1924416871f3bd577d8f6f0contain, say, limes- but the Dysfunctional series is not strong enough to do that safely, or practically. Vases with holes in them are not easily utilized to hold a bouquet of flowers, but Ichibana arrangers use them all the time, regardless of assumed or actual fragility. I think what I was getting at with saying “additional functions of the vessel” is that a pot can be contemplated as can a painting. Ceramics is a sub-section of “art” (like painting, dance, lithography, etc) and is capable of conveying ideas and concepts as well as being decorative and useful. Not every object made from clay needs to serve a utilitarian purpose, so stripping any necessity of utility frees me up to push people’s ideas of pots, and porcelain specifically.

You talk about how you transfer low-brow, common textures (construction-grade lumber, diamond-plated steel, etc) onto a high-brow, “precious” material (porcelain)? Can you explain more about this contrast and how it adds content and acts as an access point into your work? Anyone who has been to Home Depot knows OSB (maybe as particle board), so it helps me to get people in to porcelain by association. I grew up 09ef80eb79ce45baa45552138d39c419working-class and I identify with that class still, not just income-wise, but culturally. But I love porcelain and want my friends to as well, so it is essential I add common textures to my work to get my friends to in to it. These simple textures are understood to be of building materials by most people, and then the question is why? Porcelain has always been precious and expensive. If you grew up with a China set in the house, it was not used daily, so again, precious. The textures are at odds with and opposite of precious, and question that assumption of objects made in porcelain.

You’ve sold work at numerous retail craft shows and wrote an eloquent article for Studio Potter entitled “What’s That For” where you talk about the importance of the marketplace as both a place to educate and to learn. Can you briefly describe how you select the craft shows you do and how they have been part of your studio practice? Over the past several years I have been applying to retail craft shows based on whether there is someone who lives close I can stay with. That makes it much more affordable, and a lot more fun.

tn_1200_169e9fc2f1ff40816797d782cefa8c67.jpgCraft shows are exactly that- shows. I see them as very important to my career and livelihood. Craft shows are great marketing opportunities and I have lined up workshops and visiting artist gigs because of them. Professors from surrounding colleges bring students to those bigger shows and it is always fun to talk to people who are new to the filed, and will some day be sitting in the (uncomfortable) chair I am siting in my booth. I usually get a commission or two from each show, and I enjoy the opportunity to work with a customer on specific pieces that are a little different from what I typically make. Like a toast rack with 9 slots (absurd, right?!)

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? East coast, metropolitan, in-person sales. I find I do not like selling on-line or over the phone, although I do it. No etsy yet. The Clay Studio in Philadelphia sells a lot of my work, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show is great for my work, when I can get in to the show. I just had a great time in Demarest, NJ, at the School at Old Church Pottery Sale. I have taken part in bigger studio tours and sales around the country, and find that it is best to meet the people you sell to- it helps them understand your work better, and build a stronger relationship to, say, a mug that person will use every day for years.

Finally, what advice can you give aspiring potters trying to make a living?  Find a good place to live, and a good person to share your life with. Take care of your whole self, not just your studio self- your career is a Grand Tour, not a match sprint.

For more information about Bryan and his work, please visit his website:






Molly Hatch: Potter of the Month

For the month of October, the lovely and accomplished Molly Hatch!  I’ve been excited to pick Molly’s brain ever since we first met at Arrowmont in 2012.  As someone who is enamored by the history of ceramics including the link between ceramics and design, I associate Molly with the continuum of ceramic artist/designers like Russel Wright, Eva Zeisel, KleinReid, Alice portraitDrew and others.  The idea of breaking into the design world is not a new concept and I admire the tenacity in which Molly has pieced together a successful and fulfilling career by designing thoughtful, accessible products and simultaneously creating stunning, one-of-a-kind artworks.

While I am attracted to all of Molly’s work, what I particularly enjoy about her design work is her ability to keep the hand a significant part of the finished product.  Her forms are carefully crafted and her drawings are approachable, folksy and active.  I respond to the apparent naiveté of the drawn images…abandoning rules of perspective while embracing a certain energy and rhythm inherent to her drawing process.  No matter what Molly is working on in her studio, her creative voice is unmistakable.

In the interview, Molly discusses what inspires nearly every aspect of her art-making, why creating utilitarian objects is essential to her practice and what exciting new projects she has in the works.


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

My introduction to ceramics was as a student in undergrad at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I took a summer course in wheel throwing through the SMFA CE program and fell in love with the process and the functional nature of pottery. I think I was drawn to the medium because I could make things that I appreciated in my day to day. If I needed a mug, I could make one. It wasn’t until Kathy King came as a visiting artist close to the end of my time at the SMFA that I was shown that I could draw and paint on the surface of my ceramic pieces the same way I was drawing and painting on paper. It was this realization that pots could be drawings, which completely sold me on clay as a major focus for my work from then on.

After graduating, I went on to work for Miranda Thomas as a production potter in 2000-2001. After leaving Miranda Thomas a year and a half later, I did a couple residencies, taught some and traveled for a bit and landed at the University of Colorado at Boulder for graduate school. I received my MFA in 2008.

How do you feel that your formal education (undergraduate-graduate school) prepared you for your career?

Piazza-20140721–8106I think being immersed in a traditional fine art school environment and coming to clay later on in my undergraduate career gave me an advantage. I feel that the Museum School curriculum allowed me to try many things that I might not have otherwise. Developing my interest in drawing and painting really allowed me to excel in ceramics. I also feel that the SMFA program really prepped me for being self-directed in my studio practice. I learned quickly as a student there that you get out what you put in and it really prepped me for a disciplined studio practice after undergrad.

Ceramics was the medium that helped springboard your career. Now that you have one foot planted firmly in the “design-world”, what keeps you rooted in the ceramics community?

My love of ceramics and its role in decorative art history informs almost everything I do—both in my one of a kind artwork and my designs. I find that the design world respects my intimate knowledge of ceramics and its history. My love of working with clay and the materiality of clay will always be important to me and remain at the core of my studio practice.

You mentioned that you spent time working for Miranda Thomas, a production potter in Vermont, who was trained by one of Bernard Leach’s students, Michael Cardew. You also worked at the Kohler Factory as a resident artist. How did these experiences help shape your career?

Working for Miranda Thomas was absolutely formative. I hadn’t had much time in the ceramics area during undergrad—having only committed to clay in my Junior year. I was definitely behind technically in clay. Working for Miranda gave me the consistent time at the potter’s wheel, throwing 40/hrs a week, often 100-150 mugs in a day by the end of my time there. I was immersed in the production pottery tradition Miranda inherited from Leach via Cardew. This really gave me a sense of what it would be like to try and work making pots for a living as a production potter. I quickly knew that I too many ideas that required a lot of surface decoration, I wanted to be able to expand on those ideas. As a studio potter, you inevitably rely on repeating your best-selling pots to make you a living, I knew I was seeking out a different model, but wasn’t sure what. I headed to graduate school shortly after in order to try and find out.

Working for Miranda was also aesthetically influential. I find that I learned most of what I know about form and function during my time with Miranda. The Leach tradition is so strong, the pot forms are so influential. I am proud of this heritage and it shows in much of my work.

My time at the Pottery Residency at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in the factory at Kohler was fantastic for me. This residency was timely–in my first year out of graduate school. I needed the financial support of the fully funded residency as well as time to reflect in the studio outside of graduate school. Working on the factory floor alongside the factory employees was fascinating and career changing. My time as a resident at Kohler was influential in my decision to work with industry after being approached by Anthropologie only a year after my Kohler residency. Seeing how the employees worked—so much of the hand was still in each of the objects they cast. It was eye-opening to see a different side of industry than what I had been exposed to previously.

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

artisan3-685x895My creative process for my product design is a bit all over the place to be honest. I am constantly seeing ideas for new products. I can find myself inspired at a flea market, during travels, looking through one of my magazines or often when I am on Pinterest. Anytime I feel an idea come on, I write it down—I always have a notebook with me!

Both in my one of a kind artwork and when designing, I typically search for surface inspiration once I have a formal concept. This is done in my library or online, often I get to do this research in a museum with the aid of curators. Once I have source imagery to work form, I typically sketch on paper or in photoshop to develop the concept so I can execute the idea. Most of my design partners and gallery clients require me to submit sketches before I finalize artwork.

Once I have the green light from my art director or client, I will make the piece or finalize the surface design. This can take multiple tries before I settle on the actual item for production. If I am working on a ceramic prototype, I often make a couple extra prototypes in case they do not fire correctly. When I am making my one-of-a-kind pieces, I generally use a scaled photoshop sketch to work from.

Heritage Collection for Twig New York

Heritage Collection for Twig New York

Once the company I am partnering with has my prototype, they send it off for sampling. This typically takes a few weeks to two months. Once the initial sample comes back from the factory, we review to make corrections and make sure its is looking how we want it to. Once the item is approved it goes into production and then typically hits shelves 6-9 months after the initial prototype was made. I don’t typically see payment for the work until the royalty check comes 3-4 months after the item hits the shelf. Often I get paid an advance or a design fee initially, which helps with the wait.

What is it about utilitarian objects that keep you engaged? Do you have a favorite object to make for the home? If so, why?

23907_10151160607172599_1686539614_nI think that utility is an access point. We all know how to relate to a plate—we use them every day. Plates are quotidian by nature and that is attractive to me. In my one-of-a-kind artwork, I work to elevate the plate to an art object—the status of a painting. I love that anyone—educated in art or not—can have a way into looking at the plates on the wall—whether they delve deeper into the concepts I am working through or not, it feels inclusive. In my design work, I aim to make those same art concepts more accessible financially through mass production.

Right now, I am really enjoying pattern design. I am working on my second quilting fabric collection and I am having a blast! It’s a real challenge making patterns repeat by hand.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I have a 5 year old in kindergarten, so I am up by 7:15 or so in the morning to get her to the school bus by 8:15 am. I let our chickens out in the morning—give them food and water and then I start my day as my studio is in the garage behind my home. I work on the deadlines that are approaching and budget my time as best I can to meet deadlines. I want to keep the art directors happy and my clients happy—coming back for more! I am often multi-tasking paperwork, social media, one-of-a-kind objects and design work in any given day.

1505490_10152046663882599_75071898_nI typically bring lunch to my worktable and eat while I work. I am often interrupted during the day by phone calls, so I have gotten good at putting things down and picking them back up again later. I usually have a lot of projects going simultaneously.

My daughter comes home at about 5pm with my husband, so I break to spend time with them. On a good day I will exercise during that time—or work on our garden. Most often I am making dinner and prepping for the next day.

After my daughter goes to bed in the evening around 8:30pm, I return to the studio to work until 11:30pm or 12am. I often get my best work done during this time of day because the time is uninterrupted by emails and phone calls. I always save the things that I want to concentrate on most for the evenings.

Which marketing venue(s) (website/blog/galleries/studio sales/etsy/art or 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 their work?

I could write a book about this! I am learning as I go, like the rest of us. I use Wix to host my brand website, I use blogger for my blog, etsy to sell some hand-decorated items and society 6 for some cool surface products. I have never done a craft fair!

Piazza-20140721–3095I grew my following and career through the typical craft gallery route—The Clay Studio in Philadelphia was one of my first galleries. Things have changed so dramatically since I started out, that I think up and coming artists have a real challenge in sorting all of this out. However, to develop a strong online following through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest you are well on your way to making good direct sales online. I use Pinterest and Instagram all the time to sell work that is in my Etsy shop. Generally emulating what is working for other artists selling to the same buyer that you want to or are selling to will help. I think having a strong brand identity/artistic identity goes a long way in propelling one’s career forward.

Your design work is in numerous wholesale/retail shops:, Twig New York, Anthropologie,, Galison/mudpuppy, V&A museum shop, etc. Can you talk about how you selected the representation you did? What kind of advice could you offer to someone wanting retail or wholesale representation?

I worked with Anthropologie for four years and a few other companies independent of agency representation before seeking out my agency Moxie to help me manage and launch my brand in a bigger way. I have now been working with my agents for a year. It took me ages to realize that through my work with Anthropoligie over the five years we have collaborated, I inadvertently started a lifestyle brand. To solidify that and capitalize on the start Anthropologie gave me, I hired Moxie to help me be more mindful and strategic about developing my brand so that I could have a long-term career as a designer.

CupDisplay-e1359229780586If you want to seek out an agent, or work with retailers like Anthropologie, make good work! Anthropologie finds people the same way you or I might. Through galleries, trade shows, articles and simply walking into a shop like the Clay Studio in Philadelphia. Be open-minded and opportunistic. You never know when an opportunity will come along to license or collaborate with a larger company. I would hesitate to sign on with an agency for many reasons, you can do a lot on your own and be paid in full. However, agents have the ear of many buyers and companies thanks to relationships they have fostered for years. This is a huge foot in the door and a leg up as an artist—but it comes at a cost. Agents will take anywhere from 25%-40% of your earnings! Similar to a gallery. It took me a long time to find an agent that I wanted to represent my work. I looked at other artists the agency represents, had many meetings about the way our relationship would work and took my time with my lawyer to go over the fine print of our agreement. In the end, I chose to work with Moxie because my agents there are really interested in fostering brand growth rather than selling as much of my surface design and product design as possible and burning out the brand before its even had a moment to grow. We have developed a real strategy for brand growth and licensing and the kind of companies I am interested in partnering with. Working with Moxie has been incredible so far.

It looks as though you now have exclusive representation for your one-of-a-kind work through one gallery, Todd Merrill, in NYC. This is an atypical route for potters who usually seek representation in multiple clay galleries across the country. How did you choose this one gallery to work with? Have you completely stopped selling individual handmade pots (cup/plate/etc) as one-of-a kind work?

Todd Merrill does represent my one-of-a-kind artwork exclusively. My work started to receive a lot of attention thanks to working with Leslie Ferrin in 2011-2013. Leslie took my work to some of the premier art fairs and it was selling well—we kept raising prices according to demand and my work had the opportunity to become more detailed and larger-scale. I started to see that my work needed to be seen in both the art and design fields, so I sought out new gallery representation and Todd Merrill has been an excellent fit. As a design gallery that sells decorative arts and furniture, Todd has an unusual gallery. In regards to the benefits of exclusivity, Todd and his staff do so much for the work from installation and shipping of artwork, to prepping contracts and dealing with commissions and press inquiries. The cost of the art fairs alone is so high and unapproachable as a single artist. What Todd does for my artwork I simply couldn’t do on my own—or online.

MH_050414_01_72dpi-930x551As a studio potter, I was better off selling direct to customers or taking large wholesale orders. My work never did best in the context of the traditional gallery model—I always did better in well-styled home interior and design shops and selling online.

How do you deal with the “balancing-act” between your one-of-a-kind pieces and your manufactured design work?   How do you keep both ventures similar enough so they don’t conflict with each other? How has keeping both types of artistic outlets helped your career and your creative pursuits?

This seems to work itself out a bit. I advocate for both equally. My reach is much broader in my design work, but the artwork is providing me with an equal income as the design work. It’s about a 50-50 split. They support each other in many ways—even the making schedule for the design world alternates busy times with the art fair schedule…its kind of perfect. I need the long—slow process of the one-of-a-kind projects. These typically require a ton of research, design and making time. Usually I spend about 2 months working on one piece from throwing the plates to painting and firing.

10393844_10152494187537599_1657669832532908747_nWith the design work, I usually have much less time to design—industry is responding to trends and is constantly in search of the new. I turn around some design projects in a day—others in a few weeks or a month. I love the quick nature of the design work and the collaborative nature of working with other people and companies on products.

One idea I really connect to: your ability to offer good design to the masses. I am often conflicted about the prices I have to charge for my handmade mugs. I would love for my audience to broaden, but the market for my work is what it is…very small. Decoration takes a lot of time as does well made form.   Could you expand on the experience you’ve had with your own work? How you were able to broaden your audience without sacrificing content, decoration or design?

I have Anthropologie to thank for giving me the low-risk opportunity to try manufacturing my pots to see how they would translate. Putting some of the designs that I knew were best-sellers out of my studio into production at Anthropologie without having to change the designs has allowed me to offer the ideas I have worked out in my pots to a very large audience at affordable prices. I love the idea of manufacturing allowing for the work to be more accessible and affordable. When I was first approached by Anthropolgie I not able to afford to make the work I was making—in other words, I needed to find a way to make more work at the same price point or lower with simpler decoration so that I could make a living. Design was what allowed me to keep the integrity of the original pot design and still make a living.

What are your thoughts on “the handmade”? How do you keep the idea of the hand or handmade in your design work?

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10-1.47.33 PM

Molly Hatch, “Tea Garden” Collection for Blend Fabrics

My design process hasn’t changed at all from when I was working full-time as a studio potter. I design 1:1 prototypes that are sent off to be manufactured. So I make my prototypes as I would a handmade pot. This allows me to retain the nature of the original in the final product.

In my surface design, I do almost everything by hand with a little help from some basic knowledge of photoshop. So the hand stays in the 2-D artwork as well as the ceramic objects I design. This keeps a consistent identity and look to all the items that I design.

In my one-of-a-kind pieces, I make these by hand—so the hand is inevitably present. It’s important to me that the one-of-a-kind pieces are related, yet different from the design work. Sort of “couture” to a “ready-to-wear.”

You’ve had a lot of success collaborating with museum collections. The two that come to the front of my mind are the large commissioned wall “painting” you made for the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (456 hand-painted plates based on two 18th C. plates from the High Museum’s decorative arts collection) and the soon-to-be-released book, “A Teacup Collection: Paintings of Porcelain Treasures”, you created while collaborating with the Clark Art Institute’s collection of over 200 18th C porcelain teacups.   Can you talk a little bit about these processes? Do you have future projects in the works that we can look forward to?

IMG_1156-930x620With my one-of-a-kind artwork, I typically work by sourcing a museum collection or an historic object. As a contemporary decorative artist and designer, I think of myself as making work in a continuum. I love the idea that someone looking at one of my plate paintings may have a sense that they are looking at a familiar image and form, but that it is hopefully a new experience of that familiar thing—sourcing historic imagery allows for that familiarity to exist.

I also source museum collections and archives in collaboration with curators in an effort to bring attention to artworks that the curators feel are overlooked or difficult to exhibit. Getting permission to source historic artwork as well as the blessing of a curator feels like the right thing to do in making derivative work—even when the artwork is in the public domain.

“Physic Garden” (the piece at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta) was an exciting opportunity to make a piece that reflected the museum permanent ceramic collection as well as an opportunity to make the largest piece I have made to date. There was a lot of risk on both the museum end as I had never made such a large piece. Luckily, it went off without a hitch—it took some creative problem solving at key points, but it worked well.

acfc66_c4a3cb7218de457d83ad014cbebc48fe.jpg_srz_335_381_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzMy book with Chronicle titled “A Teacup Collection: Paintings of Porcelain Treasures” started with a visit to the archives at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. I was intrigued by the over 200 18th century teacups housed in the collections at the museum that hadn’t been exhibited much. It was wonderful working with the curator at the Clark to take source images and make paintings of the cups for the book. Chronicle was intrigued by the book concept and quickly picked it up as the publisher. I am very excited that this is my first book—working with Chronicle has been amazing.

I have a few other prospects for museum projects coming up, as well as a couple new books that I cant quite talk about yet—but all good and very much related to these projects.  For a sneak peek of the illustrations from Molly’s upcoming book, “A Teacup Collection: Paintings of Porcelain Treasures”, please link to designer Lisa Congdon’s blog entry here.

You mention how very few ceramic artists have tapped into the e-course market. Can you talk a little bit about your decision to produce an online class and the process it took to make it a reality?

The only online workshop I have produced is still in process and will run in the fall of 2015—as far as I know Diana Fayt is one of the only other ceramic artists who has an online course. I decided to take advantage of my ceramic surface book that is due to be released in summer of 2015 to make a complimentary online workshop. I am thinking about it like a workshop and not a course because the format is very similar to a face-to-face workshop—instead, it is online and takes place over several weeks.

acfc66_467643df5ffe4ce1bd86cf0ca2529e51.png_srz_312_383_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzI have often felt like the face-to-face workshops I teach in the traditional workshop environment like at Anderson Ranch and Arrowmont are incredibly expensive and require a lot of time and resources for anyone attending. There have got to be tons of art teachers and hobbyists out there who want to take a class on ceramic surface for an affordable fee ($150 for 5 weeks). My hope is that my forthcoming book with Quarry titled: “New Ceramic Surface Design Handbook” will compliment the online workshop and that the online workshop will provide participants with much of the same information as the face-to-face workshops, only at their own pace, affordably, through recorded demos, once a week interaction, lots of downloads as well as a community to interact with. My hope is to offer more information to more people for less money.

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

These days, markets are changing so fast. I think that the biggest things to consider are: being an opportunist, being open minded and aiming to market your work through as many channels as possible. It is increasingly important to have a strong online presence and marketability. Try to find a voice that is consistent and your own—consider the idea of branding and what your “brand” is all about. Learn about basic small business nuts and bolts. I can recommend Craft Inc. and Art Inc the Craft Inc. Business Planner from Chronicle Books. These are fabulous resources for making a go of a creative career in today’s marketplace and have helped me a lot.

I think it is important to recognize that when you are joyful in your making or designing, people see your joy in the final product and in turn want to have a part of that joy. Make things for yourself and find joy in your making!


To find out more about Molly and her work, please visit the following sites:

Piazza-20140721– one of a kind works Facebook Twitter Instagram video links