Ceramics Monthly: What drew each of you to gallery work as a career path?
Anthony Schaller (owner and director of Schaller Gallery in red shoes, above): My family is very entrepreneurial, so it was only natural to start out in business. That said, I didn’t really like it. Then ceramics and I found each other. It was a pretty quick romance and now we’re inseparable. My background in business certainly helped with curating, management, gallery operations, and relationships—so, it paid off!
Brittany Stecker Mason (assistant director, above): After finishing my studies in studio ceramics and art history, I worked at the art center in St. Joseph, Michigan. I had access to the ceramics studio, where Anthony was teaching evening classes. When I first visited his new gallery space downtown, I was like a kid in a candy shop! I was surprised to see—and hold—pots made by some of my clay heroes. My enthusiasm to encourage others to collect quality ceramics grew stronger. I knew this was something I’d love to do all the time. Meeting Anthony was a serendipitous moment in my career.
CM: How do you juggle your artist/gallerist roles?
AS/BM: We are both very passionate about our jobs and put the needs of makers and the gallery before our own. We’re trying to get in the studio more, however. In addition to having the discipline and technical skills necessary for the making process, attention to time management, financial planning (sustainability), good photography, marketing, and communication are key. Yes, your art is your business. And it does take time. We have found that every studio artist could benefit from working in a gallery setting and vice versa. It offers a more well-rounded perspective and mutual understanding. Stay tuned for a new project with this in mind!
CM: How should artists approach a gallery for representation?
AS: Every artist is different, so is every gallery. Get to know the staff, take the time to ask some questions. Are they seeking new makers? How do they like to be approached? Also ask yourself, Do you fit? Are you at the level of the other makers in the gallery? The successes of both galleries and makers hinge on relationships—with each other, the clients, media, delivery people, and suppliers—everyone is involved.
BM: Take yourself and your work seriously, but not deadly serious. A bit of humor, along with humility and commitment are appealing attributes to any lasting relationship. It also helps to remain open to critique and advice—you don’t have to sacrifice your creative integrity to do so.
Photo: Lem Montero.