Studio Visit: Kaitlan Murphy, Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada

 

 

Photos: Chillia Zoll

My home town, Revelstoke, British Columbia, is a working class/ski community six hours east of Vancouver on the Trans-Canada Highway. This highway skirts the edge of town and boasts 30,000 cars a day in peak summer traffic. I planned to buy a 3.3-acre lot along the highway on which to locate a working studio, but wanted to test the waters with a smaller investment, so I built a little green cabin on wheels and called it Jumping Creek Pottery.

Tiny House

My tiny-house gallery took me three months to build, with its vaulted ceiling and curves. I created a space to appeal to my pottery buying demographic of middle- to upper-income women between 30 and 80 years old. I initially set up next to the property I wanted to buy, but with no washroom, no food, and no space for buses to turn around, few people pulled over. So I pulled my gallery to Sicamous, British Columbia and rented a space at a flourishing tourist stop.

I stayed there for two summers. People loved talking to “the woman who built the tiny house,” and hearing stories about the vessels I created. Unfortunately, the 87-mile, round-trip drive to Sicamous took too much time away from summer production and made my days extremely long. Despite countless inquiries across Western Canada this summer, I was unable to find a perfect location for my tiny house. In Revelstoke, municipal zoning restriction prevented me from setting up the tiny-house gallery within the downtown core. More recently, I have concentrated my efforts on enhancing the studio in my house in Revelstoke.

Just the Facts

Clay
Imco Navajo Red
Primary Forming Method
Wheel thrown and altered
Primary Firing Temperature
Cone 6 electric
Favorite Surface Treatment
Carving and precise glazing lines complemented by raw clay
Favorite Tools
Homemade trim tools and all the blue Mudtool ribs
Playlist
Dance music of all genres and audio books
Wishlist
20-acre backyard

Studio

If you walk down the lane behind my home, enter through the cedar gate into my back yard and knock on my studio door, I’ll invite you in for tea. Sit in my green chair (a 1960s bar stool with a built-in step ladder) and I’ll sit on my blue, clay-covered throwing chair. Choose your own mug, I’ll fill it with tea, and show you what I’ve been making.

My 155-square-foot studio contains a wheel, a sink, and two built-in tables made from a slab of an old fir tree. Below my studio, a basement stores inventory, glaze materials, a slab roller, and drying racks. My workspace is tiny, but when the morning light falls through its windows, nothing could be better.

My electric kiln lives in an outdoor shed I designed and built one winter. I love the rough-hewn walls and rafters that remind me of maple-leaf seeds.

Paying Dues (and Bills)

I started pottery when I was 19, making Arts-and-Crafts era reproduction tiles. At 22, I attended a three-year pottery program at the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, British Columbia.

My other life-goal was to have the skills necessary to build the architectural structures I continually sketched, which led to a carpentry apprenticeship.

Carpentry has made me a better potter. It has improved my spatial understanding and shown me the necessity of precision. Being the only woman on large job sites, I acquired an assertive and business-like manner, an important factor in succeeding as an artist.

The learning curve of making and selling pottery is steep, but I’m proud that I’ve been able to make things work, while improving my technical skills and visual language. I have made around 70% of my income from pottery and the other 30% from carpentry.

Although I work long days at Jumping Creek Pottery, I make time for mountain biking, running, or skiing, which keeps me happy, fit, and focused.

Research and Inspiration

Pottery is a process of meditation. Throwing clay is a practice of repeated motions—gravity and kinetic energy being persuaded into form. In all cultures, there are objects of power that contain energy for such things as healing, transition, fertility, or stillness. I am fascinated by the energy of intention and the power of ritual that go into creating such objects. I marvel when these vessels maintain their original vibrancy long after the makers are gone.

I strive to incorporate daily experiences into my pottery. The smell of rain falling in my garden, the joy of skiing from the top of a mountain I’ve climbed, and the absolute enormity of love are blended into thrown lines and glazes, and blessed into being. I hope that this energy, this contemplative presence, can be felt in my pots.

Kickstarter

In 2015, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 (Canadian dollars) to upgrade my studio. This campaign taught me to define my brand image, to create a story line, and to market myself online.

The Kickstarter campaign enabled me to install 200-amp service to my house and studio, and make upgrades to my equipment. As well, the campaign generated publicity and made me easier to find on the Internet. I feel I now have a following that is invested in my success.

Marketing

I enjoy creating a narrative to go with my work, selling an experience, which is how I’ve engaged with people through Kickstarter, my store front, and social media.

This year, I’m learning to use a Nikon D80 camera to capture the aesthetic I want my pottery to showcase. I enjoy this challenge of developing a photographic eye, maintaining a uniform presence, and keeping my online audience engaged through images and words.

I’m also working on a line of funeral urns. The product and its imagery are still in their infancy, but this realm of marketing excites me, as the style and audience are different from my regular Jumping Creek line. The challenges of introducing my product and explaining both the technical aspects of an urn as well as the qualities of materials used are engaging. I want to create a presence akin to my home studio—to garner one-on-one relationships with families who will feel confident and good about buying an urn from me.

Finally, I am working on a photo-essay. I am planning a trip to Northern British Columbia and Alaska to sail fjords, paddle rivers, and hike through a volcanic mountain range. I will give away 75 mugs while on the trip, then document the stories of the people who receive them through my Instagram (@jumpingcreekpottery) feed and on my blog.

www.jumpingcreekpottery.com

www.circleurns.com

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