Studio Visit: Oxide Pottery, Lynchburg, Virginia

Just the Facts

Clay
stoneware and porcelain

Primary forming method
wheel throwing and handbuilding

Favorite decorating method
sgraffito and brushwork

Primary firing method
cone 6 electric and cone 10 gas

Favorite tool
altered metal ribs and a liner brush

Studio playlist
We rotate through our extensive music collection and stream podcasts. Highlights include: Tommy McCook, Grateful Dead, Cate Le Bon, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, and This is Love.

Wishlist
more open space and natural light in the studio areas

The Studio

Lynchburg, Virginia’s original blacksmith shop was located at 1337 Main Street. When the wooden structure burned down in the early 1900s, a brick-and-cinder block building was erected in its place. Originally used as a restaurant, the space went on to house a market, a bar, a watchmaker’s shop, and a barbershop. The standalone building has been divided into two storefronts, and for the past 10 years, one side has served as our clay studio and retail shop. Our location in historic, downtown Lynchburg integrates us directly into the evolving community fabric of the city.

Our space is separated into three rooms: a retail shop, a wet-working studio, and a glaze/kiln room. Due to our small space, both the retail area and studio are in a constant state of flux. Our studio serves as a multi-use workspace. A sheet of plywood transforms our canvas-covered table into a surface suitable for attaching screen-printing jigs, a place to carve woodblocks, or a setup for photographing work. This allows us to create production and marketing materials in house. We are always looking for ways to evolve our small space. Currently we are building a spray booth designed to fit an existing window opening in our glaze room. After that project is complete, we will turn our focus to designing and building a retractable, ceiling-mounted photo booth.

Paying Dues

In order to balance a full-time business with family life and maintain our sanity, we developed a fluid schedule. After we create a list of priorities and goals for the week, we break down the workdays into slots. These slots incorporate our shop hours when we are open to the public as well as early morning and late-night solo studio shifts. At this stage in our lives, there is no downtime during the work week. We are both on, either working at the shop or acting as primary caregiver for our two boys, ages 1½ and 2½.

To be flexible and accommodate one another, we reevaluate and make changes to these short-term schedules as needed. This puts the priorities of the unit ahead of the individual in order to work toward incremental and overall goals. There are short straws that can be drawn with this schedule, too, and events that we can’t plan for. Imagine completing a late-night glaze session at 1am, only to be woken by a baby’s teething tantrum at 5am.

However hectic a schedule like this might appear, organizing our time into these slots allows us to spend large quantities of time with our children outside of pursuing a studio practice. How lucky is it to find yourself spending the day wandering the paths of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a toddler strapped to your back? While one of us scouts out future family picnic spots along mountain streams, the other can focus on progressing in the ceramics studio.

To maintain a healthy studio practice, we have learned to leave the studio behind when a shift ends. This is the only way we can be fully present for the next part of our respective days.

Mind

One of the best aspects of maintaining a studio downtown is that we are in walking proximity to everything. Visiting friends while grabbing a coffee, strolling the pedestrian path by the river, running errands to the bank or post office, and getting a bite to eat all provide short breaks from the studio during the week.

It is also important for us to find stimulation outside of the clay community and studio. Together, we are rabid music fans and seek out live-music experiences. There is always a show on our horizon, a sonic event we can look forward to. It is not uncommon for us to scan music venues for the next few months’ worth of possibilities.

Chatham Monk’s Double Bulls, 16 in. (41 cm) in diameter, handbuilt stoneware, underglaze, fired to cone 5 in an electric kiln.

Since we have family and friends spanning the mid-Atlantic region up through New England, we will plan mini vacations around visits and music. In this way, our time away from the studio is social. We explore the communities where we are staying and schedule visits to rotating museum exhibitions along with historical collections during these recharge breaks. Everything from the Mayan figure vessel to worn-out band shirts filters through these experiences to provide us with inspiration. This allows us to come back to the studio refreshed and ready to start a new chapter in our practices.

Marketing

We honestly do not have a true marketing strategy. We make work that we feel happy about and through the storefront attached to our studio, we provide the public a space to see it firsthand. We invite those who are interested into our space and do our best to strike up a meaningful conversation with them. Customers can view finished work in the shop along with getting a glimpse of the process to see what is coming next. This often leads to discussions about custom work.

Having an open door to the public like the studio shop has provided us with exciting, project-based collaboration opportunities. We have been fortunate enough to find local restaurants and businesses that respond to the work we are making. Like us, our collaborative partners see the value in developing experiences that include the handmade object. Through focusing on collaborative pop-up events, we are able to simultaneously strengthen bonds in the local community and expand our customer base.

Chatham Monk and Justin Rice’s Hats Off to Those Who Came Before Us 2, wheel-thrown stoneware, sgraffito, fired to cone 5 in an electric kiln.

Chatham Monk and Justin Rice’s Year of the Rat Floral Jar, 7 in. (18 cm) in height, wheel-thrown porcelain, sgraffito, fired to cone 5 in an electric kiln.

Instagram has become our main social-media platform. It allows us to show casual pictures of the studio and shop to a greater audience. The biggest hurdle we face through a shared studio space and co-owned business is finding a unified voice online. We continue to develop how these outlets can work as tools for us. Selling our work online has never really been a focus, but we hope to grow that part of the business in the future.

We consider ourselves fortunate to be partners in both our work and home lives. It allows us to share the burdens and successes that come with each territory, and continue to grow and evolve through artistic and domestic challenges together.

www.oxidepottery.com

Facebook and Instagram @oxidepottery

Studio photos: Karissa Grantham (Instagram @karissashley)

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