Just the Facts
Clay AD: Standard 365 Grolleg Porcelain SG: STARworks Okeewemee 10
Primary forming method AD/SG: wheel throwing
Favorite surface treatment AD: underglaze inlay SG: geometric carving and ash glazes
Primary firing method AD: cone 6–7 in an electric kiln SG: cone 10–11 gas reduction
Favorite tools AD: #15 scalpel and a small Shimpo banding wheel SG: Thomas Stuart wheel and car kiln
Studio playlist AD/SG: NPR; streaming music, TV, and movies; audiobooks
Wishlist AG/SG: centralized dust collection/air purification systems, heated flooring
We work in a converted garage behind our home in Floyd, Virginia, and share approximately 900 square feet of interior space with a wall splitting Andrea’s porcelain and Seth’s stoneware work spaces. While Seth began putting the studio together in Floyd, Andrea was working toward her MFA in Syracuse, New York. In 2013, when Seth purchased the property on Poor Farm Road in Floyd, the garage had a dirt floor and lacked both heat and running water. His first project was to finish the floor and build out a kiln patio with a pole-shed roof attached to the existing garage.
After finishing the concrete floor, Seth installed a third garage door leading out to the kiln patio where he built a propane-fired car kiln. This door allows him to roll the car into his studio space for easy loading and unloading, regardless of the weather. In 2017, Seth built a second gas kiln, this time a salt/soda kiln. The new kiln shares the same chimney as the car kiln. He fires them back to back over the course of two days.
Andrea’s electric-kiln room and a small glaze-material mixing room are also located on the kiln pad. This enclosed kiln room contains 5 electric kilns: a 2.6 cubic foot, a 7 cubic foot, a 9 cubic foot, and 2 small test kilns. Each kiln is on casters, and the 3 smaller kilns are stored under the work counter and rolled out when needed. Our ware carts, tables, pug- mills, and slab roller are also on casters, allowing us to easily move them around the studio.
Not including the 9-cubic-foot kiln, all of the electric kilns, pottery wheels, pugmills, ware carts, and the slab roller were purchased used. Purchasing major equipment second hand, as well as salvaging bricks and shelves from other potters’ kilns saves money that can be allocated for other studio improvements.
We maintain a cleaner and healthier environment inside our studio by locating the kilns and glaze-mixing area outside of the primary work spaces.
Since Seth started converting the garage space into a working studio 7 years ago, we have upgraded the electrical, added propane heaters and electric mini-split units, installed hot running water, installed a toilet, and most recently replaced the two drafty garage doors with solid walls and out-swing standing doors. Working from home is great, but can also be wildly distracting so any addition to the studio that keeps us from wandering into the house multiple times a day helps us maintain focus.
We have both gained knowledge from working in and visiting community spaces, academia, and other potters’ studios. This accumulated knowledge has guided us in setting up our own continuously evolving space. Having benefited greatly from our mentors, moving forward, we hope to make a space that will allow us to accommodate our own studio assistant/apprentice.
Andrea earned a BFA in ceramics from West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, and an MFA in ceramics from Syracuse University in New York. She studied in Jingdezhen, China, twice, for a total of 5 months. Seth earned a BFA from Syracuse University and in 2008, studied for a semester in Jingdezhen, China, where he first met Andrea. Seth also spent the summer of 2008 studying with John Jessiman in Appomattox, Virginia, at the Cub Creek Foundation.
Andrea moved to Floyd in 2011 to work as an apprentice with Silvie Granatelli for 2 years. Seth moved to Floyd in January of 2013 to also assist Silvie after working as an apprentice for Mark Hewitt for almost 3 years in Pittsboro, North Carolina.
Time is the single most precious and ephemeral element in a maker’s life. A certain level of happiness and balance in our life is fundamental in order to create the quality of work we want to send out into the world. We have learned to finish one task before moving on to the next one, so our heads are clear and we can focus. We find comfort in rounding out a making cycle of throwing, glazing, and firing with a thorough cleaning of our studio space. Hiking, playing outside with the dogs, caring for our chickens, and gardening are also important when refueling our creative spirits.
We have both discovered a lot about our work, ourselves, and the best use of our time during the countless weekends we have spent selling our pottery at outdoor juried craft shows under 10×10-foot tents, rain or shine. Prior to 2020, pottery invitationals and indoor juried shows proved to be more profitable than outdoor craft shows. Meanwhile, having our work in a few select galleries supplied a steady trickle of income.
In 2018 we welcomed our first child into the world, which drastically changed how much time and focus we have in the studio. In a perfect world, we would split time with our toddler evenly, and hold regular working hours. In reality, whichever deadline is most pressing receives our focus and everything else is placed on the back burner. Despite some missed deadlines and fewer shows, our daughter is the best distraction in the world. Andrea works better at night; alternately, Seth gets to work early in the day. Prior to having a baby, we each averaged at least 60 hours per week spent working in the studio. When inching toward a deadline, however, we both typically worked more than 80 hours per week.
In 2019 we became members of the 16 Hands Studio Tour, a biannual event that’s been held for over 20 years in Floyd. Along with 10 other makers, we pool our resources and individual talents to more effectively market our work to people outside of our community. It is an honor to be a part of this longstanding group, which was established by several of our mentors.
Seth built a gallery on our property in 2015 and expanded it in 2020. We have 3 gallery sales each year and keep it open year round on the honor system.
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic resulted in all of our in-person studio tours and juried shows being canceled. Like most of our fellow potters, this quickly pushed us to a fully online sales strategy. We stocked up on boxes and packing paper, moved our online shop from Etsy to Shopify, and remained optimistic. As a result of Andrea’s already strong Instagram presence, loyal collectors, and our collaboration with 16 Hands, we reached the end of this year’s social-distancing requirements fairly even with previous years in terms of income. We feel extremely lucky that we are able to work from our home and still share our pottery with people all over the US and the world.
AD and SG: https://andreadenniston.myshopify.com