What is your vision of a career in clay? In this issue, we bring together several articles focused on artists who have taken interesting approaches to building a creative life. Some have worked with clay for decades, while others recently discovered an affinity for it. Some run clay-focused businesses or craft galleries. Others pursued vastly different jobs prior to picking up their first ball of clay. They all approached their careers with intentionality, openness, flexibility, an understanding of their individual strengths, and a strong work ethic.
Abby Reczek first traveled to Floyd, Virginia, for an apprenticeship with Silvie Granatelli. During that time, she also worked at Troika Contemporary Crafts, the gallery Silvie co-owned, to help supplement her income. When her apprenticeship concluded, she remained in Floyd, having realized the artistic focus of the small, close-knit town was perfect for her. She had formed many strong bonds with people there, and when the opportunity arose to buy Troika, Reczek took the leap to become a business owner. In her Clay Culture article, she shares both her reasoning for making this choice, and the essential skills she has learned along the way.
Making the decision to move a well-attended community studio and a supply business to a new space can be tough, due to logistics, costs, and disruptions. The owners of Queen City Clay (QCC) in Cincinnati, Ohio, knew they had outgrown their rented space, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they implemented a plan to purchase a larger building located nearby and renovate it to fit the needs of a clay facility from the start. Ben Clark, an artist and one of the QCC owners, and Andrew Osterburg, an instructor and technician at the studio, share the rationale and the process of moving to a new facility in their Clay Culture article.
Sometimes building a career as a successful ceramic artist starts with transferring skills learned in other professions. Barbara Gittings translated skills learned through her job as a pattern cutter in the fashion industry to working with colored-clay slabs. Tim Saunders details her successful transition from cloth to clay.
Erin Shafkind writes about Masa Sasaki’s career, and how he has developed a following for his vessels, which convey the joy and curiosity he feels while making them. In addition to a number of influences, several other pursuits help to sustain him creatively and financially. While he is now earning most of his income through his ceramic work, he maintains a side gig in fashion resale, partly for the income, and partly for the inspiration and connection between surface design and clothing.
While being a full-time potter is demanding and time intensive, the occupation does offer some flexibility and unique ways to expand a professional network. Potters Sarah Anderson and Marret Metzger were inspired on a hiking trip to find a way to combine a love of travel and the outdoors with making artwork and connections in the clay field to further their creativity and careers. A little over a year later, the Mobile Makers have outfitted a travel trailer and have taken one smaller trip as a test run. In the Spotlight article, Anderson details their upcoming road trip from Texas to California, which will be spent exploring, making pots, and meeting artists. They will arrive in Sacramento, California, in time for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference in March, 2022.
In her Studio Visit article, Carisa Miller shares how she dove in head first when launching her pottery business. She discusses how she got started, why she focuses on social media for marketing, and how she incorporates giving back into her business model.
There are so many paths to making clay a focal point in your life. I think Abby Reczek is spot on with her observation that “each of us has a unique story about finding a way to follow our passion while still being able to pay our bills.” As you build or refine your own creative calling, think about the connections and networks that you have or want to form, the skills and perspectives shaped by your experiences and jobs outside of the studio, and the ways that your story enriches your practice and your career.