Just the Facts
Primary forming method
Primary firing temperature
cone 04 electric
Favorite surface treatment
slip with hand-painted underglaze
Dolan trimming tools and Mudtools ribs
I listen to a ton of music while working
My studio is in the lower level of my house in the converted walk-out garage/basement. The working studio space is approximately 380 square feet and is nearly three times as long as it is wide. The studio side has drywall, painted concrete floors, recessed lighting, and a restroom. There is a glass door that leads out to the driveway and a bonus room with a walk-in closet that I use for packing materials, photographing pots, and housing my surplus of vintage clothing. On the garage side of the basement, I have my two kilns, a utility sink, dry-material storage, and reclaim clay to be recycled.
The decision to have a home studio came completely out of necessity last year when I abruptly needed to relocate my studio due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My family and I also found ourselves needing a place larger than our apartment in order to maintain our sanity. Thankfully, at the end of last year, we found our rental house that had the perfect layout for a studio, the power necessary to run my kilns, and more square footage to give all three of us our own space.
Having a studio with such drastic dimensions has led to a handful of iterations over the past year. Through my experiences in other studios, I found that my preferred configuration is a square studio space, and I enjoy having everything within arm’s reach. In order to best utilize my very long floor plan, I broke up the studio into three sections. Nearest to the door, I have a small gallery area with finished work and a staggering number of house plants (pandemic hobby), the middle of my studio is my decorating station and shelving for bone-dry work, and the far end of my studio is wet-working space with the nearest access to my utility sink. As with any studio space, there are aspects that I would change and elements that I love. My favorite part of my current space is the lighting. This rental house was remodeled just months before my family moved in and has beautiful recessed LED lighting. Having consistent, bright light throughout the studio has been wonderful. Working in a rented space has unique challenges as well. My rental agreement asks that I do not put any holes in the walls. With this in mind, all of my shelving is free standing and modular. My studio is also susceptible to flooding, since it is in the lowest level of an old house and built into a hillside. After experiencing several floods over the past year, I have designed my stations to be water resistant and nearly all of my equipment is on wheels so that it can be moved quickly. These obstacles have pushed me to think critically about how I navigate a space and helped me decide what I feel are necessities to make work.
Paying Dues (and Bills)
I earned a BFA in ceramics from Ohio University (OU) and have pursued residencies in Iowa, Tennessee, and Montana. I have known that I wanted to work as a full-time potter since I was 18. At that time, I had no idea there was a fantastic ceramics program 45 minutes down the road from where I grew up or what a profound impact OU’s ceramics department would have on my life and career. Over the past nine years, I have worked as a studio potter, gallery coordinator and curator, and as a freelance gallery consultant for several organizations. I am currently a full-time studio artist working 40–50 hours a week on ceramics and 10–20 hours on my secondary art practice, making miniature polymer-clay replicas of food. My routine changes each week based on upcoming show obligations and orders through my online shop. Some weeks I find myself working on polymer clay far more than pottery. Having a secondary line of artwork helps me recharge for my ceramic practice; it is a welcomed relief to my body to sit still and create, and gives me the opportunity to shift focus and work from a completely different approach.
Inspiration for my miniature food sculptures comes from a variety of sources including my favorite foods, customer requests, and more often than not, whatever beautiful dish my husband—a professional chef—has made for our dinner. As a potter and a chef duo, I think our passions often influence our respective work. I aim to create work that I would be proud to use at my own dinner table and adorn the surfaces based on my love of all things vintage. I draw inspiration from my vintage clothing collection, embroidery books, and antique furniture.
My grandparents’ home is my favorite place to find inspiration and creatively recharge. I spent most of my childhood at their house, which is just a couple of streets away from my mom’s house. My grandma and I would go to yard sales every weekend on the hunt for cool antiques and items for my brothers and me. I was always impressed by my grandma’s knack for finding a good deal and then talking the seller down to pennies. It is a point of pride for her to tell anyone how good of a bargain she found. If you ask my husband, he would say I definitely inherited this trait.
Sifting through my grandma’s basement of wonders, I am inspired by the odds and ends, the antique furniture, and old kitchen appliances that have long lost their value but might be useful to someone someday. I love the retro, dusty colors of plastic objects from the 1940s–1970s, the floral motifs of the fabrics and linens, and the simple line drawings in the disheveled books.
As a full-time artist, I have learned that I am more creative and productive when I find balance between my work and family life. I very rarely take a whole day off, partly because I always feel like I have a project to finish, but mostly because I am happiest when I am making art. When I do take a studio break, I like to step away completely and change my scenery. I go thrift-store shopping, take a walk with my family and dogs, or tend to my plants.
Between my two lines of work, my audience is pretty diverse. I have noticed that a younger crowd tends to gravitate toward my polymer-clay miniatures, but my pottery is purchased by a broad demographic. I primarily sell my miniatures through my personal website, although recently I have had several galleries and boutiques start selling my tiny food. My pottery sales percentages are as follows: approximately 40% through galleries, 30% through in-person craft fairs, 20% through my website, and 10% via wholesale. I rely heavily on Instagram to announce new work and upcoming sales, use my website for general information about my practice and images of work, and upload instructional videos to YouTube that focus on my tiny food sculptures. Social-media platforms have been a fantastic and (mostly) free marketing tool, which I credit with building the majority of my online visibility. The downside is millions of other people feel the same way. With the frequently changing algorithms, being aware of high-volume posting times, using active hashtags, and posting eye-catching content are crucial elements to effective marketing and visibility. While scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, I feel that it is so easy to forget that there is an actual person behind the content. I try to show all stages of my work in my posts and pictures of my actual life in hopes that it helps my viewers feel a connection to me and recognize my passion for what I do.
I believe that in-person sales are the most impactful way for me to sell my pottery. I love interacting with customers, answering questions about my work, and offering them the tactile experience of handling the objects before making a purchase. I have noticed that most of my larger works sell at craft fairs.
I primarily participate in fairs from spring through fall and shift my focus to online sales the rest of the year, especially near holidays. For seeking out new markets, selling at craft fairs in other states has been my most successful method of growing my customer base. In the cooler months, online sales are my primary source of income. Whether through galleries that represent my work or my personal website, I love providing online customers the peace of mind knowing that their gift purchases will be carefully wrapped and will safely arrive at their destination at the click of a button. There’s also nothing more exciting or reaffirming than watching your work sell out online during the opening hours of a show!
Studio photos: Abby Weeden Photography.
Red Lodge Clay Center: www.redlodgeclaycenter.com
Plough Gallery: www.ploughgallery.com
The John C. Campbell Folk School: craftshop.folkschool.org
Holter Museum: holtermuseum.org
Kemper Museum: www.kemperart.org
Schaller Gallery: www.schallergallery.com
Memorial Art Gallery: mag.rochester.edu