Just the Facts

red earthenware, currently Highwater Clays’ Earthen Red

Primary forming method 
handbuilding with pinching, coils, and slabs 

Primary firing temperature
cone 3 in oxidation

Favorite surface treatment
sgraffito on colored slip 

Favorite tools
Dolan knife and bisque molds 

Music: instrumentals or mood playlists
Podcasts: Sawbones and
Arcane Carolinas

a dedicated shipping/packing station in the studio


My studio is located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, in the Carter Building. The building has a lot of character and is one of the oldest businesses downtown. It had many lives before becoming a space for artists, galleries, and startups. I rent a room on the first floor, right at the entrance of the building. My space is 150 square feet with one exterior window that hand-cranks open and a long interior window. My rent is currently $350 a month.

I moved to Raleigh in 2020 with my husband, Mason, and was initially presented with two options: working in our rented apartment or just taking a break from clay all together until community studios opened again after the COVID-19 pandemic. I had even gotten permission from our landlady to install an electrical line for a kiln on our concrete patio. Renting space didn’t even occur to me. Renting space seemed serious. I did not think my work was strong enough to be taken seriously. Mason encouraged me to try renting out space to work in. He recalled that the location where he had my engagement ring made, Metamorphosis Metals, was in a large building for artists with a lot of unoccupied rooms. I reached out to the building owner, Mr. Carter himself, through email, and he called me back within the day to schedule a viewing. I was shocked that he responded so quickly, and asked them to give me a month to figure things out. Once I finished writing out my business plan, I felt confident. I was going to operate a small business in downtown Raleigh. 

The personality of the building, its inhabitants, and the opportunity to grow in a city was exciting. The layout of my studio has me running things like a tight ship. Working in a small space requires being efficient and conscious about storage, work schedule, and, most importantly, cleanliness. It’s all connected and reminds me of working in a restaurant. 

My studio is sectioned into three main areas: 

  1. Exterior display: This is what folks see when they first come into the building. We can decorate our exterior walls and space however we like. I have a few shelves outside my door to display business cards, postcards, plants, and pots. I have chosen to store my clay boxes here, too; it’s a good talking point for interested customers. 
  2. Entrance and gallery space: This space is just big enough for two people to stand in and look around. I have a wall dedicated to my pins, stickers, and jewelry, and then two shelves dedicated to planters and other functional works.
  3. Workspace: This is the largest area of the room, where I have my working table, metal shelf, sink, and kiln. 

My favorite aspect of this space is also sometimes my least favorite. The windows. They make the room seem bigger than it is with all of the natural light, but it often feels like I am in a fishbowl. My studio is also open to the public. All of these aspects motivate me to have my studio look clean and presentable. If needed, I have curtains that I can pull down when I want to focus. It is so easy to get caught in an hours-long conversation with neighbors or visitors, especially when deadlines are close!  

When putting my studio together, I drew inspiration from the other studios I worked in previously, particularly the small basement clay studio at The Women’s Studio Workshop. The studio manager, Ruth McKinney Burket, had the small community space efficiently arranged and organized. 

The size of my space has been no issue, since this is still the largest solo studio I have worked in. As long as I have a workspace and then a dedicated clean space, I feel successful with the arrangement. I believe my studio is the perfect size for one person. 

Although handbuilding has the advantage of being low impact and generally using less water than throwing, I still wanted a sink or direct access to water. My rent currently includes electricity and water, but the sinks are in a communal area of the building. Thanks to all the tiny-home YouTube videos my husband and I watch, we decided to make a foot-pump sink system. The sink has a clean-water jug to the side that I refill at the community sink and a dirty-water bucket underneath where clay and debris is collected at the bottom. I siphon off the water from the bucket when needed. I enjoy this system as it has given me a new perspective on my water consumption. 

At home, Mason and I share an office, although I have taken it over with non-clay projects. In the future, I want to expand my studio space so I can host classes, more friends, and guests, and freely make with other materials like fibers, textiles, and metal, etc. I feel interdisciplinary at heart and love to work and create with anything I can get my hands on. 

A typical day in the studio is spent focusing on a series of tasks. I also like to set aside time to reset my studio at the day’s end—tidying up so I can get right back into work the next day. As best as possible, I like having events scheduled in advance so I know when and what work to have ready or what my timeline or piece limit will be. 

My ideal timeline for a batch of work (35 pieces) is 3 months. The first month is for wet clay forming. I start off by prepping a series of measured coils, wedged balls, and cut-out slabs. These are placed in damp boxes and then used to assemble my pots. The second month is spent decorating and glazing. I primarily decorate pots in the greenware phase—using a combination of terra sigillata, colored slip, and underglaze. Because cleanliness is important and also very necessary, while the batch of pots is in the kiln, I deep clean the studio. This whole-day event starts with taking any light furniture out of the room. Then I wipe everything down, mop, reset the sink, access reclaim, and change the air filters. This sets me up for a clean space to photograph, document, and pack work. 

I often squeeze smaller batches in this larger timeline if needed. I get easily distracted, so a paper and digital schedule are very important for me. 

Paying Dues (and Bills)

I graduated from Western Carolina University (WCU) with a bachelor’s degree in studio art. WCU has more of an interdisciplinary program, where I was able to experiment in printmaking, ceramics, and other mediums. I spent a lot of my free time and energy in the ceramics studio, so in my heart that is what I majored in. 

In addition to my business, Casas Studios, I work part time at a community art center, Pullen Arts Center, where I am a pottery-studio coordinator and instructor. I also volunteer on the board of our local potters guild as vice president. These days, my schedules are pretty balanced out with approximately 10–15 hours at the community studio and about 20–35 hours working at Casas Studios. No matter if the season is busy or slow, I promise myself Sunday off. I also try to give myself an occasional work-from-home day to work on scary tasks like emails, phone calls, and applications. 

When I hit a mental roadblock in the studio, my go-to is setting a timer and writing in a stream-of-consciousness style for 30–60 seconds. I gravitate toward lists and usually write a list of things I am seeing and feeling or concepts I am thinking about. It is a mind dump. I also love to keep a list of words in my notes app or sketchbook that come to me intuitively. Typing those words into a search engine preceded by “history of” or “examples of” can provide lots of results on a topic, be it ThriftBooks, Goodreads, or YouTube. My favorite places to find books are at my public library or ThriftBooks. I use Libby, an app that connects to my library card, for audiobooks. 

Beyond my own studio practice, seeing artists combine clay with other mediums is exciting. I love to see when artists don’t stick to one discipline and find ways to connect practices.

The illustrations in my work are inspired by both the animations I grew up watching as a kid as well as current animation. Watching animatics or storyboard presentations of my favorite animators and animated movies also helps me when I am having trouble developing visual content. 


In the beginning, my work was mainly found online and exhibited through galleries. Although I have a viewing area in my studio, I rarely utilized it, since many items went right into a box after testing and documenting. This past year, I have started selling more in-person, through my own website and at markets and craft fairs. When selling online or through galleries, I never really knew my customers. Now that I have participated in a few in-person events, it is exciting to speak face-to-face with the individuals who purchase my work. I have learned that a good mix of galleries, retail, online, and in-person events works well for me. I tend to get bogged down and burned out if I am focused on just one market for too long. 

I have realized that there is a difference between what sells at markets, pop-ups, and craft fairs. Sometimes they will surprise me, so I like to come prepared with a trio of items: pottery, prints, and accessories. Having a range of items at different price points can help with sales traffic. I employ this strategy for my online shop as well. 

I market a lot of my work online, particularly through Instagram and, more recently, TikTok. My online platform is enthusiastic, somewhat personal, and hopefully insightful. I like to be a transparent and well-informed participant. These days, my social-media posting is pretty sporadic, because I prefer posting content after I have finished a full batch. I like to edit my videos by starting with an in-progress clip and finishing with a polished piece. I tend to have a large backlog of previously recorded moments in the studio. The idea was to edit a lot of videos at one time and then slowly push them out, but when you have the content ready, it is so tempting to post it all at once.

I consider myself a small-batch potter, and with each production run, I break it down into two categories of work: patterned and illustrated. Patterned pieces are designs and motifs that are easily reproduced, compared to illustrated designs that are more involved. Often my illustrated pieces in a batch are one-offs that are a result of my sketchbook research and time. These unique pieces inform the theme of future patterned pieces, as well as my prints and other accessories. 

Most Important Lesson

One of the most important lessons I have learned as a working artist is to allow some space and time to play. Capitalism and monetizing what we make have such a grip on independent artists. Social media has added to this stress by pressuring artists to create and document their every breath for content. I started creating a space to play by keeping a sketchbook that is just for me and not sharing or posting any of the content. 


Facebook: @casas.studios

Instagram: @casas.studios

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