Just the Facts 

Clay 
Miller-16 porcelain 

Primary forming method 
a combination of wheel throwing, handbuilding, and casting 

Primary firing temperature 
cone-6 electric 

Favorite surface treatment 
slip inlay 

Favorite tools 
an old, dull X-Acto knife 

Studio Playlist 
I rotate between music, podcasts, and TV shows based on my mood and what sort of attention the work I’m doing requires. 

Wishlist 
a pugmill 

Studio 

My studio is my happy place. It is where I have my best ideas, where I’m free to make bravely creative and wacky decisions, and where my time is truly my own. This magical little space is a mere 290 square feet (26.9 square meters)—a detached single-car garage. It overlooks our yard on one side and the driveway and my husband’s garden on the other. Through a storage space and open-air breezeway, it connects to our Asheville home. 

The space is a true labor of love—built by the hands of my husband, my father-in-law, and myself. In 2018, my husband and I purchased our first home, and shortly after I launched a pre-sale crowdfunding campaign to fund the studio renovations. My parents assisted by purchasing my first kiln, my mother-in-law painted the purple stairs and kept us fed as we labored through long summer days, and friends helped us paint and offered advice. 

To optimize the small space and workflow, it is organized effectively. Currently, I make four batches of work a year and have four online sales a year, allowing my shipping area to double as a slip-casting or glaze-mixing area. When designing the studio, I made sure to put as much as we could on wheels so that I could rearrange the space as needed and have access to every nook and cranny of the floor for cleaning. I have three ware carts, my glaze kitchen with bins of dry materials on a pallet, two storage carts, a miniature slab roller, and one primary worktable that are all on wheels. There is floor-to-ceiling storage, with adjustable wire shelving scaling the wall on one half of the space and wooden shelves going up to the ceiling to store packing materials and clay. I have several pegboards in different areas of the studio so that my tools can be quickly sorted, seen, and accessed. I also have several large dry-erase boards that allow me to see my current notes, lists, schedule, etc. all together. The only items not on wheels are my wedging table, wheel, kiln, and packing table. 

One of the first things we did when we built the studio was put solar panels on our home to offset the kiln firings. We also made sure to insulate the walls well, and we replaced the garage door and installed cellular shades over my large windows to control the temperature and minimize heat usage. 

There is always room for improvement, and in the next few years I plan to make a few changes to the space. I am hoping to build a kiln shed to free up space and fire more comfortably. I would also like to purchase a pugmill. My least favorite aspect is the textured floor. The cement was poured unevenly so it traps and kicks up dust. I have to be especially conscious of keeping it clean and also never wear my studio shoes inside my home. 

Paying Dues (and Bills) 

I graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, in 2014 with a BFA degree with an emphasis in ceramics. Since then, I have completed an artist residency at Odyssey Clayworks and attended a few short-term workshops at craft schools such as Penland School of Craft and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. I’ve also taken several business courses and classes online and through local schools. I consider myself to be a lifelong student, and I am always looking for opportunities to learn about all aspects of my craft and business. 

Before my son was born I would often spend 60+ hours a week in the studio. Every day leading up to a sale was accounted for, with every day planned months in advance. If my expectations for my timeline weren’t reasonable, I simply worked harder. I folded weekends into my calendar, evenings, early mornings, and late nights. It was immensely gratifying to be so professionally and creatively fulfilled. I built my business during that time, and I saw my dreams become a reality. I felt the privilege and joy of sharing my work all over the world. However, I also missed a lot. The years of workaholism took a toll, both mentally and physically.

These days, I spend roughly 32 hours a week in the studio. Once my husband and I became parents, the stakes of my business felt higher. Our time became much more limited, more finite, and scrambled. With this, my priorities changed dramatically. 

Almost a year ago I hired an assistant, Be Rose Snyder, to help manage my workload and keep my production on track. Be’s duties are evolving with each batch of work. At this time, she is doing a lot of the smaller production throwing (cups and the like) and assisting with painting and inlay. She also handles maintenance tasks like cleaning, glaze mixing, etc. 

My intention when hiring an assistant was to maintain my production and client base while still being able to spend time with my son. It has done that and has improved my quality of life to have the extra help in the studio. My hope is that over the next few years I will be able to maintain my business and production schedule, while also spending as much time as possible with my family. 

My son is almost two now, and these days I’m more focused on prioritizing my family and my health. Thanks to our savings, my assistant, my family, and the support of my husband’s stable income, I am grateful to be able to take one day during the week to be with my son, and I very rarely work on weekends anymore. Occasionally the late night in the studio does still happen though, and it is often difficult to drag myself away. 

Marketing 

When we first set up my home studio in 2019, I made about 50% of my income from selling my work online and the rest through teaching, working with consignment galleries, wholesale clients, and direct sales at art fairs. It felt secure to have many different revenue streams, and I enjoyed working directly with so many lovely people. 

When Covid hit in 2020, all of my galleries and shops shut down or scaled back and all of the markets I had lined up for the year were canceled. I was fortunate to have my home space and to be able to keep working. I already had a decent social media following and online client base, but I was able to invest more into those relationships and into my online presence. Because of that change, today I sell about 95% of my work directly to customers through my website. The rest goes to a small selection of shops and galleries. 

Currently, I have 4–5 online sales a year, typically seasonally. My schedule is to make a batch of work over 2–3 months, sell it in a drop, ship it, and do it again. It is a rewarding way to share my work and allows me to really focus on one element at a time (making, shipping, photography, etc.), which is an ideal workflow for me. 

This is a unique and beautiful time for many artists where we can reach our audiences all over the world, and share our work directly with them online. Through social-media platforms like Instagram, I have been able to reach an audience of people who connect with my artwork. I have been lucky enough to create relationships with so many truly special collectors, clients, and friends all over the world. It is a joy. 

On the flip side, it can be frustrating to constantly be filming, photographing, and marketing my work. My favorite moments in the studio are when I am experimenting or in the flow of making, and I don’t like to detract from that by considering camera angles, etc. 

Mind 

I’m constantly learning and re-learning how to rest and recharge when on a break from the studio, as the ebbs and flows of my quarterly online shop restocks can be intense. It helps my mind to put my phone and computer physically away when I’m done with work, so I’m not tempted to access social media or my production calendar. When outside of the studio, I love to spend time outdoors with my family and friends. We live in a fun area with lots of hiking trails to explore and riverside breweries to sample. 

Most Important Lesson 

Leaving yourself wanting more can be a gift to your creative practice. As an artist and a business owner, you will always have an incredible to-do list, you will always have ideas and avenues to pursue. There will always be more, and if you work for yourself, no one will tell you to stop. My advice would be to walk away from the work, and remember there is a world outside your art. Find ways to nourish your soul and body outside of your studio, however it feels best to you. The work won’t ever be done, because that’s the whole point. As an artist and a human being, your body and mind are your most important tools. 

lauriecaffery.com 
Facebook: @lauriecaffery 
Instagram: @lauriecaffery.clay