1 Oval pitcher, 7 in. (18 cm) in width, dark-brown stoneware with monoprint slip transfer, fired to cone 5 in oxidation, 2022.

When I made the decision to pursue pottery full time, I was working as a graphic designer. Although I was able to be creative in that role, it was always with someone else’s vision, not my own. I had gone to school for printmaking, but didn’t really see a path to how I could make a living doing that, so for years I worked in graphic design part time and made pots part time. Eventually, I got to a point where I could see a path to earning a modest living making pots, and decided to make the leap. And I’m so glad I did it!

Making the Leap

One thing I missed after leaving my marketing job was a sense of community. Working alone in a studio can be somewhat isolating, especially if you’re in a rural area with few people around. Some people are cut out for that, but I don’t think I am. That was one of the reasons I decided to relocate my studio to Cedar Creek Gallery, in Creedmoor, North Carolina, in July 2020, which has six private artists’ studios, a craft gallery, and gardens on the property. I love being surrounded by other artists, gallery staff, and artwork. There are three other potters and a bunch of glassblowers on-site, so when I have technical problems or need person to bounce an idea off of, there’s always someone around. And when I need a break, I can walk out to the gardens or browse the work in the gallery; it really is a lovely setting.

My studio at Cedar Creek Gallery is about twice as big as my home studio was, and there’s an awesome central table made from concrete that I absolutely love! I’ve set up the studio with an area for throwing and assembling and an area for decorating. I love having enough room so that I don’t have to move things out of the way to do the next step in the process, which can break the flow.

Techniques and Inspiration

When I was in school, I focused on printmaking, working mainly with collagraphy, a technique where the printing plate is made from a collage. I loved the way you could build up texture and then, with a variety of inking techniques, achieve a surface with a lot of depth. This experience making collagraphs informs how I approach my surfaces now. For the last four years, I have been working with monoprinting on the clay surface. When I was working with collagraphs, I’d sometimes cut up the plate so I could use different colored inks within the same print. I do the same thing now, basically making a flat version of the pot with newsprint, then cutting that up into a design, painting those individual pieces of paper with different colored slips, and then transferring them onto the pot. When the paper is peeled away, it reveals the design. After the pot is bisque fired, I coat the entire pot with black underglaze, then wipe it away, revealing a lot of texture. I love the way every little imperfection up—every wrinkle and every bit of slip that didn’t quite make it from the paper to the pot reveals the bare clay beneath.

2 Green and White Striped Oval Vase, 10½ in. (27 cm) in height, dark-brown stoneware with monoprint slip transfer, fired to cone 5 in oxidation, 2022. 3 Evelyn Ward decorating a vase with colored slips, 2022. Photo: Jennifer Dolan.

I love looking at old buildings, with the paint peeling and the metal rusting, and I hope that my pots have some of those qualities. I live in a rural part of North Carolina, and there’s no shortage of old barns and buildings around here. The effects of time on surfaces have always appealed to me on a visceral level. I see that as a starting point of where my aesthetic is, but then it becomes something different. 

I came back to printing on clay after years of salt firing. A couple of years ago, when I was still salt firing, I taught a class on surface design at Claymakers in Durham, North Carolina. I was really enjoying exploring different surface techniques and was feeling more excited about the possibilities of those techniques than I was about my work at the time. It was also at the exact moment that my kiln had deteriorated to the point of collapse. I had been planning on building a new salt kiln, and after really thinking about it, I decided not to build the new kiln and to work with monoprinting on clay instead. This new direction was very scary for me since I had been salt or soda firing for about 15 years at that point. This was probably the most difficult decision in my career, but I thought—why be an artist if you’re not going to do what you want, why not let the work lead you? 

A Day in the Life

I generally work Monday–Friday, 10am–6pm, taking time away from the studio to teach a 3-hour class one day a week and breaking for about an hour mid-day for a communal lunch.

Most of the time, I will spend a couple of days throwing a bunch of pots, then spend a couple of days finishing those. I make a lot of altered forms, so I spend quite a bit of time finishing those thrown forms. All of my work is kept under plastic during this process so it doesn’t get too dry before decorating. 

Then I will spend a couple of days decorating. This whole process takes about two weeks. So the pots I can make in a couple of days working at the wheel take me about two weeks to complete.

4 Green and White Striped Jar, 4½ in. (11 cm) in height, dark-brown stoneware with monoprint slip transfer, fired to cone 5 in oxidation, 2022. 5 Three mugs, 4 in. (10 cm) in height each, dark-brown stoneware with monoprint slip transfer, fired to cone 5 in oxidation, 2022.

Selling Work

I used to rely heavily on craft shows as the main way to sell my work. But over the years, that has changed. I’m more selective in which craft shows I do. I also belong to an artist-owned gallery, host a fine-craft show at my house, and do a little online selling.

The artist-owned gallery I am a part of is called Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. Joining this gallery was a really good decision for me, and it’s been a wonderful experience. It’s really nice to have a local gallery in which to show your work year-round, and it’s been a steady source of income, allowing me to rely less on craft shows and really focus on my work and being in the studio. All of the artists in the gallery work about three 4-hour shifts per month and pay rent, but the commission on sales is much lower than a traditional gallery, so we’re able to take home a larger percentage of the retail price. This kind of arrangement might not work for everyone, but if you like being part of a group, it really is rewarding.

I also host a fine-craft show at my place in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina. After several years of holding a home pottery show with my friends Gillian Parke and Deborah Harris, we decided to grow the show to include more artists from different media. We have been doing this for 6 years and it now includes 25 artists, a food truck, and a beer vendor. It has ended up being one of my best shows of the year. I think customers prefer coming out to artists’ homes and studios, and they crave that experience over the traditional craft show. I don’t think I’ll ever give up doing shows completely; it’s really nice to talk in person to the people who use my work and get their feedback. 

The one area that I’d like to focus more on is selling online. In 2020, when all the shows shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I did sell a lot more online, but I feel like I’ve been treating it almost as an afterthought since then and would like to make it more of a priority in the future.

6 Platter with Greens, 12 in. (30 cm) in diameter, dark-brown stoneware with monoprint slip transfer, fired to cone 5 in oxidation, 2022. 7 Red and White Oval Vase, 5 in. (13 cm) in height, dark-brown stoneware with monoprint slip transfer, fired to cone 5 in oxidation, 2022.

Marketing and Advice

Since I have a background in graphic design, I’ve been able to keep certain costs to a minimum by doing all of my marketing and office work myself. I take all of my own photos and design my business cards, postcards, and website. I also do this for Art at Ladybug Farm, the annual craft show at my place in Hurdle Mills. I didn’t realize how useful my marketing background would be to my work as a studio potter, but it really is. It also helps that my husband is very supportive of my choice of pottery as a career. He has encouraged me along the way by helping at shows, helping me build two kilns, and providing the emotional support that being an artist sometimes requires. He is a schoolteacher, so we’re able to get decent health insurance, and his steady paycheck softens the fluctuations of my pottery income.

One bit of advice I’d give someone going into clay would be to fall in love with the material. It can be hard at times to love clay; sometimes things don’t go as planned, and it can be a big fat challenge, but that challenge is part of why it’s so rewarding when it does work and why it has kept my interest after so many years. Follow where the clay leads and allow yourself to try new things, and you will have a lifelong source of meaning and interest. About 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with something called trigeminal neuralgia, a condition that causes extremely severe electrical shock-type pain in your face. The best course of treatment for this condition is intra-cranial surgery—not exactly brain surgery but very close. The one thing that scared me most heading into that surgery wasn’t death but losing the ability to work with clay. I didn’t really allow myself to think about it prior to the surgery, but in the two years since, I’ve been able to digest and process things and realize how truly lucky I am.

Career snapshot

Years as a professional potter

Full time for 12 years

Number of pots made in a year



BFA in printmaking from California State University, Fullerton

The time it takes (percentages)

Making work (including firing): 60%

Promotions/Selling: 30%

Office/Bookkeeping: 10%

Favorite tool

Surform shaving tool

Favorite technique

Monoprinting with colored slip

Where it goes

Retail Stores: 0%

Galleries: 60%

Craft/Art Fairs: 30%

Studio/Home Sales: 0%

Online: 10%

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Instagram: @evelynwardpottery

Etsy: @EvelynWardPottery