Ceramics Monthly: What led you to combine your personal studio practice with a community studio offering classes?
Gina DeSantis: After finishing my MFA, I found myself piecing together teaching jobs at various non-profits. There was no art center in the Cleveland area focusing solely on the ceramic arts. In 2013 a studio across the hall in the large warehouse building where I have my studio became available. I knew I could afford the other space to try and get a classroom off the ground. This coincided with Uncommon Goods approaching me to sell my work. I became both a working potter and a business owner at the same time and went into the situation not knowing if one or both things would work. I knew I could make enough money teaching to support my career as a potter. The classroom slowly gained momentum and turned into a full-time job within year one.
CM: How does working in a community studio affect your workflow, and influence you creatively?
GD: My studio is located across the hall from the classroom; however, I work in both spaces depending on the project and whether students are working. My studio practice is reserved for mornings when no classes are being held. When students are around, I wrap up orders and tend to studio maintenance. It’s important to be able to start and stop when they are in the space. Summer is downtime for classes and I take full advantage of the extra space to work on my holiday inventory.
My projects influence my demonstrations for the advanced students. While there isn’t a direct influence on my forms, the energy in the space definitely creates a momentum for everyone there. I think it’s beneficial for students to see the workflow of production pottery.
CM: How important was it to your career—both creatively and in terms of practical financial concerns—to diversify and create a teaching and community ceramics studio?
GD: As an artist, it is impractical to rely on income from one source. My business has three streams of revenue; the classroom, wholesale customers, and retail sales. The challenge is balancing the three and not letting one distract from the other. The three parts of the business work together. In the beginning, the focus was definitely on getting the classroom off the ground. This year I’m expanding my wholesale business and participating in NYNow for the first time. I will continue to reach retail customers through shows, my studio sales, and online shop. Its nice to have the time to get back to the creative things now that the classroom is sustainable.
Photo: Whitney Traylor.