From Potter to Pottery Designer

In a world that seems to favor the fast and the cheap, it can be difficult to sustain a career as a maker of handmade objects. In fact, I think artists work harder than anyone I know to sustain their careers. Even with a successful exhibition career, a teaching gig, and selling her pots, Molly Hatch was familiar with these issues.

Then she got a very intriguing email. The major retailer Anthropologie was interested in partnering with her to produce a line of dinnerware for the store. And suddenly Molly had found herself in another role: pottery designer (and fabric designer, and gift tag designer, and upholstery designer, and more!) In today’s post, Molly explains how this turn of events came about and gives advice for other potters hoping to receive similar emails! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

 


In addition to the Anthropologie line, Hatch still exhibits work in galleries, such as this piece, which appeared at the Ferrin Gallery.

 

Since my mugs hit shelves at Anthropologie stores in July of 2011, many people in our ceramics community have been openly curious about how they too might turn their handmade pots into designer products. This has been a challenging question for me to answer. Usually the first question I am asked about working with Anthropologie is about how the store found my work. I had assumed that I was found through a blog posting or through my Etsy shop, but it turned out it was a buyer who saw my work at Greenwich House Pottery in New York and made an internal recommendation for a tabletop buyer to look me up.

So they find artists the same way you or I might. Buyers go to major art fairs and craft shows and they travel a lot looking for new and interesting products. Whenever they visit cities, they do extensive research about the local art community, art events, and gallery openings. Often studio visits or gallery visits are set up in advance to see as much work in person as possible.

 


Through scores of images from dozens of artists, along with tips, techniques, history and design considerations, you’ll find Contemporary Tableware a welcome resource for developing your forms and adding an exciting touch to your table. 

Learn more and download an excerpt!


 

click to enlarge

It is important to understand the many different ways that artists work with any retailer. The way I have been working with Anthropologie, for the most part, is as a product designer. I bring prototypes to their production team and the product is manufactured with help from Anthropologie. More recently, I have evolved into working as a surface designer in multiple departments throughout the company. Most commonly, artists work with Anthropologie as vendors, hand making work for Anthropologie to retail in their stores and online. Occasionally Anthropologie buyers will purchase flatwork (like paintings and drawings) in order to bring them back to their design team and work with the artwork as a surface for anything from tableware to fabrics.

So, really, the process for being “discovered” is no different than developing a career as a ceramic artist. My advice to readers pursuing a career as a designer is no different than advice I might give to readers seeking a successful career showing work as an artist. Make good work and be open minded to alternative ways of making your work, and the rest will simply follow.

To learn more about Molly Hatch or see more images of her work, please visit www.mollyhatch.com.

 

 

Comments
  • This is exactly what I’m aiming for 🙂 Thankyou for this article.

    I’ve found Kelly Rae Roberts to be very helpful as well. She’s a Collage artist who has made the transition to design work after having her creations licensed. She has an entire series of e-books about how she did it here:

    http://kellyraeroberts.com/flying-lessons-the-whole-shabang

    which includes quite a lot of the nitty-gritty of how to bring your work to the attention of manufacturers.

    I’m in Australia, AND in one of the most isolated cities in the world, so for me its a bit more challenging, but the Internet is my Friend !

    I’m keeping my head down and my bum up, working to improve the quality of my work and to gain mastery over my materials. I’m aiming for a good portfolio of Exhibition quality pieces, after reading many comments from working artists here, about how important it is to present your very best work – not seconds or semi-successful experiments..

    Although if anybody has any clever ideas about what do do with a MOUNTAIN of seconds and semi-successful experiments I’d love to hear them :)) I’m leaning towards photographing them for my own records and then turning them into mosaics !

  • Those are lovely designs. does anyone know where to buy small plastic stencils, in Celtic designs?

    Thank you,

    Merci Weitzen

  • You can also purchase parchment paper glaze on that, then tattoo it onto your piece.

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