How did you get started?
I messed around with pottery a bit in high school, but didn't touch a pottery wheel until my third year of college. After one class I was hooked, and I graduated with a concentration in Ceramics.
My first studio was on my back deck, a 4'x12' space, with no overhead protection. I had a studio apartment near the ocean. My view at least, was incredible. I saved up for my first pottery wheel, and kept my supplies in a large bin outside. My "studio" had to be set up and packed away each time I wanted to make something. If it rained, I didn't work. I fired with friends.
During this time I was working full time for a local museum in their pottery department. My job was to reproduce pottery from the 17th century, which was then used throughout the museum or sold in the shops. I owe just about everything I know to a potter from Cape Cod, Ron Dean. We worked along side each other in a fast paced, hectic environment. I was very much outside of my element, but Ron taught me how to keep up and work in a production setting. Our studio was open to the public so we also had to interact with visitors, and that gave me my first taste as an instructor as well.
My current apartment had an old kiln in the shed out back. I was told I was welcome to use it, as no one else knew how or had the need for it. That kiln, old as she may be, is where I now fire my pots. At that point I realized that this was possible. I could run my own business. I ended up leaving my job at the museum after two years to work full time for myself. I set up my fully functional studio in a sun room off of my kitchen. Pitch Pine Pottery is run entirely from my home.
What has been the biggest hurdle for your brand?
Keeping up. I have been a one woman operation for a year now. I produce all the work, photograph, edit, advertise, converse with customers and shops, package and ship, and update my websites and social media. Thankfully it's looking like this year will be the year I get some help!
Of all mediums, why pottery?
Pottery is this ancient connection to the human race. Pottery has been for as long as humans have been on Earth. It incorporates all of the elements: the clay is literal earth, water to form it, air to dry it, fire to harden it. What I make, though fragile, is permanent. I can make anything out of clay. The techniques to fire, decorate, throw, and overall create pottery are endless. It would take several lifetimes to try them all. I can also include my love of painting and drawing into the medium.
What influences you and where does your inspiration come from?
I'm mostly inspired by nature. Plants, animals, landscapes. I live in an area that is both heavily forested and also very close to the ocean. I like to incorporate a bit of both in my work. I'm highly influenced by Art Nouveau, which combines both modern motifs with organic ones seamlessly.
How do you maintain work life balance?
That is really the question! It's something I'm still trying to figure out. Above all, I pride myself in excellent customer service. I know how I expect to be treated as a customer and do my absolute best to put that first. Which means I am always available to my customers. I do take my weekend, and stop hands-on work at five every evening. Working for myself also means I choose my schedule. I no longer miss out on family functions, work weekends (unless I want to), or holidays. After years of working for corporations where every holiday was mandatory, that is the greatest blessing.
Where do you see your brand going within the next five years?
Five years from now I hope that my pottery is in shops all around the country. I would love to one day own my own studio/shop space where visitors can see me working, and purchase pottery from me face to face. I want to hire family and friends and expand the business. I would love to teach ceramic classes and workshops on starting small pottery businesses. I had a lot of help getting to where I am today, I would thoroughly enjoy paying it forward in that way.
How do you stay motivated?
I've found once you are happy with your work, the inspiration keeps flowing. I'm constantly running for a sketchbook when a new idea arises. I'm fortunate to have my studio in my home, and can work in the middle of the night if the clay is calling.
My husband is my biggest motivator. He's constantly asking me to make certain things, and is my second pair of eyes while I work. If I miss something he will see it. If I need a push to hit my deadlines, he is there. He's also an excellent guinea pig, and tests my pots for strength and comfort. He isn't afraid to tell me what works and what doesn't.
Overall, my motivation is my customers. I have had the most humbling experience selling online through Etsy, and in person. My return customers have told me they are customers for life, and support me in all my endeavors. I really couldn't ask for a more lovely experience selling my work, and its all due to their kindness.