This website is the community page for the show The Potters Cast. Here one will find the show notes, resources, and much more as the site is continually developed. The Potters Cast is to serve the community of ceramic artists and potters around the world by bringing interviews of other ceramicists straight to you. These shows can be listened so that it will be challenging, encouraging, and..
Jami Porter Lara began working in ceramics after a 2011 trip to Mata Ortiz, Mexico, where she learned to forage and prepare clay, build coiled vessels, burnish, and pit-fire in reduction. Jami’s conceptual ceramics project, which contemplates the plastic bottle as a contemporary artifact, has been widely exhibited, including a 2017 solo show at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Jami lives in Albuquerque, NM.
How important is confidence to the success of an artist?
I think it is really important. You need to believe enough in what you are doing to take the risks and to introduce your work to new people. I don’t know if that is really what I want to say, because if you don’t feel confident, then for me to just say, You need to be confident, isn’t really a solution. Do you know what I mean?
Well, let me ask a follow up question then. Is confidence a muscle that can be developed?
Yes, I think so. You know what happens when you get out of school and you just have no idea what to do and where to turn? What happened for me is I realized, Oh, here are the things I can do. I can start going to shows, I can go to gallery openings, I can start checking out the art spaces that are around me to see what I like and what I don’t like. To see where I think I would fit and I can start talking to all the people that I meet in those spaces. And I think that is the way to get practice talking about your work and developing confidence. Is not by just gong and cold-calling a curator, but rather by entering the art scene and understanding what is going on there and understanding what curators care about or a museum director or whatever. What are they interested in? Being able to talk to them and their interests. Those are some really practical steps actually for gaining the confidence you need to approach a gallery owner or curator.
Does confidence come with recognizing your skill level? Or does confidence come with the feedback of other people?
I think it probably has to do with feedback. I really do think it is about practice. You can be really skilled and be super nervous and not be able to talk to anyone about what you are doing. Those two things can entirely go together and so I really think it is an incremental process of getting out there into the art world and getting to be a know entity and becoming someone that people know.
Earlier you talked about the idea of relationships and getting to know people. How important are relationships for developing the career side of your work?
I think relationships are everything. I really don’t know how it is possible to develop a career without them. If I think about how I sell my work, it is because of relationships. If I think about the opportunities that I’ve gotten to show in museums, even the story that I told you about my friend who bought a piece and then told a curator who told another curator about me. I mean all of those are about relationships. At professional development workshops, after the panels I would go and introduced myself to every person who had presented to us, and afterward I sent an email to each one of them telling them something about what I had learned from what they said, and thanking them for being a panelist. So that was a way to become, instead of one of sixteen people, someone that they remembered from that room. And that gave me the opportunity next time I saw them to talk to them. So in some ways you can be really methodical about it.
It sounds like you had a strategic approach to whom you would meet. Is that accurate?
Yeah, I think so. When I think about where would I like to have a show, for example, or who would I be interested in working with. I would think about who they are and who I know who knows them. I guess I agree with you that I am strategic but I think I am also so thorough. So I try not to let any opportunity escape.
How does one be strategic and thorough and genuine?
I think that one of the great things about the art world is that it full of really great people. The people in the Albuquerque art scene, where I got started, were really aware of how symbiotic relationships are and how necessary we are to each other. I feel like my efforts have always been sincere. I think that the strategy part for me has been knowing that I wouldn’t have a career if I didn’t have the people that were part of that artwork.
You talked about how others have helped you. Are you helping others?
Yeah, I regularly now go back and talk on that panel that is part of the professional development workshops that I mentioned. And always extend the offer to the new artist in those programs to do a studio visit or have a meeting, that kind of thing. A few weeks ago I spoke in a classroom at the New Mexico School of the Arts, so I talked to a bunch of high school students. This Thursday I am going to do the same thing. I do those parts on a pretty regular basis. I am really interested in helping others get started in the way I got started. Also sharing technique and that kind of thing.
What does one do to become more tenacious? The talent we can learn, but tenacity is what I am curious about.
Oh gosh. How do you learn to be tenacious? This is one of the gifts of being older when you back to school is to try and not let your ego get in the way. So one of the things that I actually loved about learning to paint or learning sculpture or learning to work with clay when I was 41 years old, was that I never thought that I was going to be an artist. I didn’t walk into the classroom thinking I was going to be a great painter. I just wanted to see what it was all about. So I wasn’t afraid of failing because I didn’t have high expectations of what I could accomplish, I just wanted to be there and learn what I could learn.
Rebecca Killen, a graduate of Belfast School of Art, is a ceramic designer-maker living and working in County Down, N. Ireland. With a love of curating collections of complementary objects, Rebecca aims to create ceramic products that can evoke memories, a sense of nostalgia or serve as decorative pieces in the home to be used and treasured for years to come. Our bottles, dishes and vessels are made in small batches using the slip casting technique.
When you started your business did you have a treasure trove put away for your expenses or or were you going by a wing and a prayer?
No, I definitely did not have a massive amount of cash just to spend on my business, but what I did apply for, which was really good, was from a funding program that is part of the arts council here in Northern Ireland. So I applied for some money to buy a kiln. So I guess in a way I did have a bit of cash behind me but that was just to buy my kiln.
When you look at how many resources you had from the arts council, how much of that was the reason you could go as appose to how much of it was just you hustling and working hard to make things happen?
I think if even if I hadn’t have gotten that money I would be doing what I am doing. I have been really determined to do this and to make this work from college. So even if I had not have had that money I would have found a way to buy a kiln or to rent kiln space. I think it is all about hard work isn’t it? You can’t really rely on other people to help you set up, it has to be your own graft.
How much is being in a small town a disadvantage to growing a business?
I wouldn’t say it is a disadvantage. In today’s society we have the internet, we have social media. We are really not that far away from anybody if you think about it like that. I like working in a small town, you get know people around you, I am accessible for people that live around me to come and visit the studio. But also on social media I try to share as much of the studio and what I am making with people all around the world. I also have an etsy shop so that allows me to send pieces all around the world. So I don’t think it’s a disadvantage. I think it is a nice thing to live and work in a small town. We have the internet so we can reach anywhere.
How critical is being online for the success of your business?
I think it’s massively important. If I want to buy something or find information about a particular product or for gifts, I look on Instagram. I look and see what people around me are making. So I think it’s really, really important to have an online presence. And not just social media, I think it is important to have a website but at the same time I think it is nice to have presence in stores as well. Especially with ceramics, people want to look at your work and pick it up and feel it and look all around it. So I think it is nice to have the pieces not only online but also in the physical stores.
When you make an Instagram post, how much time do you put into the actual description or the first comment that goes on underneath there?
Well I don’t think I spend an awful lot of time doing it. I just try to think of something relevant that goes along with the image and probably refers to something I am doing that day. So I feel like it is fairly natural and represents what I am doing that day in the studio or a particular product I am trying to push. Or if I have just dropped off work to a different shop I will chat about that. So I don’t tend to spend a lot of time trying to think of captions because any time I am on my phone or on social media I am not making so that is where I really try to invest a lot of time is actually in the studio making work.
Who are your pottery heroes?
I will go with a couple of local pottery heroes because I am all about the local and supporting out makers here. When I was in college I looked up to Derek Wilson, Adam Free, and Steven Farnen. They were potters who were a few years ahead of me on the road but make absolutely incredible work. All there work is very different but it is all beautiful. They demonstrated how to create a sustainable business in clay and that is exactly what I wanted to do. So they were amazing inspirations for me and still are.
Sara Beth Elkins is a small batch potter working out of her home studio in Lubbock, Texas. Sarah Beth find joy in replicating patterns, textures, and color from daily life and filtering them in and out of her work to create a sense of comfort or nostalgia. Sarah Beth allows her work to transition in color/theme with the seasons to keep things fresh! Sarah finds the composition and marks in her work to be very organic, yet also structured. Each piece dictates it’s own path in Sarah Beth’s studio, allowing patterns and textures to naturally flow onto the surface. The majority of Sarah Beth work focuses on functionality. Not only does Sarah Beth’s want you to enjoy the presence of the pot itself, but also physically incorporate it into your daily routine. Connecting from Sarah Beth’s hands to yours.
You have been making for quite a while now. Do you ever get embarrassed of the prices you ask for your work?
Oh yeah, absolutely. That has been my least strong suit has been the prices of things for sure.
In your work, does what sells well dictate what you will make next?
I would say it is probably about fifty fifty. Like that definitely helps and encourages me if I want to keep making that, but a lot of the time I think, I really like making that and I am going to keep doing it.
When you are pricing work how much do you take into consideration the cost of materials?
Cost of materials, as you know, really isn’t that crazy compared to other art forms, I would say. Clay is not that expensive. Firing the kiln in my situation is not that expensive. It is more so the time. Your time and your expertise and what makes your business unique is more of what the price comes into rather than the supplies, in my opinion.
How do you approach a shop when you want to get your work into their shop?
The shops that I have contacted it has been via their websites usually, if it’s cold turkey. I find a shop where I think my stuff will do well. A lot of shops that want handmade artists will have a section for inquiring artists to click on and send a message. I have found that those are the types of places that are willing to work with you on the high price of a mug. They want to have handmade, unique pieces in their shops. Via email.
Can anyone learn how to be a full-time potter?
That’s an interesting question. You have to want to do it everyday, is my main thing and the whole reason I got into it. I knew that I could wake up and sit in a studio and literally play with mud everyday. So you can learn, but the academic part of it has nothing to do with the emotional part of it. You have to have that connection to your pieces, to your studio, to your practice and the balance of your everyday life also. I would have to say, no. If it’s purely just learning you have to have the connection.
The connection to the product or the process?
Let’s say we have an aspiring potter who already has the skill and they want to go full time. Give me some advice from the business plan that you and your husband laid out. Give us some advice on what are some of the things one ought to be doing.
I have to say, first and foremost, organization. You have to have a plan. You have to have a calendar. You have to have the forethought to order new glazes and don’t run out of clay and don’t get the scary letter from the IRS because you are not recording your earnings. It is all about being organized in my experience, but also, you have to want to do it. You have to carve out the time. Of course we would love to, being self-employed, go hang out with our friends as our schedule allows for that but you have to make sure that you are spending quality time in the studio with your pieces, with your own thoughts. What you send out there ceramic wise, art wise,needs to be a reflection of you. So that takes a lot of planning too, not just the clerical side. Organized in all fronts is my best advice.
What makes you throw away one of your pieces?
So I have a hard time with that in general, throwing things away, I get very emotionally attached. Some might say I am a little bit of an organized hoarder. I keep pieces around for certain things. I throw a seconds sale every now and then. I know some people have strong opinions about seconds. I generally keep them around to do experiments. If it is not worthy to sell to the general public I’ll keep it around, I might drink out of it or put pencils in it or something. I will use it to do a test. As you can see. if you are looking at my stuff, I use a lot of color and a lot of different colors kind of on top of each other. So say the pot didn’t work out and in three weeks I have an idea, what if I put this color on this? And I will use that not worthy pot and test out that layering. So I will keep them for a while and begrudgingly I will do a bit of a purge. It really is quality to not sell it but to throw it away, for me, is a little bit complicated. It takes me awhile.
Cathy Terepocki has been working full-time as a ceramic artist for fourteen years. Cathy’s functional work and jeweler is sold in shops and galleries in North America and she has also developed a portfolio of one-of-kind pieces and conceptual projects. In the Spring of this year (2018) several of her designs were launched at Anthropologie stores Internationally. Cathy lives in Yarrow, BC with her husband and 3 children.
It just feels like there is so much meaning in it. Or it feels like it gives my life my work meaning.
Do emotions show up in your work?
Yes, I don’t know how they couldn’t.
So let me ask you: What emotions are you shooting for?
I guess, I don’t know if I’m going to answer this exactly the way you want me to answer this, but I really feel like what is important in my work is human connection, maybe more than an emotion. I think that is part of the reason I make the work that I make and why I make work at is all because I really want people to feel connected to my work. I want them to enjoy using it, but it’s more than that. I like the idea of either, some kind of feeling of nostalgia or like sparking some kind of, I know that, or that reminds me of something. Because that is the work that I am always drawn to , even if it makes me laugh for a second, that is the work that really resonates with me. So even doing something like using commercial decals in a way that are unexpected to people and also there is some memory of you know, your grandma’s china or whatever, kind of mixed in there. For example the line of work I make with the floral decals on the bottom with the speckled clay, and just changing up the scale and using them in entirely different way and putting them on speckled clay when traditionally they would be on white porcelain. All those things kind of stop you in your tracks for a second and they might think, What is that? And also there might be a nostalgic feeling that you recall from a previous time and in that way I hope to make a little connection with people.
Why do you name your series?
Oh, I hate those names. I am so sick of naming. (laughter) I some how at one point started naming them after neighborhoods that I lived in. Or places that I have lived in that I have had some connection to. Just because it actually made it easier if there were names on things. But I wish I didn’t have to do it, it bugs me.
What do you like about your own work?
It’s kind of fun. I feel like I try to make work that is complex but ends up being simple. There is a lot going on if you actually look. You can see that there is four different layers, print and color added in four different firings. But the overall effect is unified enough that it’s simple.
You have wholesale, you have jewelry and you have so many different things going on. How do you price your work?
I price my work at a point where I feel like, I am considering my overhead, I am considering everything and I feel like, Okay it feels like I am paying myself a decent wage. I also really want it to be accessible to people. I want people to be able to have my work and I want them to be able to afford it. So I feel like for me there is a certain line. For me I am kind of fixated on the fifty dollar mark. I have never wanted to sell mugs over fifty dollars, just because it is a weird thing I am kind of hung up on. I don’t want them un-affordable. I also sell it in lots of different cities, and in some cities, like in Vancouver, I could easily sell a mug for fifty-five, fifty-eight dollars, and that is probably what I should be selling them for but I feel like in Whitehorse and Saskatoon, I feel like forty-eight dollars is more reasonable. The jewelry kind of balances that out. I can sell the jewelry for a little bit more than what it costs me to make it.
Do you know who your customer is and can you describe that person?
Thankfully it is a pretty broad range. I have sold a lot of mugs to eighteen your old dudes buying something for their mom or just appreciating it for themselves. And then to older women, older men, so I really appreciate that range. And it also depends on the line and depending on what they are buying. I think also that images have been something that have really connected with people. I think a lot of people are buying for gifts and part of the reason they are buying work with images on them is because it is hard to buy for somebody else and if people see a cup with a bee on it and and they go, Oh! My sister is a bee keeper, she loves bees. It is like another level of connection.
My last question for you is: What is your favorite color to work with?
Right now I am really trying to get a good green. I love green. I am actually trying to get a good green glaze and I find it really tricky. Part of it is the baggage that you get with that gross chrome green and trying to mix it to get something different. I also in a place where there is a million different shades of green. They are so inspiring.so, ya I am trying to develop the perfect green glaze.
Matt Davis’ work marks society in the information age and is concerned with a post-contemporary aesthetic in the form of hyperreal vessels. The artifacts aim to challenge perceptions of the digital medium and further the dialogue of handmade versus machine in the creation of craft.
So where do you see your art taking you in the next five years?
I hope to push my own envelop. I want to make bigger things that will hopefully gain more recognition and hopefully I could sell for more money and hopefully make more of a living doing something that I enjoy.
Where do you see you taking your art in the next few years?
England is a very small place and it is very easy to get sucked into a bubble of there is this city and this city. But actually there is a very wide world out there, so I would love to come to America with my work and Europe and other places like that.
How does one go about getting their work noticed?
Push, push, push. Well, I’m not a pushy guy actually, mine is more like fingers crossed. I think I am supposed to email people. I have been quite lucky in the shows that I have done.
Do you then think that showing up is the key to opening the next door?
Because if you don’t do anything, if you don’t do enough, you are not going to go anywhere. I used to do a lot of Tai Chi and my teacher said, You can’t think yourself into right acting, you have to act yourself into right thinking. Obviously there has to have been the spark into the thought to get up and go. If you think, I am going to do this, I might go back to University, I don’t know. You are not going to actually go anywhere until you actually go and do the thing. So yes, you have to turn up, you have to make. There are down times in making that you need inspiration or you feel a bit stagnant but you have to show up or at least show up at the right time.
What do you think of this quote? Someday is not on the calendar.
There is only today, right? The only time that exists is now.
Do you like to work in a series?
I don’t think I naturally want to do that but it is very useful to work in series. And I think objects are often more powerful in a group.
Do you mean in a set or in a linear progression?
Either way.I think both of those would have interesting answers.
One of my tutors in university said, If you can’t make something good, makes lots of it or make it big.
Do restrictions help open up creativity?
Yes, obviously and no, obviously as well. I think if you are restricted so much that you can’t do something, I think that general restrictions and limitations make people want to break out and go crazy, wear loud clothing, or whatever these things are. I think some restrictions are kind of healthy because you are looking to work around them but if it is too restrictive then it probably stifles creativity as well.
When you think of your work, what kind of emotion are you trying to create in your viewers?
Confusion. People react very differently, I think younger people identify with it easily and older people tend to be fascinated by the geometry and the shadows. But most people end up looking confused anyway so I seem to take that as a good thing. What is that? How is it done? I wanted to make something that people haven’t seen before even thought the techniques have all existed I am trying to take it another step forward and making it a permanent record of this digital age, if you will.
Travis Winters is a ceramic artist and Programs Manager at Touchstone Center for Crafts. Working primarily with animals and figures, Travis creates figures based on mundane day-to-day life, past struggles, and real people. An MFA graduate from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Travis exhibits work nationally and has shown at Baltimore Clayworks in Baltimore, MD, The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, PA, The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA, The Baton Rouge Gallery in Baton Rouge, LA, and the AMOCA Museum in Pomona, CA. Travis was the Lormina Salter Fellowship Artist at Baltimore Clayworks, long term Resident at Odyssey Clayworks in Asheville, NC, a Kiln God Summer Resident at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in New Castle ME and a Short-Term Resident Artist at Red Lodge Clay Center in Red Lodge, MT.
Your work seems to have some kind of story connected to it. Do you have a story in your head when you make a piece?
It depends on the piece. So all my work I feel like is super personal. It is probably what is going on in my life at that point in time. Some times I will start a piece with that idea work through but a lot of times I will think, I want to make this animal based upon honestly if it’s wrinkly. I really like wrinkles and folds. So I will kind of jump into that and as I am working on it whatever is going on in my life jumps into the work. So it really just kind of depends on the piece.
How do you go about developing a piece? Do you start with pen and paper or do you start with ball of clay?
Ball of clay. I always say I am going to sketch more and I never do. I am not a big fan of drawing and painting. Somehow I got through the MFA program with only one drawing class. Drawing really stresses me out. I wish it didn’t. I do a lot of research of imagery on the computer especially for the animals. You cannot find a 360 degree view of them in images so I have to find images for each viewpoint and piece them together in a weird monster mash up and put that altogether into kind of the figure and going from there. The base is a huge part of my work so I try to develop what will go with the piece and what kind of idea I am trying to get by.
How do you start a piece and have a direction and for the idea to change in the middle of it but not to change the piece itself? Does that make sense?
Somewhat. Generally I will just kind of work with an idea. I will kind of run with an idea that I get through working. I mean, for me my ideas come to me while I am working rather than sitting around and thinking about what I am going to make. That works for some people. I am more like jump in and get moving and kind of let it happen. The more I make the more ideas I get. As I am finishing a piece I am kind of thinking about what the next piece is going to be.
You talked about working towards goals or deadlines. Do you a time limit for your work schedule or do you set a piece schedule?
It is kind of more about when I have to have the piece done rather than how much I need to get done at a time. For example there is a show coming up that I would like to have a new piece for and I am setting that deadline. The show I am working on is a year away so I am not stressing too hard about it because I still have a lot of time. I am still making somewhat of a plan where I am thinking, I want to have X amount of pieces done before Christmas. But I am not too strict about it either. It just really depends on what I am working towards.
You said it can take up to three months to make a piece. Do you have multiple pieces you are working on simultaneously?
Usually I will work on one bigger piece and then and then also working on a bunch of smaller stuff on the side. If I had more studio time I would probably tackle two big pieces at a time. But right now it is bouncing back and forth, sometimes I need the head space of working on something small that is not going to be so tied up . I mean you can only stare at one piece for so long before you really need to take a break from it and then you can come back to it.
How important is goal setting for an artist like yourself?
I think it is great to have goals. What else do you work for if you are not trying to do anything? So kind of having an idea of what you want to do keeps you motivated. I think being an artist and staying motivated can often be the hardest thing to do. So setting goals and pushing yourself to reach them is the way I know how to do it. When you work alone you can easily fall off the face of the earth unless you are really driven and for me to stay driven is to have those goals set.
What are your three favorite tools as an artist?
I feel like I only use two or three tools most of the time. I don’t know. Modeling tools. A little flat one with a little straight edge on it is the thng I probably use the most. I use a lot of brushes. And for surfaces my make up brushes are the best thing ever.
Do you ever feel like the medium you have chosen is not taken seriously because it is “just clay”.
I think it is beginning to be taken seriously. I mean it is coming to be more acceptable in the fine arts world which is a good thing. I personally like being part of the craft world. The fine art world is a whole separate entity of its own. We all take it seriously. I think clay is an amazing material to work with so if people want to say, It’s only clay, that’s fine. It is only clay we shouldn’t get too hung up on it. I mean it is such a great material to work with. The technical aspects of working with clay is astounding. You can work with it your entire life and still be learning things.
Delvin Goode has been doing pottery off and on for over 20 years. Delvin is currently pursuing a Master of Ceramics from Fort Hays State University, though he work in all types medium. Delvin is loving the process more and more each day.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a distance learner?
I would say the biggest challenge is you don’t have that peer interaction that you have in the studio. That bouncing your work off of somebody else and getting the instant did you try this, did you try that. So I don’t have that in the studio, so it always a joy when I go back to the University and get to experience that.
What is the biggest blessing about distance learning?
That you can do it. That there is a program that you can still pursue your masters degree without being at university and still be connected. Maybe not one on one at the university but I still feel very connected to the college and the program. I can be in contact with anybody I want to through phone calls., social media, emails, and that is how we keep in touch. I think just the fact that I can pursue this masters while in the military and moving every other year and still being able to keep going, that has been the best.
How do you compensate for not having the one on one contact with other students or the faculty?
We turn in papers periodically and she gives amazing feedback for your work. You submit pictures of your work and you critique your own work. If I have time I will send her a piece every now and again just so she can actually get her hands on what I am making and give me that feedback. Anybody is easily within reach in the program. We have a Facebook group and I can just put a message out and I will get pretty instant responses.
How does social media help to bridge that gap?
We are highly encouraged to post progress shots of all our work. You post your ideas before you even start to work. Ask for direct feedback. Get feedback. That is how that works pretty much. We have a little bit of that virtual classroom. You can see what everybody is working on and what everybody is doing.
How do you get your work actually critiqued?
Take good photos. Take really good photos of your work and don’t hide anything. I am very active on Instagram. About 70-80 percent of what you see on my Instagram is a class assignment. You just put yourself out there. I will either send some work or if I will bring my work during midterms or finals, you bring as much work as you can. That is what most of us do.
How does distance learning impact family time?
Not too bad. I kind of depends on you. I have been blessed to be a pretty quick worker when I do anything art wise. Sometimes it will be once the boys go to bed I will go to the studio late at night. I try to make family time with my wife as well. Weekends is usually where I will spend a lot of time in the studio but not too much, because that is also the perfect time to have family time. Yesterday we checked out the zoo and things like that instead of me staying in the studio all day. I think I have found a pretty awesome balance since we have been in Texas.
Would you recommend distance learning for other ceramic artists?
Yeah! Definitely. The preference would be to be at the university. I have actually looked at ways to get stationed back in Kansas to be close to the university. We’ll see if that works out next summer. But it is the next best thing. I would definitely recommend it.
What is the value of being in the military today?
Well you know, protecting and serving. That’s it. You do a lot of stuff the average person will never know. But it is an extremely impactful mission that we are doing out there all over the world. Protecting democracy and fighting for freedom, if you come in looking for glory then you are probably joining the wrong team. It’s a selfless service job and that is why you do it.