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Pottery

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Wyatt Little

August 17, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Wyatt Little, the artist behind the Terracotta Shoe Planter.

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
For as long as I can remember, I would draw non-stop as a kid and when I was 7. I started sculpting sand stone and making unfired clay pots. I would get a lot of support and positive feedback so I just kept doing it and now its just totally stuck. I feel weird if I’m not always creating something.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
That moment when you see your creation in its physical form for the first time, after thinking it through and planning every little step.

Mixing Clay

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I try to knock out quick emails in the morning then jump into production of whatever piece I need that week. I will get lunch with a friend and make sure to have some time to think and maybe ideate on some new ideas or develop current ones a bit further.  Then for the rest of the day I am either developing new stuff or working on orders.

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Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? 
I have a Buddha that presides over my studio space. He just reminds me to stay chill and pay attention to the things that matter.

Soaking Terracotta_post firing

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I think they would have a lot of questions like …”why would you make a shoe out of clay?” “Can I wear it?” Then after I tell them its a planter my hope is that they would want to immediately get some clay and start making something of their own.

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What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Happiness is knowing the right things to want more of.”

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What are your most essential tools?
My my scale and my kiln. Those two tools are pillars of my entire creative process. The scale allows me to make precise mixtures of anything. In ceramics, consistency is key. You are always mixing things; be it clay, glazes or plaster, if your consistency is off its really hard to scale up and deliver on big orders. The kiln is just like a magic machine. When I first learned how to use and program it, I became addicted. Every morning you open the kiln its like Christmas morning. You get to see all of the little things you made in their full glory.

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Shandi & Casey McConnell

July 27, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Shandi and Casey McConnell, designers of the Envelope Wall Vase.

Somewhere between throwing pottery and hanging out with their two small children, Shandi found some time to tell us a bit about their business and designs.

PicMonkey Collage
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
As far back as I can remember I’ve always had a love for drawing, painting and making. My mom loved art and encouraged my creativity from early on. As a little girl I remember entering coloring contests from the paper and winning a gallon of ice cream from the local Hinky Dinky grocery store. During middle school I took woodworking classes which opened my eyes to the world of making objects in 3D. Surprisingly it wasn’t until college that I even touched clay.

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What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
I can still remember the feeling of selling my work for the very first time at a local art show. I couldn’t believe that people were actually giving me money for my work, by the end of the show I had done pretty well and knew this was what I am meant to do. Being able to make a living doing what we love is extremely rewarding in so many ways. I love the freedom that comes with making what I want, working when I want, and being able to take time for life as it happens and not living with a schedule.

PicMonkey Collage

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What does your typical day in the studio look like?

Oh boy, or should I say boys! With a 2 year old and 8 month old there is no typical day!

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It’s a mad house scramble in the morning with one of us just trying to get into the studio. Once one of us makes it out there the days work is prepped by slab roller, extruding or making lists to glaze or throw. We then pack any orders that need shipped for the day then head back out to work on clay. Casey and I take turns between hanging out with the boys and working in the studio all day long. I probably change my clothes 10 times a day. We’ve become more focused with our work; there is a lot less design/play time right now but studio time is still a happy and peaceful place. I tell myself this craziness is temporary!

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Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near?
I do have quite the collection of Buddha figures. They remind me of our travels and the genuine full of life people we’ve met around the world. Having them around brings me to a good place.

PicMonkey Collage

What quote or mantra keeps your motivated?
I have a lot of them but here are some of my favorites:
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag
“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“You’ve got to be true to yourself.” And a poster that hangs in my studio: “Every day you inspire people you have never met.”

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What are your most essential tools?
For myself it’s the slab roller and my handmade stamps. Casey has a fettling knife that he HAS to use; the studio gets torn apart if it’s misplaced. It now has an easier to spot red painted handle after it was lost for a few days.

Maker Stories, The Uncommon Life

This Just In-spiration: Meet Bubba Jones

July 6, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Bubba Jones, designer of our Tankard Stein.

Bubba Jones | Tankard Stein | UncommonGoods

Bubba Jones is a bit like the Lone Ranger on a mission to bring pots to the people.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Ever since I was little I made things with my hands.  Whatever was around I built with and made into things that fed my imagination.  I have been to art school and been an artist; now I want to be a potter.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Cash flow is the most exciting thing about being a pro, a lot like a roller coaster ride, very exciting.

Tankard Stein | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
You do what the pots tell you to do.  If the cups are dry enough for handles, do that, if not sit down at the wheel and make more.  On a good day you can make pots in the morning and finish them in the evening.

Bubba Jones |  Tankard Stein | UncommonGoods

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
There is my kiln god, I call Maui, who has watched over every one of my electric kiln firings since 1994.  Firing is a complicated process with so many overlapping subtle variables that it really does appear to work by a combination of careful attention, practice and magic, no matter how long you have been doing it or how much you pay attention to the science behind what is happening.  As a result, traditional potteries from many different cultures use talismans and kiln gods to watch over their firings.

Bubba Jones | UncommonGoods

Maui the kiln God

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
Can I put chocolate milk in here?

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Making pottery is a process of training the intuition.

What are your most essential tools?
My potters wheel, my kiln and my hands.

 

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Liz Rodriguez

June 22, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Liz Rodriguez, the maker behind our new handmade floral kitchen trio.

Liz Rodriguez | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Since I can remember.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Being immersed in a world of creativity where just about anything is possible.  Not many professional artists have the word “can’t” in their vocabulary.  We all figure out how to make things happen whether it be within the work itself or building a death-defying display system.

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I usually arrive at 8 am, turn on the teakettle, clean the studio and finish projects from the night before, take Nacho (my sweet and adorable Pit Bull mix) out for a good walk or play date, come back and take a look at the to-do list which could range from making work, packing and shipping to a gallery or customer, mixing glazes, administrative duties or tending to customer needs. I’m usually loading Nacho back in the car for our commute home between 6:30 and 7 pm, sometimes later depending on the deadline.

Liz Rodriguez | UncommonGoods

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I’m not terribly religious, but my dearest  friend Cathy (a mixed media assemblage artist) colorfully painted this small BVM bust for me shortly after my mom died last year and I keep it by my pottery wheel. It brings me a little comfort when I get too caught up in sad thoughts.  Cathy is a colorful and very funny person herself, so it also makes me think of her which inevitably leads to a smile.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
I meet young children at shows and have many kids in that age group in my family.  They are always first drawn to the bright colors, then they remark on the roses and how much they like them, and finally there’s an atypical silence that washes over as they feel all the textures.  I love watching kids experience the work, which frightens a lot of parents because of the fragility of pottery, but I welcome and encourage it. It makes me so happy.

Liz Rodriguez | UncommonGoods

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Sometimes the only available transportation is a leap of faith.” – Margaret Shepard

Liz Rodriguez | UncommonGoods

 

Liz Rodriguez | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Maggy Ames

October 10, 2014

Maggy Ames | UncommonGoods

One morning a few weeks ago I woke up extra enthusiastic. I couldn’t wait to get to work. That’s because my work day started with a trip into Manhattan to meet an artist whose work I’d loved since the moment I saw it on our tabletop buyers’ sample shelf. I was going to meet Maggy Ames, the maker of the some of the most beautiful stoneware bowls I’d ever seen.

When I got to Maggy’s space, one of the last working corroborative pottery studios in Manhattan, I was happy to see that she was as enthusiastic about the start of the work day as I was. She was ready to start throwing pottery, but she didn’t mind taking a moment to show me and UncommonGoods Photographer Emily around first. We snuck a peek at the kiln room just in time to see a fresh batch of bowls come out, watched Maggy’s team weigh and prepare clay, caught a glimpse at the secret formulas for a few glaze colors, and admired how the clay dust that seemed to touch everything in the studio made the place even more magical.

After our introductions and a little exploring, we watched as Maggy transformed a large, lumpy ball of clay into an exquisitely curved bowl–something she does about 15 times on an average day. Watching the process was certainly inspiring. Talking with Maggy, who’s been making pottery for 30 years and retired from law to became a full-time artist 5 years ago, gave me a much welcome creativity boost too. Whether you’re looking for little motivation to get making, some inspiring words of wisdom, or just some beautiful photos of art in the works, I hope you’ll love meeting Maggy and seeing her studio as well.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with JoAnn Stratakos

July 14, 2014

Inside the Artist's Studio with JoAnn Stratakos | UncommonGoods
At UncommonGoods, we’re always excited when we launch a product that in time reveals itself to be a complete game-changer; an overwhelmingly popular product that sheds new light on what makes something a runaway sensation. But every once in a blue moon, we meet a new product that we know will win hearts as soon as it is placed in This Just In. Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn was the latter. From his goofy blue eyes to his chubby little feet, we were smitten and didn’t have any questions as to whether everyone else would share our love for him.

So we decided to take a trip to Pennsylvania to meet Elwood’s creator. By “we” I mean Senior Buyer Candace, Purchasing Planner Maham, and myself, and by “trip” I mean a car ride outside of cell phone service to a place where the streets had no name. Literally, we had to call when we were close so the artist could give us directions that Google couldn’t help us with. We were warmly greeted by ceramicist JoAnn and her spirited team of Mudworks helpers who were eager to show us how our most beloved new product is born. It was easy to fall in love with people as it was to fall in love with their creations so we are excited to share our visit with you.

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Maker Stories

Donna Rollins’ Handmade Mugs with a Healing Touch

March 15, 2013

“I’ve had an attraction to collecting stones for what seems like eternity,” says Donna Rollins, the artist behind Healing Stone Mugs and Birth Stone Mugs. Her creative cups incorporate layers of minerals, non-toxic glazes, and, of course, the signature stones that make them truly uncommon.

Healing Touch Pottery, Photo by Stephanie Minion Photography

Donna started creating pottery about 5 years ago, but says that she’s always been attracted to the medium. The self-taught potter credits her youngest daughter with inspiring her to give clay a try. She purchased her first wheel and kiln so they could create pottery together. Now all three of her daughters work for the company she and her husband, Randall, run in New Hampshire–Healing Touch Pottery.

When she got the notion of marrying natural stones with handmade ceramics Donna knew she was ready to start her business. “The idea of placing the stone on the thumb rest of a mug came to me in a dear friend’s home. I was admiring her stone collection and thought, How can I incorporate the healing benefits of crystals and minerals with my love for pottery?

Donna and Randall Rollins, photo by Stephanie Minion Photography

Today Healing Touch Pottery has 9 staff members who create 700 to 1000 mugs each week. “Each artist has their own style and that style comes through in the creation, but collectively we create what becomes an individual’s new favorite mug,” says Donna.

Healing Touch Potter Liz Johnson

Healing Touch Staff: Mandi Ouellette, Samantha Mistich, and Liz Johnson

“Each of our signature mugs begin with a pound of clay in our hands,” Donna explains. “We shape the square clay into a ball, we then throw it into the center of a potter’s wheel, hence the term throwing pottery. From there, we pull, push and gently caress the clay forming the various shapes of the cylinder of a mug.”

But the potter’s wheel is just the beginning. “The potter’s assistant takes the cylinder off the potter’s wheel and places it on a board. Depending on the day of the week, there could be anywhere from 120 to 220 cylinders thrown that day,” says Donna.”After a day of sitting and drying to leather-hard, the cylinders are handled by our other talented artists. Once the mugs have dried enough to be wiped and signed, they are then placed in the kilns for their first firing to bisque. After the bisque firing, the mugs are transported to the glazing room where another group of artists dip each mug in our handcrafted glazes. From this point, the mugs are loaded into the glazing kilns for their final firing at 2200 degrees. Once the mugs are cool enough to unload they are transported to another room where the stones are attached and Reiki-charged.”

Reviewer submitted image by By SouthernMama from Sweet Home Alabama

While a great deal of time and work go into each mug, Donna and her team don’t mind putting in the hours, care, and attention to detail it takes to create each piece. “There is a common thought and goal for each of us who work here at Healing Touch Pottery and we believe that is why our pottery is enjoyed by so many,” she tells us. “Quartz is a conductor of energy and it is in our clay and glazes and most of the stones we use are quartz-based. We believe our energy permeates our products, so it’s crucial we be in positive space and thoughts so our wares are enjoyed not just for their beauty, but also for their energy.”

The alluring stones also provide comfort, giving the person who holds the mug a gently-raised place to rest their thumb, and since skin slides easily against the smooth surface of the rocks, these creations are the perfect “worry stones” to help your troubles melt away as you enjoy a calming cup of tea or morning coffee as you start a new day.

Maker Stories

Five Art Pieces That Will Fool You

December 23, 2011

Artist Melanie Mckenney creates earthenware bowls that bear a stunning resemblance to fruit and vegetables. Her bowls are designed to look like the ingredients in a fresh salsa with realistic colors and the textures and details on her newer Grapefruit and Canteloupe bowls will fool the eye into thinking they are the real thing.

The life-like outcome of her work is not a coincidence. “By translating nature’s designs into clay I am able to invoke a new appreciation for everyday objects. Fruits and vegetables have such a variety of shapes, colors, and textures. By casting directly from the actual fruit or vegetable, I am able to replicate these designs in each bowl.”

(Escaping Criticism by Pere Borrell del Caso. source Wikipedia)

For centuries artists have been attempting to fool the eye with life-like painting and sculptures. In ancient Greece contests were held between artists to see whose paintings were more realistic. One famous contest featured a painted curtain so convincing, a rival artist attempted to draw them back.
The Renaissance brought a better understanding of perspective drawing and a term for art that fools its viewers- trompe l’oeil, which means “deceives the eye” in French. Subjects walked out of paintings and houseflies rested on canvas art. On a larger scale, frescos were painted on the ceilings of buildings giving the illusion of staring up to the sky through a window: an art form named di sotto in su, translating into “from below, upwards” in Italian.

(Trompe L’oeil, genevieveromier)

More recently a modern and reversed version of di sotto in su has emerged in urban environments that are making passers-by look down. Artists are creating 3D images on the sidewalk in chalk and paint to deceive city dwellers into the thinking the ground beneath them has opened up.

(on the very edge of a 3D illusion, calliope_Muse)

Perhaps the most popular examples of trompe l’oeil in our society are wax figures of our favorite entertainers. Commissioned during the French Revolution to recreate the forms of famous leaders, Marie Tussaud’s death masks of the French royal family were paraded as flags after their executions. In 1802, she moved to London with her family where she opened a public exhibition space. Today, Madame Tussaud’s wax museums are huge tourist destinations in big cities internationally.

(Madame Tussaud’s figure at Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood, Loren Javier)

Throughout time artists have created such realistic works to display their understanding of forms and perspective or to trick their audience. Why does Melanie try to fool you? Melanie says that in creating life-like pottery, she “aims to promote local farming, healthy eating, as well as an appreciation for handmade functional housewares”.

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