How it started in 2015
My family took trips to the Blue Ridge mountains in Georgia every year since around 2007. In 2015, my mother-in-law, Marietta and I were out driving one of the towns looking for antique shops and came across a new place that said "Pottery" and decided to go in for a look. We were both set into a tradition of buying a handmade pottery mug each year from Georgia, so we were excited to find something new. As we walked in, we realized that this shop was not only a place to buy pottery, but you could make pottery as well.
I had taken a week long pottery class as a kid, around 9 or 10 years old, so the pottery classes interested me quite a bit.
I asked lots of questions about the classes offered and soon the owner asked if I would like to take a one-on-one class right then since we were leaving back to Florida in a couple of days. My mother-in-law and children (Ethan, 5 at the time and Logan, 3 at the time) were with me and at first I didn't want to impose, but Marietta gladly watched them while I took a throwing class.
The first picture is of me throwing a cylinder. I can't remember now how many pieces I threw that day, but I will always remember how much fun I had.
I loved it so much and told my husband, Pete, all about it when we returned from shopping. As a surprise, he bought me a wheel for my birthday that fall!
In Florida, there are no basements or decent places to store any extra "stuff", so usually the garage becomes your storage place. We re-arranged as much "stuff" as we could to carve out a little area for my new wheel, a chair and a table.
Throwing on the wheel was a lot of fun, but not without its challenges. Being new to throwing, I sometimes found that I couldn't even center the clay and wasted a lot of it. If I could get a little cylinder made and off the wheel, I was thrilled! I kept every piece that even somewhat resembled a shape.
Soon, I had a few pieces I could glaze, which meant finding the right glazes. Now, I was a complete newbie and only knew that the clay I was using had a firing temperature range. Knowing only this, I searched online for any answers I could find and was able to purchase some Amaco glazes that matched the mid-range clay body I was using (cone5/6).
I also needed to find a way to fire these pieces, so I looked into getting a kiln. I had a really small budget, and I ended up buying a "scratch & dent" kiln from Clay King. It was a very small kiln, but had a typical 3-prong outlet to plug into an existing outlet we had in our garage. It could reach cone 6 and I could fit 2 pieces in at a time!
I enjoyed my hobby for several more months, learning a lot about pottery, firing, clay, glazes and more. I kept the pieces I made or gave them to family.
Sometime in early 2016, I told my husband that I felt confident enough to start selling my pieces, and so I opened my Etsy shop.
I sold a piece here and there, not a lot, but it made me happy. I was still working full-time as a Marketing Manager at a travel company and making pots on the weekends. Around Thanksgiving that year is when I started selling a lot more pots and my time in the studio turned from weekends only to every night after work for 5-8 hours and all weekend as well.
I grew out of my little 2 mug kiln pretty quickly, so I bought a brand new Skutt KM-1027-3, and this kiln is massive, holding around 40 mugs at time! I ran my bisque firings, glaze firings and luster firings in this kiln for more than a year, until fall of 2017 (more on that later).
In fall of 2016, I was in my first ever outdoor show, Hunsader Farms' Pumpkin Festival. I almost sold out, I was so excited!
This year picked up for me a lot and I was continuing to spend more and more time in the studio. Glazing and glaze testing on my kitchen table became commonplace and I was taking over more places within the house to compensate for the small area of my garage.
A new first for me was making teapots, of which I made few. Maybe someday in the future I'll revisit teapots with a whole new frame of mind. I was having clay delivered by the pallet, rather than take so many trips to the the supply store to get what I needed.
In September 2017, I was one of the featured stories in SRQ Magazine about local Etsy sellers.
That same year, I added two more kilns to lighten the load on my 1027-3. I bought a used and refurbished kiln for a good price and the second one was so very kindly offered to me for free from one of my customers at the Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival!
Both kilns needed a lot of work, new elements, a new controller on one of them, new thermocouples, but the brick was in amazing shape. I now use one of them solely for bisque firings and the smallest kiln was used for cone 6 and luster firings until I had to retire it in 2019.
I joined the 2017 Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival again this year and lots more work was added to my 20x10 space. I was working so much in the garage, my children would often find a chair and sit with me to keep me company.
It was also in 2017 that I decided to make pottery full time. I took a big leap of faith, hoping that I could make a living doing what I love.
2018 was a year of honing my craft, learning more throwing techniques, pulling handles rather than extruding them, new designs and new glazes. I had to find a more efficient way of utilizing the space I had, both square foot, vertical and kiln space. The Dragon mug I had created in 2016 become fairly popular this year and to date is still one of my most popular mugs.
2019 was a year of change. I started exploring how to make my own glazes and started with a bunch of test batches. I made so many test pieces, but didn't start using any of the glazes I made on my production pieces until I knew more about glazes, glaze chemistry and what makes them safe for functional wares.
I started making my own hand built forms like these moon and star dishes.
In May, we moved from a large community in the Lakewood Ranch area out to the country! It was our dream to own a little more land than what our previous home had. We had room for our young children to grow and a little more space for my studio.
We bought a few chickens in June and added 25 more in September. We now get fresh eggs every day and offer some of them to friends and family.
One day in the summer, after starting up my littlest kiln, it started sending sparks from the controller and I shut it down immediately. I wasn't skilled enough to know how to fix it and I was down a kiln in the busiest time my little pottery business has ever had. I was struggling to keep up with the workload with only one glaze kiln and I apologized to my customers on a daily basis. Working 18-20 hours a day, 7 days a week just wasn't enough to handle the backlog. I hired a friend to help a couple of days week, but in the end, I just needed a new kiln. Finally in December, I was able to purchase a new Skutt 1231-PK to start filling the orders.
From the time the little kiln went out in the summer, it took me 8 months to catch up. All I knew at the time was that I had to persist and keep going. I made it through one of the toughest times in my pottery life. Thank goodness for my husband who found a way to get the kiln and for my big kiln, I don't know what I would do with out it!
This year was tough.... on everyone. I don't think I could ever say anything that would explain this year.
My husband and I made the hard decision to school our children from home. We knew they would miss their friends and miss the end of year farewell. They have continued to distance learn the remainder of 2020.
While my children were my focus to help them through schoolwork, pottery still had to keep going.
I was able to spend some time cleaning and organizing my studio spaces and I worked on filming new videos.
I did my best to cheer up my family with my baking.
2021 is still being written... and I'm hopeful for the future.