New Digs

Katie and I have been dreaming about making pottery a full-time career for years. This summer we decided to take the next step towards that goal, but the path wasn’t always clear.

In January 2019, we began searching for new properties outside of the Saint Cloud city limits that could support a pottery lifestyle (namely a heated/insulated studio, a garage, and land/space to eventually build a soda kiln). With a hot sellers market and potter’s budget, we discovered that we’d either need to significantly lower our standards of living or potentially put ourselves at serious financial risk. Needless to say, both options seemed daunting and not necessarily practical.

Throughout our property search, we also renewed our appreciation and love for our current home in Saint Cloud. Our home offered everything we were looking for except privacy, land, and a larger studio space. What if we made the beautiful home we have meet our current pottery needs?

This is what our studio space was. Adequate but tight. Now, this space will serve as the throwing/clay recycling room (high dust area).

This is what our studio space was. Adequate but tight. Now, this space will serve as the throwing/clay recycling room (high dust area).

Kiln room remains the same

Kiln room remains the same

Our pottery studio was located in the basement, which was partially finished and unfinished. The unfinished area (about 400 sq ft) served as the studio and the carpeted/finished area served as a guest bedroom and living room. The finished space was HUGE and not used effectively (about 1000 sq ft). The upstairs of our home is the main living area and meets all of our family needs. It became clear that we needed to convert the entire basement into our studio, more than doubling its size.

New studio/office space. The hump molds will go back to the throwing room. The table you see here will be used for decal/overglaze work.

New studio/office space. The hump molds will go back to the throwing room. The table you see here will be used for decal/overglaze work.

Other side of the new studio space. Workbench I built for hand-building and decoration. Bottom shelf not finished yet. Cost about $150. Eventually, 1/3 of the table will become a plaster bat.

Other side of the new studio space. Workbench I built for hand-building and decoration. Bottom shelf not finished yet. Cost about $150. Eventually, 1/3 of the table will become a plaster bat.

Part of the challenge for this project for me was not devaluing our home. The finished basement was a nice perk that future buyers would have appreciated. We found a solution! By removing the old carpet, sanding, and painting the concrete floor, we could effectively convert the space without making permanent changes. When the time comes that we sell our home, the basement can be cleaned and new carpet installed! The carpet removal was about $180; renting the floor sander ran about $100, and then paint was around $100. I then spent about $150 on hardware/lumber to build a new handbuilding/decoration workbench.

We also had a solution for losing the guest bedroom. We have two extra bedrooms upstairs; one functioning as Mya’s room, the other as my office. The basement space is so large that it provides additional studio space and an area for my office. Now the two bedrooms upstairs are functioning as that: bedrooms.

The space isn’t finished yet, but the basic concept is complete. Sometimes what you already have is good enough, it just takes patience and mindfulness to see what’s in front of you.

In Conclusion: Lemonade 2018

Last Thursday, June 21, 2018, I participated in my very first art festival—the Lemonade Concert and Art Fair in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.  It was a fascinating experience and I would like to share some thoughts about it.

Attending a festival is a lot of work, but worth the effort if you prepare correctly and manage expectations.  I arrived on campus to begin unloading my booth materials at 7AM.  Fortunately, my space was not far from the unloading area.  Even so, vendors were not permitted to drive on campus, which meant a cart was necessary.  I constructed one with a few 1 x 12 boards and large caster wheels.  A few days before the festival, I decided how I would pack my "buggy"—as it was called—so that I could fit everything on.  Simplicity was key and I elected to have an easy display.  All of my pots/business materials fit into four totes, which stacked on top very well.  My booth space was 10 x 10 feet, which is standard at most all festivals.  Beware: 10 x 10 is not a ton of space, but it works well for simple, small displays. 

All of my work was priced before the festival, which made packing, unloading, and displaying very quick and easy. I highly recommend doing this!

All of my work was priced before the festival, which made packing, unloading, and displaying very quick and easy. I highly recommend doing this!

I was quite proud with how prepared I was for this festival.  All of my pieces were priced beforehand and I knew how I wanted to display my work.  I think that prepping as much as you can before the event is key to survival because the event day is exhausting.  You'll have a much better time if you've got the small stuff done.

Here's a look at my setup.  I used a combination of saw horses, 1 x 12 boards, and bricks for my display.  The table in the back is a fold-up plastic one with a table cloth.  If you look closely you can see my buggy underneath!

Here's a look at my setup.  I used a combination of saw horses, 1 x 12 boards, and bricks for my display.  The table in the back is a fold-up plastic one with a table cloth.  If you look closely you can see my buggy underneath!

Setup was easy and quick, which gave me time to meet my neighbor vendors.  I was struck by the sense of community and how welcoming everyone was.  They were all very encouraging and supportive for a first-timer, offering me advice and tips they've learned over the years.

My lovely wife, Katie, was tasked with setting up the pottery display—a task she is VERY...VERY particular about.  Needless to say, it looked amazing ;-)

My lovely wife, Katie, was tasked with setting up the pottery display—a task she is VERY...VERY particular about.  Needless to say, it looked amazing ;-)

Another important element to consider are your expectations.  Fortunately, I was told by other potters not to expect great sales at the Lemonade.  I tried to focus my energy on marketing, exposure, and meeting new people.  In that regard, the festival was a complete success.  I had many people drop by my booth and offer glowing compliments on my work—it was quite motivating and encouraging. 

Darla (one of our orchids) was a lovely addition to the display

Darla (one of our orchids) was a lovely addition to the display

Sales were indeed poor.  I think most people who attend this festival are looking for lower cost craft items and most—if not all—vendors appeared to be hobbyists rather than serious artists.  As I mentioned before, this was something I was told to anticipate, which made that reality easier to bear.  This also made the sales I did make all the more exciting.  My sales paid for my booth fee plus a little profit. 

I also found the social dynamics between vendor and audience to be intriguing as well.  There seems to be a game played between them that I'm not at all interested in.  Many vendors are hard sellers, which often results in awkward interactions when buyers aren't interested.  I could tell that some people were hesitant to look at my work or even enter the booth for fear that that would obligate or pressure them to buy.  I hate this.  I want people to feel comfortable and only buy my work if they really want/appreciate it.  Perhaps this makes me a terrible salesperson, but it's how I would want to be treated if I were a potential buyer.  I made a point to give my visitors an easy "out" so-to-speak.  During the typical "small talk", you can start to tell when someone wants to leave, which can be awkward for them if they don't wish to purchase anything.  I picked up on these ques and would find a way to end the conversation quickly so they could be on their way.  I also made a point to tell people how much I appreciated them looking at my work.  I would offer them a business card and allow them to continue without any pressure.  Perhaps if I become desperate enough I'll evolve into a snake-oil salesman one day. 

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All told, the festival was a great experience and a chance to get my name out there for the first time.  My next show will be at the Buffalo Art Fair in Buffalo, Minnesota, on August 18, 2018, followed by the Carlos Creek Grape Stomp in September!  Check my "Events" page for more details and stay tuned!

Katie's First Blog Post

For the first time in my life, I can truly say I enjoy writing.  With this newfound love of writing, I've decided to use this platform to explore and try to make sense of what's been on my mind.  I intend to share ideas about ceramics as well as other topics.  I'm going to jump in and start by sharing a concept I am interested in:

I experience strong tension between wanting to be seen and wanting to hide. Subconsciously, this tension has always been an important part of my work. Only recently have I realized this and decided to consciously explore it through my artwork.  Hiding behind perfectionism and self-neglect is so ingrained in me, I don't even recognize when I'm doing it most of the time.  I want to uncover what’s underneath my subconscious blocks and cultivate it.  It’s a process of unfolding.  My pottery can help me with this process. It can provide a visual reflection of this process. It can provide a visual reflection of the beauty hidden underneath.

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A New Chapter

In 2018, Andrew will be focusing on pottery full-time, hence our new branding direction Webster Pottery!  We're both nervous and excited for this new direction—the future looks bright.  This summer, we'll be showcasing/selling our pots at several festivals in Minnesota, details of which can be found on our "Events" page. 

One of the first things that Andrew did after turning to pottery full-time was contact some of our many talented and experienced friends in the business.  Each of them offered outstanding advice that we think many of you might find useful. 

Melissa Gohman is going to have an exciting 2018 as well, and she told Andrew all about the many resources for emerging artists in Minnesota.  Specifically, http://www.springboardforthearts.com is a fantastic resource, offering users a job board and classes that focus on the business side of being an artist, i.e. how to file taxes, how to organize profits, contracts, gallery representation, and much more.  Many of the classes are hosted in the Twin Cities and are extremely affordable. 

Sartell, MN potter Peder Hegland was also invaluable in offering his knowledge—built over many years of being a successful potter.  Peder gifted Andrew two amazing books by the seminal Marguerite Wildenhain.  Her 1959 book Pottery: Form and Expression is quite an amazing and informative read.  The text is a strong, philosophical deconstruction of the pottery profession, diving into fundamental basics of how to conceive form, knowing your materials, and developing a unique artistic voice.  Andrew suggested, "the book was, at times, a difficult read, but only because Marguerite packs so much into her words.  Each sentence is a carefully constructed idea built on her lifetime of experience from Bauhaus Germany, to 'the farm' in California." 

Marguetite Wildenhain working in her California studio

Marguetite Wildenhain working in her California studio