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 Malea Rhodes, creator of our new Chartreuse Citrus Juicer and Falling Leaves Mug and Tea Infuser.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist/maker?
In high school I started a hand dyed clothing company that I ran out of my mother’s kitchen. I had two employees that came over after school and helped me create. I was amazed that people were paying for things I made with my own hands. My ideas were worth something!
When I finally went to college I just went for a general art degree. After trying everything from graphic design to weaving, I took my first ceramics class and was in love. When I participated in our department’s annual Mug Sale and all my mugs sold out the first day, I was hooked!
What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist/maker?
This is a complex question for me. There have been several mind blowing moments since I started on the path to being a full time maker. I had been making pots for years, doing little craft fairs but holding down a full time office manager position. I owned a community clay studio with around eight members and the studio members paid enough in rent to cover all the studio expenses. I could come in every day or once a month if I wanted.
Then I started getting more and more interest in my work. I applied to galleries and more shows. When I finally took the plunge to expand my studio and quit my day job, that was possibly the scariest and most exciting time of my life. I was finally out of the shared space and into my own private studio!
I attended my first wholesale show in September of 2015 and it went so well that I had to hire extra staff. The day I hired my first paid employee was possibly the most exciting day in my life as a maker to date! Now, my tiny community studio has tripled in size, with 24 members and five employees. I am constantly in awe of what a lot of hard work can achieve.
What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I am a true night owl. I spend most of my late afternoon to early evening hours answering questions, responding to emails, doing paperwork and organizing for my night of making. Some time around midnight I crank up some podcasts (right now listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and Criminal), and start on my to do lists. I finish anything I made the night before- carving, slip trailing, or doing inlay. I start a new body of pots and throw until around 4 a.m. Then I pace around for about an hour looking at what has been done and what needs doing before heading home.
Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
A while back I was in an artisan fair and the maker next to me made these amazing hand made dolls. I am way too old for a doll but I couldn’t resist! I adopted a whimsical doll that I named Coco Olivia. She is entirely handmade with embroidered eyes and hand knit scarf. She goes to all my shows as my mascot. She looks like a cross between a flapper and a hippie chick with her purple felt hair and psychedelic print dress and tights. She is amazing and brings me happiness which is always a good thing.
Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
Kids love clay! I can show them a tiny cup and they want to make one…right now! Clay is just amazing. It’s squishy and brown but you can make stuff from it and then paint it and make it bright and colorful. Giving a child a piece of clay is a magical thing. As adults we limit ourselves in our imaginations. At least I do. I have in mind I need to make a very functional cup. I make it. You give a child a piece of clay and tell them to make a cup and you get millions of interpretations. I sometimes wish I approached my practice with the mind of a child.
What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
When I was barely 20-ish I worked in women’s retail clothing as a manager. One of my district managers said something to me that has forever changed my life and pushed me to pursue my dreams and passions. “Do what you love and the money will come.” It sounds so easy and simple, but taking the plunge to quit my day job was huge. I have bad shows and bad days and new products and ideas that don’t always work. But at the end of the day, if I pour my heart and soul into something and it’s the best piece I could have made, someone will love it. The hardest part is believing in yourself.