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Pottery

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Malea Rhodes

August 15, 2016

Malea Rhodes | UncommonGoodsMalea Rhodes

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.

Malea Rhodes ceramics | UncommonGoods

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Maker Stories

Tony Holman’s Problem-Solving Pottery

June 9, 2016
Tony Holman | UncommonGoods

Tony Holman working in his Plano, TX studio, photos by NéQuana Rollings

 

“Being a full time artist is never easy, but it’s certainly worth the hard work (and gray hairs),” says Tony Holman, a potter who makes practicality and purpose look good.

Tony began honing his pottery skills almost 40 years ago at Indiana University, fine tuned them soon after at Bloomington Pottery, and now runs his own studio in Plano, Texas. It’s here where he creates his line of handcrafted helpers that play a vital part in the well-appointed kitchen.

Statues in the Holman's yard

Tony created these statues in grad school. They now stand in the Holmans’ garden

His kitchen creations—an all-in-one fondue warmer and platter setself-draining utensil caddy, and omelet maker that turns out fluffy eggs in 45 seconds flat, to name a few—are an irresistible blend of form and function.

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

 

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Laurel Begley

January 22, 2016

Personalized Faux Bois Vase | UncommonGoods

Laurel Begley in her vintage VW Beetle. All photos by Steve Terrebonne

With all of the natural inspiration to be found around Laurel Begley’s Sonoma County studio, you might be surprised to hear that she’s more inspired by personal history than she is by natural history. From the cookie jar she inherited from her Nana to the simple celebration of family dinners at the end of the day, her family life infuses her creative life with an air of authenticity. And as an independent maker, business owner, and mother, she maintains a pragmatic but laid-back outlook to help juggle it all.

While we weren’t able to visit Laurel’s Santa Rosa, CA studio in person, she opened her doors to us through a series of beautiful photos, giving us a snapshot of her routine and some insight into the inspiration behind designs like her Personalized Faux Bois Vase.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Heidi Fahrenbacher

January 11, 2016

Heidi Fahrenbacher | UncommonGoods

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 Heidi Fahrenbacher, the artist behind our new Four Seasons Hanging Planter.

Four Seasons Hanging Planter | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

Between my sophomore and junior year of college I apprenticed for a full-time potter. He made pottery all day, listened to NPR, and sold his work throughout the country, and I told him that is what I wanted to do with my life.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?

The most exciting thing is when I stop and think that people pay me for my drawings on my pottery! I’ve been drawing since a child and to think my drawings on a piece of my pottery resonate with someone so much that they will pay for it is amazing. It’s crazy. It motivates me to do my best work.

Heidi Fahrenbacher at her kiln | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

My studio is 4 miles from my house, at my parents’ house. They had an old chicken coop they weren’t using, so my partner and I finished it, and added heat and electricity. My parents are in their late 70’s, so I usually have a cup of coffee with them around 9. Then I head out to the coop. I have different schedules for each day depending where I am in the making process. One day I could be casting, the next finishing, firing the kiln, or glazing. I try not to waste time, so if I am waiting for pots to dry I am working on something else. I usually work until 5-ish unless I have a project that needs to be completed, but even then the latest I work is 7.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

My late sister-in-law made me an apron when I started taking pottery classes in high school. The fabric has a universe pattern with iron-on moons and stars. She used to sew goose clothes (remember those?) and sell them at craft fairs. She was a talented seamstress. She died unexpectedly when I was a senior in college and never saw me become a professional artist. I wore the apron so long it is threadbare, but I keep it to remind me of her and her encouragement.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?

They would giggle with delight! They would say they like all the little houses.

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?

I have a greeting card that hangs in my studio that says: “Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.” —H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Kristen Juen

November 30, 2015

Kristen Juen | UncommonGoods

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 Kristen Juen, the artist behind our new Mauna Planter and Dish and Valley Hanging Planter.

Mauna Planter and Dish | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artisan?

I have always had a passion for creativity. When I moved to Austin recently it felt like the right time and place to pursue a path as a maker.

What has been the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artisan?

Sharing my joy and inspiration for creating with others!

Kristen Juen | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

I like to stay busy in the studio. I typically continue on a previous day’s work, while also starting something new so I always have something going. You will find me rolling out slabs, assembling new work, trimming, smoothing, and glazing. I also currently work out of a shared studio, so I learn a lot and gain inspiration from being around other creatives.

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 do not have a specific trinket, but I gain so much inspiration from the outdoors. Getting out of the studio occasionally to take in the beauty, peace, and surprises that can be discovered in nature, is so important to the development of my creativity and ceramic wares.

Kristen Juen | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?

A kindergartner recently looked up at me during an art show in amazement and said, “Did you make all this?”

Valley Hanging Planter | UncommonGoods

What quote or mantrakeeps you motivated?

It can be scary to push myself to try new creative ideas that might completely fail. However, I recognize that my most exciting creations often evolve from these experiments. I am inspired and motivated to keep going by the Joseph Chilton Pearce quote, “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

See the Collection | UncommonGoods

Maker Stories

Going with the Flow: Brian Kunkelman’s Handmade Pottery

October 14, 2015

Brian Kunkelman's Studio | UncommonGoods

Brian’s home and studio near Lancaster, PA, Photos by Emily Dryden

Brian Kunkelman is a potter who seems to go with the flow, a metaphor that runs through his studio and craft—from the water that flows through the cultivated pond outside his studio window, to the variety of music that flows through his speakers (equidistant from his potter’s wheel), and the meditative motion of working with stoneware clay to throw his Soup and Crackers and Berry Buddy bowls. “There’s a fine line between a rut and a groove,” Brian likes to say, paraphrasing singer-songwriter Christine Lavin and underscoring the delicate balance required to hand-throw his designs with the right mix of consistency and hand-crafted variation that makes each piece one-of-a-kind.

Brian Kunkelman & Mungho | UncommonGoods

 Brian with his faithful friend, Mungho

Brian starts with stoneware clay and wedges the required amount with his pugmill to remove air bubbles, then cuts it into cylindrical chunks that are the right amount for either soup or berry bowls. Each prepared chunk goes on a bat—not a flying mammal or baseball equipment, but a wood disc that locks onto the potter’s wheel so the thrown pot can be removed easily once complete.

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Prepared portions of clay

Brian’s wheel turns through a hybrid of foot and electrical power. An electrical motor sets it in motion, but its heavy flywheel provides the majority of spin through centrifugal force. “The action is really smooth with the flywheel,” Brian comments as he deftly coaxes the desired forms from the clay, slip splattering the wheel’s alcove in an ever-changing, Pollock-like clay painting. He uses little more than his hands through the whole throwing process, gauging the height and diameter of the emerging forms with the span of his fingers and length of his thumbs. The beauty of such human scale applied directly to these vessels instills an unmistakable handmade appeal that runs deep.

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As one of his most essential tools, Brian’s wheel has had quite a workout. At one point, he had to replace an inner rubber wheel that had worn out. “We’ve never sold that part before,” said the perplexed manufacturer. Brian seems proud to have put the device through its paces, a reminder of the years and rigorous work they’ve been through together. And when it’s time to stop, the wheel’s braking mechanism is pretty simple: Brian’s shoe. “My right shoe always wears out faster than my left,” he quips.

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Both Berry Buddy and Soup and Crackers bowls start their lives as similar double-bowl forms, like large cups with attached saucers. But in the next steps, they take on their distinct shapes and functions. Using handy turntables, Brian quickly cuts away 180 degrees of the lower saucer and attaches the cut walls to the main form to create the Soup and Cracker bowls. The excess clay will go back in the pugmill; “that’ll be a pot in another day,” Brian says, summarizing the recycling process inherent to his craft. For the Berry Buddy, he keeps the lower saucer intact, but pulls a spout on one side, and adds a series of colander-like drainage holes to the main bowl. Then, for both designs, strips of striated clay extruded from the pugmill are added in graceful curves to become handles.

BrianKunkleman_studiotour15

Building the form of a Soup & Crackers bowl

At this point, the vessels are called “greenware,” and go to hang out on ware trucks for a few days to dry. Bisque firing adds additional stability to the forms, which are then dipped in a series of contrasting glazes that will play diagonally across the finished bowls in warm zones of blue, green, and cream. Brian adds a final, decorative stripe of glaze to the bowls with a gestural flourish evocative of Japanese brush painting.

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Adding a decorative accent

They’re ready to be loaded into his kiln, a hand-built brick and steel structure that he calls his “controlled volcano.” The propane-fired inferno slowly heats up to 2400 degrees, vitrifying the glazes to their final colors and finishes that will seal and protect the pottery for years of use. Although Brian is constantly “tuning” the kiln—refining it with baffles to improve its performance—he embraces the inevitable variations in every load, another dimension of the process that makes each piece a unique variation on the theme of his designs.

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Berry Buddies on kiln shelves

Trial and error is an organic part of Brian’s work, and he emphasizes the patient perseverance required to “dial in” and find your groove (avoiding the ruts): “…you get in the zone. It’s like one long thought…you’re thinking but you’re not thinking. Sometimes when it’s late at night and you don’t want to do it, five to ten pots into it, you’re like ‘this is exactly what I should be doing now.’ Once you get started it starts to become really comfortable.” And in that zone, he celebrates the unique nature of every piece he throws: “Each pot is still its own pot, requiring the same care and attention, whether you’re making one of them or a hundred of them…and I try to be conscious that this pot’s going to be part of someone’s life…”

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Finished Berry Buddies

Brian Kunkelman's Stoneware Designs | UncommonGoods

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.

PicMonkey Collage

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.

Pouring into mold 01

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.

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