Long-awaited Studio Tour

Remember when I promised you a studio tour approximately one thousand years ago? Well, I thought I’d finally make good! Here’s where I spend my days:

BDA_studio_officeDesk: Obviously a lot of my time is spent here: designing new letterpress imagery, working on freelance design projects, managing social media and of course blogging! I try to keep my desk fairly neat, but let’s be honest, there is usually a bit more clutter!

BDA_studio_deskdetailsEven though I have significantly fewer appointments these days, I still love my planner. I finally discovered the most perfectly designed planner four or five years ago and have ordered the same style online every year since! For lists that need to last more than a week, I prefer a small notepad—the one pictured here is a very fancy letterpress version given to me by a former intern.

The coffee mug was thrown by yours truly in college. I love drinking from a handmade mug, I always taper my mugs at the bottom so they’re perfect to wrap hands around. And I make them extra large so I only need a few refills each morning.

On the right are Bermuda stamps so I’m ready to send a card any time. I love the stamps here—they’re absolutely gorgeous.

BDA_studio_press BDA_studio_press2Now for the lady of the house: I’ve got Bess set up on a rug with a piece of plywood underneath to protect our light-colored tile floors and my feet. With my type cabinet on my left and a clean table to my right for finished product, I’m set up for maximum productivity!

BDA_studio_inkI keep my ink on my type cabinet, as that’s sort of the “dirty zone.” You can ruin an entire run with one inky finger leaving marks on your work, so it’s important to sequester ink and non-clean items in one area and wash your hands A LOT. When I was in my parent’s house that meant going upstairs every time I needed to wash up, so I feel downright spoiled that our kitchen is just 10 feet away.

Anyway, I mix my ink with a putty knife on a thick piece of glass; standard printmaking procedure. I currently use oil-based inks by Gamblin and Graphic Chemical and save my mixed colors in folded-up freezer paper (another product of my printmaking roots). And yes, I always label colors really specifically: robin’s egg, light orchid, plum, often with notes about consistency as well.

BDA_studio_typecase BDA_studio_toolsThe top of my type cabinet is quite warped (imagine that after a century or so), so I lock up my type on the dresser I use for storage (it belongs to our landlords, so I protect it with a plastic cutting board that just happens to match my yellow rug). I didn’t bring all my furniture (which is the wood blocks used to keep the printing plate or type tight in the frame), so I just keep it in a ceramic bowl I threw in college.

Other necessary printing tools: a ruler, screwdriver, masking tape and pencil hang out on the small side table of my press.

BDA_studio_finishingOver on the clean side of things: a small table to lay out freshly printed work, and my cutting mat for trimming and folding. I use a rotary cutter, thanks to my mom who is a quilter. I find that it doesn’t leave the dragging edge of an exacto knife and it’s much easier on your hands!

BDA_studio_dresserThe newest addition to the studio is this dresser, pilfered from the upstairs guest bedroom with Andrew’s help. I was trying to get by with just a few small drawers of storage and it just wasn’t working out. The room is much cleaner and more organized with it!

Above it, I decided to create a sort of inspiration wall. The alphabet was printed by Sugar Cube Press and purchased at Anthology in Madison before I moved. I’ve added other prints I’ve made, photographs, art pieces from my Australian penpal and others, and my own letterpress circle garland.


Interview: charm LA

Academia sometimes gets a bad rap from artsy types—after all, how can you teach creativity? However, sometimes a university environment is the perfect mix of a safe place for experimentation and just the right amount of challenge. Such was the case for Sarah Sherman of charm LA. Here’s the story of how she came up with her brilliant Sumba mixing bowls (which appeared in one of my gift guides last month), started her etsy shop and graduated—in her own words.

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
Sumba was created for my senior thesis project at Otis College of Art and Design. I graduated last May. As someone that cooks frequently, I noticed that there was a disconnect between how kitchen tools are designed and how they are actually used. This came to my attention one day when I was cooking with my Aunt Sarah who has arthritis in her hands; she spilled the batter to a cake everywhere because it was hard for her to hold. I designed Sumba so it would do three essential tasks at once. Make it easier to pour, it incorporates a tilt to make it easer to mix, and has a lip to make it easier hold.

How did you learn your craft? Tell us about your process.
I learned about ceramics while at art school, so I have only been working in clay for about 3 years. Believe it or not, I had never touched clay in my live till my sophomore year in Product Design. I soon fell in love with the medium and took 3 semesters of ceramic classes with my teacher and my mentor, Joan Takayama-Ogawa. During this time I also became the ceramics departments TA and kiln tech.

In the classes, I learned new ceramics production techniques as wells as hand building and throwing techniques. I designed Sumba in a 3D program called Rhino. Then it was prototyped using a 3D printer, form that I made the molds, slipped casted and fired all the work at my school.

Where do you work? What type of environment stimulates your creativity?
Currently I have been creating my ceramics in my kitchen. I am in the process of converting my basement in to a proper ceramics studio. I don’t have any specific environment that stimulates my creativity, but I like to have a clean working enjoyment. As a ritual I always clean a space before I work. Other wise its hard to focus when there is visual clutter everywhere.

How has your work evolved?
I think my greatest evolution I had in school was my concern for my audience. It is important that my work has integrity, durability and beauty. I would like to believe my work is more user friendly. It is important that my work has integrity, durability and beauty. I now create work for many, when used to paint in high school, I painted my work was only for a small audience and myself. I am now more interested in making things that have utility.

What is your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge since graduating has been losing my community. Although I still see my friends from school I miss the environment at Otis. There is something special about being surrounded by people that are all creative.

What inspires you?
Other people inspire me, anybody that is masterful at what they do, not just artist or designers, but people that have passion and dedication. They can be found anywhere, from that mom making all of Thanksgiving from scratch, to those surfers on the beach that always seem to have a smile on there face.

Tell us about your etsy business. How did you discover etsy.com? Any beginner mistakes?
I started my etsy two months ago. I heard about it threw word of mouth. I would say that my beginner mistake was not having a pay pal account set up. I had lost a few sales because of that.

Etsy is not my full time job but I would like to make it that way. I am currently a working as design junior for small design firm based in LA. We hope to have a show coming up late march next year at the Pacific Design Center.

White Earth Studio

I stumbled upon one of Nancy’s gorgeous forms in a treasury we were both featured in a couple weeks ago. Only after exploring her shop further did I realize that White Earth Studio was located in my home state—Wisconsin! I love the intricate nature and subtle coloring of her work. Here’s what she has to say for herself:

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I love the medium of clay, especially the smooth white porcelain clay body that I use. Since my childhood I have loved to create things. My first memory of clay is of making and decorating mud pies with lilac and dandelion blossoms. I seem to still be using mud and flowers as my inspiration.

How did you learn your craft?
I learned ceramics in undergraduate class at the University of Hawaii and North Dakota, workshops at Penland School of Craft, NC and Banff Centre of Fine Arts, Banff, Alberta and by doing an apprenticeship in Ceramics with a private full time potter in Washington D.C.

How has your work evolved?
My work has become much more detailed in the past five years. I have been teaching privately in the studio which has allowed me the luxury of working on these time intensive pieces. I think also that the work has evolved along with my practice of meditation. Working on the Thousand Petal Vases particularly feels like a meditation to me.

What is your greatest challenge?
Marketing! No doubt about it. I’m not techy enough to get things done quickly or without a lot of error and re-doing! I’m also on the shy side and have a bit of trouble with the ego part of marketing.

What inspires you?
All the amazing forms I find in nature, it is endless inspiration…anything from a snowdrift, a pear, a tree fungus or a branch.

Tell us about your business.
I found out about etsy from fellow artists. I opened my etsy shop in May 2009. My full time job is maintaining a ceramic studio. Selling on etsy is an arm of my business, I also sell on Alere Modern, online gallery, and am involved with the developing Shibui Designs, Los Angeles, and their associate Fifth Floor Gallery in Los Angeles. Locally at Cornerstone gallery, Baraboo, WI.

What advice do you have for new etsians?
I would advise new etsians to spend alot of time in the forums. This was really helpful for me in the beginning. Also, join a team to meet people, share questions and marketing ideas.

Porcelain lace

Are you all tired of hearing about me and my work? I do apologize, my blog has been a little 622-centric lately! In an effort to correct that, I present a new series of artisan interviews. I hope you’ll learn as much about their craft as you do about starting an etsy shop for yourself! I’ve gotten a lot of requests for advice for beginners lately, so I hope between my writing and recommendations from experienced etsians, you’ll learn everything you want to know!

First up, the lovely and talented Isabelle Abrahamson, a Boston ceramicist who somehow makes solid clay forms seem light as air.

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
My current body of work focuses on incorporating patterns of negative space into functional works of art.

Tell us about the business end of things.
I discovered Etsy by reading an article about Etsy in the New York Times Magazine. I had just started making selleable things and it seemed like the perfect venue for me. I opened my shop that day.

I still sell all of my work myself. In addition to my Etsy shop I also have a website www.isabelleabramson.com , which usually has a little more of a selection of new work than my Etsy shop. My things are so time consuming to produce that it’s never worked to split the profit of a sale with a store. I’m working with Viridis 3D to produce limited edition reproductions of my pieces. These might be available at stores someday but for right now I will sell them on my website and probably on Supermarket HQ (I’m pretty sure Etsy is not down with 3D printed pottery).

How has your work evolved?
I think that my work has gotten more elaborate as I’ve gotten more comfortable working with clay. You can do anything with clay. It’s just like clay :)

What is your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge has been to keep up stock. I don’t like making the same things over and over, and I tend to be sold out of popular items while I experiment in the studio with new things. I think it will be a huge creative relief to get over the hump of having to make any particular thing just to make money. When I’m focused on being creative my work is always better, though it may happen slower. This has been the draw of getting set up to do 3D printing. When I really nail a design I’ll be able to put in a couple thousand dollars to get it set up as a limited edition print, and it will stay available for a while without me having to try to recreate it over and over. I’ll be able to move on to the next thing and, overall, my collection of work will be much better.
What advice do you have for new etsians?
I would say to any new Etsy shop owner that having good pictures is incredibly important. Partly it draws customers to your item, but also it gives you the opportunity to sell the idea of your item to customers. I think a good picture can even make customers feel better about something after they bought it…. they get to remember falling in love with it. I try to take pictures that seem like they could be in your home. If you look at the earliest pieces that I sold they’re all taken in a photo tent and came out weird shades of pink. At some point I found a place in my house (my bureau in my bedroom) that has the perfect light in the afternoon and a couple spots near windows in the studio and the pictures became so much more inviting (in my humble opinion).

Yoga Goat

Silly name; great work. That just about sums up Yoga Goat pottery. Working out of her hard-earned shop in Vermont, Amanda throws beautiful pieces covered with her own unique illustrations. Drawn with a reverse-slip method in which she covers the entire piece in the color, then carves away the background, leaving the design in underglaze as well as a slight relief.

Grand Array give away winner announcement to come later today — stay tuned!