Some artists find their preferred medium right away…while some experiment for a while before finding a medium or technique that inspires them.
Ceramic artist, Lindsey Bricker of Fettle and Fire made an artistic journey that started with glassblowing and led to a busy retail and wholesale business in pottery and ceramics. With a vintage style that at times has a touch of whimsey, her ceramic works range from the lovely ring dish in this month’s giveaway to vintage inspired planters and clever jewelry holders. Despite a busy schedule of production and business expansion, I was lucky enough to snag some time with Lindsey Bricker to discuss her creative journey.
1. How did you get started with your art?
I’ve always been a little bit crafty, but things really picked up when I studied glassblowing in college. Being surrounded by so many talented artists doing really incredible and creative things was super-inspiring! I moved after graduation and didn’t have a glassblowing studio, so I moved into glass fusing and slumping in my home kiln, then eventually to pottery.
2. On your website you stated that one of the techniques you’re focusing on is vintage slip casting. Could you describe that process?
This isn’t the most exciting video ever, but it shows the technique pretty well!
Essentially, slipcasting involves pouring liquid clay (called slip) into plaster molds. The molds can be just one piece of plaster, or they might have many parts – mine are generally two and three part molds. While the slip rests in the plaster mold, the plaster is absorbing water from the slip, creating a “shell” around the edges that grows thicker and stiffer as time passes. When the shell is thick enough, I pour the slip (that’s still liquid) out of the mold, and the remaining form is left to harden. Eventually, I remove it from the mold and allow it to dry, then fire it in the kiln, then glaze each piece, then fire them one last time. Many of my pieces take multiple weeks from start to finish.
3. You currently serve both retail and wholesale customers. Are there any challenges to that approach?
My largest challenge is inventory management, mostly because I make everything myself! Last holiday season, I ended up turning away orders from stockists who had been ordering from me for years, and I felt awful about it. This year, I’m trying to build up an inventory reserve to last through the season.
4. You create in a number of different types of items, from ring dishes to planters to those adorable cactus jewelry holders. What would you say is your favorite thing to create?
I go through phases where I like making different things, so the answer to that question varies! I really love making ring dishes right now – I use hand-carved wooden stamps to create the patterns on them, so the design possibilities are truly infinite.
5. Tell us about a typical day in your studio.
I generally pack and ship orders first thing, then walk my dogs, then head to my studio. When I’m in “production mode”, I’ll work 8-14 hours a day for a handful of consecutive days. But then I’m able to take a couple days off when my kiln is firing (and then cooling) before I start the next production cycle. For the past few months, I’ve also been renovating a workspace in a building downtown – construction has been fairly slow, but I’m hoping to be fully set up for 2018! I think it’ll be good for my work/life balance to do some work outside the home, rather than all in my basement.
6. What most inspires your work?
I’ve always been inspired by textures, colors, and especially patterns. I work in a traditional craft, but I love to combine those elements in nontraditional ways.
7. What’s your favorite aspect of your creative process?
Many makers sketch their ideas, but I’ve never been great about that. Usually, ideas bounce around in my head for a really long time – sometimes, so long that I forget about them and then feel like they’re new ideas! I think my favorite moment is when I first transfer an idea into clay. Even though each piece will get better as I practice making more, there’s something really victorious about the firsts!
8. What do you love the most about your creative business?
I really love the flexibility and the autonomy. For a couple months each year (leading up to the holidays), I’ll make the same few items over and over, but during the slower months, there’s lots of time to explore!
9. Are there any difficulties that you have to overcome to make your business work?
The first couple years were full of failure and difficulty! I shipped a huge wholesale order that was made from defective clay, and my work cracked to pieces on their shelves. I did my product photography in the evenings after work (no natural light!) and would spend hours editing the pictures in Photoshop. Surprise, they still looked awful! I spent money to learn techniques that I never got good at, and made literally hundreds of items that never sold. And I exploded an electrical outlet using a sketchy kiln – it’s lucky my house didn’t catch fire!
The good news is that as you become more established, make more sales, and meet more people, the potential for success becomes greater. I still have plenty of difficulties, but it’s a bit more balanced these days.
10. Where do you see yourself going with your business and your art in the future?
By 2018, I’m hoping to work full-time in my new studio! We’ll also have a little retail storefront, and will host workshops and markets with other makers. I’m looking forward to collaborating with other makers and small business owners in the community!
Remember that September’s giveaway item is the “Bohemian Star Pattern Trinket Dish” by Fettle and Fire. Here’s how you can enter the drawing:
1. Join my email list by filling out the form below. Members of my email list are automatically entered into each month’s giveaway. You’ll also receive a free goodie as a thank you gift as soon as you sign up!
2. The drawing for this month’s winner will take place on September 29th at 6pm (EST), so keep an eye on your email inbox. The lucky winner will receive an email after 6pm (EST). Good luck!