Mayware Ceramics Interview
I started my ceramic arts journey in college. Once I got a taste for claywork, I apprenticed under Ojai potter Frank Massarella for several years. From there I have worked at various studios including both The Potter’s Studio and the Potter’s Guild in Berkeley, CA before life took me to Arizona in 2012. It was there that my partner and I launched Mayware Ceramics. We have since relocated back to my home town of Ojai where I run Mayware Ceramics from a home studio and work with roughly 48 accounts across the country.
What inspired you to become a ceramicist?
I felt an immediate connection working with clay. The process requires complete focus and concentration. It's very grounding for me. I guess you can say I was called to do this work the way any artist is called to a specific medium. There seems to be an endless amount of information and technique within the world of ceramics and with that inspiration can be nourished many ways.
Has your creative process changed over the years, if so, how?
Absolutely. As an artist, I am always finding inspiration all around and experimenting with new forms and glazes. That said, what sets me apart from a hobbyist potter is my ability to reproduce and replicate my line over and over. It may not be the most artistically exciting thing to do, but it's how I am able to support my family as an artist.
In the past, my work was all over the place and it was difficult to recognize any sort of uniformity. Within the past few years, the focus has been to create work that is consistent and recognizable to consumers. The goal to have a successful business has been set to support my family with this craft.
What inspires your designs?
My design process is heavily inspired by functionality. What's the most comfortable handle shape? What plate/bowl form is the most useful? Etc. The color platte I choose ranges from earth tones to vibrant hues inspired by the natural environment around us. I like to capture the blues and greens of the coastline (Pacific Coast Glaze) as well as the blues and purples of the sky just before nightfall (Twilight Glaze).
What is a typical day like for Mayware Ceramics?
I used to enjoy getting to work early. The quiet and solitude allowed me to focus much more than any other time and I would get into an easy flow. Now, with two small children, I have these pockets of time to make the work at sometimes random points of the day. This reality has made me have much more organization and intention when I sit at the wheel.
So, to sum it up, I work when I can and help with the kids and house responsibilities. Occasionally we get out and see friends or do something active. It won't always be this was but I believe we have adjusted to our family needs in a balanced way with work.
What were the challenges you were met with while starting your business?
At first, getting work out to people seemed like a challenge. My partner Carole is fantastic at this. I had a small kiln once we started Mayware Ceramics so when I did get orders it sometimes would take a little while to finish an order. It seemed like a constant problem just waiting for the kiln to cool down so I can load it up again. It was a good problem to have but it took a while to remedy that situation.
And the other challenge was the lack of consistent orders. Being the only one that creates every piece, I love the process of getting a bulk of work out from the block of clay to my finished product. If I didn't have a large order to work on, I found myself not knowing what to create. We eventually settled on a line of shapes and glazes that were consistent and recognizable as Mayware. This makes it easier for me and the consumer to pick and choose the pottery.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
I would say that early on I would sometimes let work dry out a little too much and be unable to finish the first stage of the process. In my mind I thought, I'll just make another one. But my mentor let me know 'that's not going to cut it.' This shifted my mindset to creating every piece as perfect as it can be and to take care of each piece throughout the entire process.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Create a consistent line of work that you enjoy making and are proud of. When going out to sell ones work with a product that he/she is proud of, that confidence reflects the quality of work and allows for a better connection with customers. And another thing: just keep working all day every day if you can.
What’s on the horizon for Mayware Ceramics?
I've been in the process of testing glaze colors and glaze surfaces. As well as new shapes and sellable items. A new kiln is on its way, and I feel the more I work, the quality just increase. It seems every year there is some sort of improvement in my work, and it makes me happy that this lifetime endeavor will always be changing in ways I may or may not predict.