Meet Sarah Christensen Ceramics

Sarah Christensen is a ceramic artist and the creative force behind Sarah Christensen Ceramics located in Denver, Colorado. She is known for her highly decorated wheel thrown functional work and ceramic wall pieces. 

Sarah Christensen Ceramics
Sarah Christensen Ceramics

Please introduce yourself:

I was always encouraged to be an artist, and I always wanted to be one.  While I dabbled in lots of mediums as a kid, I didn’t touch clay until high school. Only then, did I really think it could happen. I went to college to blow glass, but after many burns, found clay to be more conducive to how I translated my ideas with my hands. That was all it took, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Wheel Thrown Bowl
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Wheel Thrown Bowl

How many years have your been working with clay?

I’ve been working in clay 25 years.

Do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?

I have a bfa in ceramics from Alfred University, which gave me a great base of knowledge from which to work.  I think I am still processing all the info I absorbed there. Since graduation I have been more interested in finding my voice in my work, and have chosen to limit my exposure to new techniques and influences. I love seeing what others are doing, but I get distracted easily and overwhelmed with new ideas which limits my focus.

Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Covered Jar
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Covered Jar

As a graduate of Alfred’s ceramic program, one of the most respected clay programs in the nation, can you speak to the rigor of the program and how it has prepared you to pursue clay full time in recent years? 

I can still hear my professors when I am working. It is rare for me to make anything without thinking, what would they think. Is this piece up to standard?  It has made me a harsh critic of my work, and others work as well. I’m okay with that, I want to make the very best work I can and I want to encourage others to do the same. 
Often, I still think of the advice my pottery teacher gave us to wait to put the work out there and to make it the very best you can. Once the  work is in the world, that is the work people will expect you to make, so don’t get stuck making under developed work. I’m not sure anything prepared me for life as a full time artist, but I do feel like I want to live up to the standards set by my education and the talented people I went to school with.

Were you ever interested in pursuing a MFA in ceramics?

I’ve always debated MFA, no MFA. I still think about the possibility, if it’s something that would enhance my work or open up opportunities. I guess I haven’t made a conclusive decision about it yet so it’s still on the table.
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Sugar and Creamer Set
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Sugar and Creamer Set

How do you work (techniques/glazing/firing methods)?

Working on lots of projects at once keeps my day interesting. I throw for part of the day, then switch to handbuilding or sculpting. It is easier on the body to move around, and I don’t get antsy doing the same thing all day. I throw functional ware in porcelain, handbuild slab pots, make decorative wall hangings, and sometimes make attempts at what I call “real art”, but it’s really just playing in the studio.

All my work is very focused on surface decoration. I like simple forms that give me a canvas to use slip, glaze pencils, glaze and stamps, to layer color and image.  Soda firing has always been a part of that process. It adds that extra magic to a surface, and it is always a surprise.


We are both members of the Colorado Potters Guild. What does it mean to you to be a member of the guild?

When I joined the guild, I was desperate to have a place to fire, but otherwise I was fine working in solitude. I didn’t realize at first how enriching it would be to have a group of clay friends to talk shop with. These days I am constantly grateful for all the enthusiasm, problem solving and fun that being in this group brings.

Sarah Christensen - Spraying soda into the vapor kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild
Sarah Christensen – Spraying soda into the vapor kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild

We have been firing the soda kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild together with a few others and you lead our firings. What is your philosophy or end goal for a soda firing as it relates to your work since it’s so highly decorated with color and fine line work?

The end goal is always the same. How can I get the most exciting, beautiful surface possible on a pot? It has certainly been a process to find just the right firing to keep the decoration intact, while making sure the soda does its magic. 
Lately, my interest is in getting what I call “radioactive” color. Most people associate high fire with brown or subdued colors, so I love that I can get bright colors, but retain the complexity that comes with higher temps. The soda has the potential to really enhance the glaze colors, while also softening the design work and making it more variable.
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Wheel Thrown Mug
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Wheel Thrown Mug

Technically this makes you teacher or instructor by taking the lead in our firings (and you’re good at it). Have you ever thought about teaching classes to other potters or aspiring potters? Why or why not?

I have done a little teaching, but have not found a good fit yet. There are times I think I would like to teach, but it is hard to give up my own studio time for it. I wouldn’t rule teaching out if the right opportunity came about, it just hasn’t been a goal particularly.
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled

People love your functional work and I think your sculptural wall boxes are under appreciated. Would you like to move more into the sculptural realm, or do you enjoy straddling both functional and sculptural?

There is something very comforting about making pots. They are art objects, but their function gives them purpose and meaning and definition, so I don’t have to. As long as my pots function, they are what they were meant to be.  Its nice to have the container of function and it takes the pressure off when I’m not feeling especially creative, but still want to work.  
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
I never intended to show the sculptures when I started making them. They are an exploration of a personal experience, and I really wanted them to stay private. I guess I (mostly) got over this feeling, plus I ran out of wall space to store them.
Sarah Christensen Ceramics - Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
Sarah Christensen Ceramics – Ceramic Wall Curio Box Untitled
I have been missing making them lately, but the functional pots have taken precedence as I try to get them into the world…. I would love to make more of the wall pieces, but I feel so much more pressure to make them meaningful, to have them say something about me or the world. Sometimes it’s just really nice to sit down and make a mug.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m loving Danish midcentury pottery right now. But inspiration is everywhere, all the time.

Where can people find you?


Sarah Christensen Ceramics
Colorado Potters Guild Website
Instagram: @sarahsclaybits


Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery
Gallery 1505 

Upcoming events:

I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays” which can be found when searching the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

How to Organize a Pottery Craft Show and Sale

I have been a member of the Colorado Potters Guild since 2008. It’s been wonderful to be connected to other potters in Colorado. Founded in 1965, the Colorado Potters Guild is the oldest clay co-op in Colorado that thrives on shared responsibilities and volunteers to make the organization run smoothly. I manage the guild’s website and social media activity on a year round basis. It’s something that I enjoy doing and a way that I contribute best to the guild’s success.

We have other members who serve on our board. Everyone has a skill that contributes to our success including accounting, marketing, legal, construction, kiln operation and maintenance, purchasing and more.

Organize a pottery craft show and sale
Organize a pottery craft show and sale

Pottery Sale

We also host two pottery sales a year in the spring and fall. This year, I volunteered to be the chair of our Spring Sale to learn the skills needed to organize a pottery craft show and sale. While, our show can almost run itself, I want a fuller picture of everything that is involved to put on a sale  – all the moving parts. 

I also have some ideas that I want to try to make the experience a bit more fun for our customers. Ultimately, I’m interested in organizing a pop up sale in Fort Collins or other cities in Colorado in the future and feel like this experience is going to be helpful.

Colorado Potters Guild Sale
Colorado Potters Guild Sale

How to organize a pottery craft show and sale:

Aka – all the moving parts

  • Communication with the members. As the chair, my job is to make sure that all of the jobs for the show are filled, that the venue is paid, and that I communicated with our members. Also, if something doesn’t go well, the buck stops with me. Eeek!
  • Venue rental. The Colorado Potters Guild is located in an old creamery that is far too small to host thousands of shoppers. We have a long standing contract with a local church that leases a large room that holds 37 potters work and there is plenty of parking. The Potters Guild also has use of their kitchen, and another room for our treasurers to work securely in private.
  • Post card invitation and poster design and purchase.
  • Coordinate with the business that handles the mailing of our cards. Additionally, we clean our mailing list after each show to account for people who have moved or are no longer interested in attending our sales.
  • E-vite design and scheduled mailing. 
  • Marketing efforts including print, online, social media, radio and our email newsletter. We have a team of roughly 4 members dedicated to show marketing.
  • Show photography. Every show, we have a dedicated team of photographers that take photos of pots that we use for the website and future marketing efforts.
  • Show set up. Since we’ve been in the same venue for a long time, we have a map that helps speed up set up with the help of a dedicated group of volunteers. Set up takes approximately 1.5 hours.
  • Opening night refreshments. We serve baked goods and a light punch on opening night. Members sign up to bring baked items and the refreshment team staff the welcome table.
  • Moving truck rental to transport our set up supplies including table cloths, risers, shelving, boxes, bags, wrapping material etc. to the venue and back.
  • Show staffing. Everyone works opening night and 2 additional 4-5 hour shifts over the course of 3 days. Members work as cashiers, pot wrappers, floor staff, help pot carriers, pot guards, accounting and staff the jewelry table.
  • Show Breakdown. After the show ends on Saturday at 5pm, everyone collects their pots, inventories remaining pots against sales records and helps to pack up the guild’s supplies in the truck.
  • Treasury/financial bookkeeping. Since we do this sale as a group, everyone receives a standardized inventory sheet that the show treasurers use to cross reference as they keep track of sales. The treasurers also pay show expenses, reconcile sales and pay potters.
  • Signage placement on days of show. We have a crew that places signs near the venue of our sale. We have to be in compliance with the city’s zoning ordinances for signs.
  • Post show wrap up. Two weeks after our show, we meet at a members house for an amazing pot luck. At the pot luck, we have a show recap meeting and choose a new chair for the next show.

Final thoughts:

I’m sure I’m forgetting a thing or two, but the main point is that there is a lot that goes into how to organize a pottery craft show and sale on a larger scale.  Organizing a smaller pop up sale in the future will still require some of the same planning and organizing steps as a larger one, but hopefully with less moving parts. The items of consideration also work with other types of crafts and art – not just pottery. 

Colorado Potters Guild Spring 2017 Sale Info:

Where & When: 

First Plymouth Congregational Church
3501 South Colorado Boulevard
Englewood, CO  80113
(Hampden + Colorado Blvd)

May 4 – 4:00 – 8:00 PM (Opening reception)
May 5 – 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM
May 6 – 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Truncated Cone Template for Hand Builders

I do my fair share of hand building with clay. In fact, my first successes in my ceramics 101 class were because I learned how to hand build using slabs of clay. Success on the pottery wheel came much later. 

I’m gearing up for my next soda firing at the guild towards the end of April and will be hand building mugs, bowls and other functional pottery. Paper templates are an easy way to achieve a uniformity in size and shape for hand builders.

I’ve made my own cup templates in the past, but in the interest of time, I decided to peruse Pinterest for templates. Low and behold, I found an online template maker – specifically a truncated cone template that is helpful for hand builders interested in making tapered cups of all sizes. 


I already have a tumbler sized template ready to go, but would like to add some wine/juice cup sized ones. Also, I like drinking wine out of a handmade cup and, frankly I’m too lazy to do the math and draw it by hand. 

Collection of Handmade Pottery Wine Cups
A sample of part of my collection of handmade pottery wine cups

The makers of the cups in the photo above are clockwise, starting with the light green cup – an old one of mine, Dick Howell, Michael Kline, Kathleen Laurie, Kristin Gruenberger and Jackie Harper.

What I like about this template, even though the site really caters to paper crafts, is that it’s scalable.  Users need only enter their desired measurements for the bottom and top diameters and the height in either inches or centimeters.

Here is my wine/juice sized truncated cone template for hand builders:

Truncated Cone Template for Hand Building - Wine or Juice Cup Template
Truncated Cone Template for Hand Building – Wine or Juice Cup Template

My template measures 2.5″ in diameter at the base, 3″ up top and 4″ high.


The only tricky parts that users need to account for are how to print a template and clay shrinkage.

Larger templates will not likely fit on an 8.5″ x 11″ letter sized piece of paper, so you will need to either bring it to a printing company like Kinkos or print it out on multiple pieces of paper and piece together. 

Paper Template Wine Cup Flat
Paper Template Wine Cup Flat


I guesstimated a reasonable size for my truncated cone template. Originally, I plugged in measurements of 3″(base) x 4″(top) x 4″(height) which was more of a small sized mug. I printed and cut the template out to check if the size works. After printing my first one, I downsized my measurements to 2.5″(b) x 3″(t) x 4″(h). This seems just about right for wine or juice.

Paper Template Wine Cup
Paper Template Wine Cup

I’m not concerned with volume at this point. I just want to make a cup that will hold about 4-5 ounces of liquid. If you are working on a custom order for a shop or gallery, however, you will need to do a bit of math (or use an online calculator) and also understand your clay shrinkage if a specific size is requested.

For further reading, the LaPellas, who I interviewed for Feature Fridays, have an easy clay ruler tutorial on their blog.  Or, if you know your clay body’s shrinkage, you need to take this into account to make a template that accounts for your clay body’s shrinkage.

Finishing details:

I like to laminate my templates with packing tape so that I can reuse them over and over. They’re water resistant and won’t warp or buckle after placing it on damp clay. Simply cover the front and back of the paper template with packing tape, being careful to overlap the tap about 1/8″. Trim the excess tape from the template afterwards.

Stay tuned for a tutorial on my hand building process.




Meet Lisa and Alex LaPella of LaPella Pottery

Alex and Lisa LaPella are a husband and wife team and the creative forces behind LaPella Pottery located in Unicoi, TN. Collaboratively, they create many one of a kind pieces and specialize in functional stoneware, barware, and wedding registries.

LaPella Pottery - Handmade Functional Stoneware
LaPella Pottery – Handmade Functional Stoneware

Please Introduce Yourself:

Hello! We are Alex & Lisa LaPella, the potters behind LaPella Pottery. We met just as Lisa was finishing her BFA in ceramics (Alex already had his), almost 20 years ago. We’ve been making pots all along, but only took the plunge into full time studio pottery about 5 years ago.

LaPella Pottery - Snack Bowl in Gray and Red on White
LaPella Pottery – Snack Bowl in Gray and Red on White

I’m envious of how you two have managed to craft a successful creative business together. You are a pottery power couple with an incredible business sense and appear to be terrific parents to boot! What it is like to work with your spouse and how do you split your daily tasks?

Alex: Well, I suppose we are atypical. We have an easy relationship. We are rarely apart, rarely argue, and are always working together either as parents or as partners in business.     

Lisa: We’ve almost always worked together. The hardest time in our marriage was when we worked separately. It’s true we rarely argue – so much so that it is a recurring joke for Alex’s mom to ask weekly, “Have you had your first fight yet?” Ha ha! As for division of labors, we don’t have very rigid job descriptions.    

Alex: Except you do the computer stuff. I hate the computer stuff.    

Lisa: And you do the trimming. Because you love me. 

LaPella Pottery - Alex Working on Mugs for Mug Club for Black Abbey Brewing
LaPella Pottery – Alex Working on Mugs for Mug Club for Black Abbey Brewing

In addition to selling online via Etsy, you’ve developed quite a few wholesale accounts and relationships with local breweries. How did you go about making these connections?

Alex: Start drinking beer!   

Lisa: I suppose we were pretty lucky. The brewery connections began with serendipity. We happened to be set up next to a new brewery tent at a local street festival. It was clear they needed a little help getting set up, so we chatted and hit it off. Soon, we were making mugs and growlers for them. We found that the cross-promotional aspect of that relationship (Johnson City Brewing Company & LaPella Pottery) was very effective for both companies. Other breweries saw how we worked together and soon we had more clients. While we try to be proactive in seeking new clients, it is more often word of mouth or our presence on Etsy Wholesale that leads to new clients. 

LaPella Pottery - Wheel Thrown Growlers Made For Johnson City Brewing
LaPella Pottery – Wheel Thrown Growlers Made For Johnson City Brewing

We are both members of the private Facebook group, Clay Buddies. I check in once in awhile, but always notice (or maybe FB just alerts me via their algorithm) when you provide insight to people looking for technical or other help. You are a terrific resource and I see that you offer occasional classes in your home studio. Have you ever considered opening up a larger clay teaching facility? Why or why not? 

While we toyed with this idea, we both decided it would not suit our personalities. In short, we are selfish with our studio time. Rather than teaching longer classes, we are moving toward teaching weekend workshops instead. It allows us to travel and meet other potters without losing our regular studio workflow. 

LaPella Pottery - Stacks of Wheel Thrown Bowls
LaPella Pottery – Stacks of Wheel Thrown Bowls

I loved your feature in Pottery Making Illustrated, Sept/Oct Issue 2016. It motivated me to subscribe to PMI. Did you pitch your article to PMI, catch the editor’s attention or just get lucky? Do you plan to be a regular contributor?

 Lisa: We would love to contribute again! (Hint! Hint!)  The editor approached us and asked us to submit an article. I had always dreamed of  being published, so I was very excited to work with PMI. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe a talk I gave on Periscope led to the article.

I had given a talk on Periscope shortly before they contacted us called, “Referenced Work is the Strongest Work: What’s That Mean?!” The theme of the talk was that work that has a personal reference for us tends to be the strongest work.  For some, the reference is pots that come before, for others it is a particular time or place. I’m working on an essay of the same title since the talk was not recorded. 

Insta-Crafty Market in Tennessee
Insta-Crafty Market in Tennessee

I followed your journey to start a crafty handmade market in 2016 with anticipation which seems to have really taken off. What motivated you to develop and manage Insta-Crafty? 

Lisa: Honestly, I was kind of being a brat. I was angry that so many artists had lost their booth spaces at our local farmers market. Even though we did not lose our space, it felt very unfair and I wanted to give those locals a way to showcase their wares.

It started as a Friday night pop-up show alongside a weekly concert. Soon I had a website and was planning a large holiday market. I realized there was an untapped need in our area for a true indie craft show. If we want the public to buy handmade, we need to give them opportunities to experience and learn about indie art.    

Alex: I had no idea what she was up to. I thought she’d invite some friends to set up downtown and that would be it. When she showed me the website and application forms, I was pretty shocked.

LaPella Pottery - Wheel Thrown Spice Jar
LaPella Pottery – Wheel Thrown Spice Jar

What advice would you give someone who is interested in organizing an ongoing craft event like Insta-Crafty or even a one day pop up shop? 

Lisa : I would probably advise them to not do what I did. I tend to just jump in and hope I can swim. Mostly I’ve been pretty lucky. I suppose my best advice is to behave like a professional who knows what he/she is doing… even if you aren’t and you don’t.   

Alex: And don’t wait for someone else to do it because it probably won’t get done.

LaPella Pottery - Wheel thrown oval vase, altered, and hand painted with wildflower silhouettes
LaPella Pottery – Wheel thrown oval vase, altered, and hand painted with wildflower silhouettes

Who or what inspires you?

Alex:   All the things.  

Lisa: We are lucky to live in a really craft-rich community. We are within 30 miles of 100s of potters who are among the best in the nation. Living in Appalachia, just over the ridge from Penland, we are witness to a long arts and crafts tradition that is set in the most lovely environment.   

Alex: We love to visit galleries that feature really fine handmade furniture… we love art and architecture…. the mountains we live in… world travels… it all shows up in the work.

LaPella Pottery - Wheel Thrown Latte Mugs
LaPella Pottery – Wheel Thrown Latte Mugs

What do you do for fun outside of pottery? 

Lisa: There is life outside pottery?!  Just kidding! We are happiest out in the woods. Our family hikes, kayaks, paddle boards … we have a vintage camper that we take to the beach or down to the river. We love to take photos of all of our adventures, so watch our Instagram accounts! 

LaPella Pottery - Wheel Thrown Pitcher
LaPella Pottery – Wheel Thrown Pitcher

Where can people find you? 


Upcoming events:

I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays” which can be found when searching the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

Developing Ceramicscapes Editorial Calendar and History

I’m developing an editorial calendar for ceramicscapes so that writing becomes a regular habit in an effort to build more content on my website. I need a calendar to hold myself accountable on those days that I might not feel like writing. While I hope to benefit from some added traffic that content will bring, writing helps to clarify long term goals and provides a record of my creative efforts.

The evolution of my creative business:

In the not so distant past, I wrote about my art and pottery business on my website, Colorado Art Studio (don’t bother searching for it – the domain is being held hostage for a ridiculous sum). In fact I wrote, on average, every other day and was able to build up a nice network of virtual creative friends and a bit of regular traffic to my website.

Archived Snapshot of my former website Colorado Art Studio
Archived Snapshot of my former website Colorado Art Studio

Topics included my pottery, the kids classes that I taught after school at Steele Elementary in Denver, summer art camps that I taught at the Art Student’s League of Denver and Anderson Ranch, my association with the Colorado Potters Guild, technical problems I had and I even shared personal snippets of my life.

In 2009, I decided to finish a masters degree in landscape architecture that I had abandoned when my daughter was younger. For the most part, I blogged sporadically when I returned to school and my website was basically parked, but still live.


An odd thing happened though – my website continued to receive traffic despite not having any new content. I credit this in part to the advent of Pinterest, a visual bulletin board or “catalog of ideas”. People searched for pottery related ideas and my photos came up in their searches. 

Colorado Art Studio Google Analytic Snapshot
Colorado Art Studio Google Analytics Snapshot showing traffic despite not adding new posts

Why is this important? Pinterest serves as a potential funnel for people interested in buying my work or clay enthusiasts who want to take classes. The problem now is that people who click on the image are directed to a dead end – a domain repository. Someone purchased my old domain who is in the domain resale business. 

Covered Box Pinned from Colorado Art Studio
Covered Box Pinned from Colorado Art Studio – this photo has over 1k repins

Business class for creatives:

After I graduated in 2012, I worked for a landscape architecture firm in Fort Collins on a part time, contractual basis. At the time, my intention was to make pottery as a hobby when time permitted, but I ended up having a lot of free time (the construction business was just beginning its rebound) and started fantasizing about restarting my clay business with a focus on architectural ceramics. 

I signed up for a business class for creatives through the Small Business Development Center in Denver. I even won 2nd place for my business plan submission. Ultimately, I decided to leave my position at the landscape architecture firm to try making my creative business a reality.


After I graduated from the business class for creatives, I rebranded my clay business and called it ceramicscapes. The name is a play on ceramics + landscape. This made total sense to me at the time after spending several years studying landscape architecture and my new interest in architectural ceramics.

I started working on a new website for my business in 2013 and decided to start fresh rather than import old content. I was so sure about this decision that I let my old domain lapse. (Don’t do this! I should have just redirected the old domain to my new one)

To be honest, not all of my old content was worth importing because I wrote about so many different things, much of it personal. 

Ceramicscapes editorial calendar:

This brings me back to my need for structure as I rebuild content for this website. I commit to writing three blog posts a week.

Rain or shine, I’ll be posting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every single week, ideally at the same time. Though, I might need to employ a scheduling app at some point in the event that I go on vacation.

What is an editorial calendar? 

According to Wikipedia, “Editorial calendars are used to define and control the process of creating content, from idea through writing and publication. An individual or small business might have this publishing process: brainstorm content ideas to publish, where to publish, and when to publish.”

Ceramicscapse Editorial Calendar
Ceramicscapes Editorial Calendar in development

So far, I’ve identified the schedule. Now I need to identify the types of content that I’d like to publish for ceramicscapes editorial calendar. 

If you look at the calendar above, you’ll notice that I’m using Google Apps to keep me organized. I’ve scheduled my blog posts just like I would any other to-do list item. 


I plan to write about my own work, offer tutorials, write about topics in the field of ceramics and also profile other ceramic artists working in the field. Feature Fridays happens – you guessed it –  every Friday and I’m thrilled that I’m currently scheduled up to May 2017.  

This leaves Mondays and Wednesdays for the other types of content. I still need to start preplanning my posts. I’ve been following along with Darren Rowse’s podcast, ProBlogger, where he provides so many great tips for people interested in writing and specifically blogging. In addition, I’m also taking an online blogging class that is helping me develop a robust website and to think long term. 

Final Thoughts:

Developing an editorial calendar for my creative business will take a lot of the guesswork out of writing for me since I can have several topics and draft posts  already started. It won’t be like sitting down to a blank screen wondering what the heck I’ll write about today.

How about you – do you have an editorial calendar for your creative business? If not, how do you schedule your time?



Botanical Inspired Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art

Ceramicscapes Pinterest Seeds and Pods Board
Ceramicscapes’ Pinterest Seeds and Pods Board

Nature is pretty darn interesting and makes beautiful artifacts. I’ve been collecting images of plant seeds and seed pods for visual reference to use in my ceramic work. This direction is a new one for me, but one near and dear to my heart as a former landscape designer and Colorado Master Gardener. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to translate these to clay, but decided to use the winter months to experiment and the following ceramic seed pod wall art trio is the first incarnation.


Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art before under construction
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art before under construction

Originally, I started this exploration with the intent of making ceramic garden stakes for use outdoors. Each one has a hole in the back in which I planned to attach a 3 foot long rod that could be planted in the dirt of a garden bed.

Being a bit of a pack rat, I had saved a dried lotus flower seed head that came in a flower arrangement I had received last year for future use. I think the form is interesting and provided a jumping off point to begin sculpting.

Making the ceramic seed pods was slow going for me. I’m a novice sculptor and translating the likeness of a seed pod is tricky. 

In fact, I asked myself why I would even want to try? It’s not to improve upon an already interesting form, but I want to translate the essence of nature’s artifacts at a larger scale for permanence and decoration.

Decorating and Glazing

Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art before being bisque fired
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art before being bisque fired

When I was sculpting these, I learned some (new to me) techniques that abstracted the forms in clay.

Throughout the process, I continually reminded myself that these were destined for the soda kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild. I thought about how to glaze the forms and how the soda ash would affect the surface of the ceramic seed pods. 

Final Finished Ceramic Seed Pods

Ceramicscapes - Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art Trio Glazed
Ceramicscapes – Ceramic Seed Pod Wall Art Trio Glazed

When we unloaded the kiln about a week and a half ago, my firing partners remarked that these would be really interesting as wall art. While I originally designed these as garden stakes, I have to agree. I make a lot of ceramic wall installations and would like to expand this direction and think that this is a good start.

On a technical note, the two enclosed forms on the right hand side of the photo above are rather heavy. I have some technical issues to resolve and think that working with paper clay would help lighten the sculptures.

Paperclay: Art and Practice by Rosette Gault
Paperclay: Art and Practice by Rosette Gault

With that in mind, I picked up a new book on paper clay by Rosette Gault to learn a bit more about the medium. I haven’t been able to dive in, but am really excited about the possibilities!

Meet Jennifer Darner Wolfe of JD Wolfe Pottery

Jennifer is the creative force behind JD Wolfe Pottery, a pottery studio in Wisconsin, that specializes in modern wheel thrown pottery for everyday use. 

JD Wolfe Pottery - 8 piece wheel thrown nesting bowl set
JD Wolfe Pottery – 8 piece wheel thrown nesting bowl set

Please Introduce Yourself:

Hi! I have been a professional potter for about 23 years and I started my career working at Rockdale Union Stoneware as a production potter. The training that the pottery provided are lessons in running a clay business that I still use today.

I started my own studio with two other potters at the age of 25; both moved on to do other things eventually. One of the potters is half of Two Potters in Vermont.

The space was a cool old building on Main Street in Stoughton, WI that was formerly a grocery store. It had a gallery up front with cream city brick walls and the whole space was over 2000 sq ft. I invested $700 in a new Pacifica wheel that I still use and with shared kilns and a lot of drive, I was off and running! I was in that space for 15 years. 

After starting a family, I realized I needed to change how I run my business. I switched my focus to online sales and started working in a home studio so I could be available for my family whenever they needed me. While I really miss that old studio/gallery, moving online was a great move for my business.

JD Wolfe Pottery - Wee heart shaped dishes make great salt cellars
JD Wolfe Pottery – Wee heart shaped dishes make great salt cellars

I read that you have a degree in art from the University of Wisconsin. Did you major in ceramics and/or how did you start working with clay as a primary medium? 

When I first went to college, I was a little unsure what I wanted to focus on. I really wanted to be an artist, but could I make a living? A new friend in a drawing class I was taking (which I am not very good at!), was always talking about his ceramics class and how much fun he was having. I decided to try ceramics the next semester and the moment I sat at the wheel, I knew I had found my passion. I switched my major to art, with ceramics as my focus. Also, I took a lot of metal and photography classes.

JD Wolfe Pottery - Classic wheel thrown mugs glazed in white
JD Wolfe Pottery – Classic wheel thrown mugs glazed in white

I’ve “known” you since about 2007/2008 when I joined the Etsy Mud Team and I believe that you were already active in the group. You had a leadership role if I remember correctly. Are you still a member and if so what does it mean to you to be involved in a virtual pottery focused group? 

Yes, we have known each other online for a long time! I was a founding member of the Etsy Mud Team, which started in 2007. You joined not too long after we started. I did not really have a leadership role until a few years later. Currently, I am a volunteer captain of the team, but the team is really reliant on its many dedicated volunteers who spend time answering questions, promoting the team on social media, collaborating and mentoring each other on how to run their pottery businesses.

I give direction as needed but it is the volunteers that make it all happen. It is really important to have some sort of online community to learn from and the Etsy Mud Team is unique in that we not only mentor but promote team members as well. There is a lot we can learn together as a group that can translate to each of our small businesses.

JD Wolfe Pottery - Wheel thrown bowl is the perfect size for a yummy bowl of couscous
JD Wolfe Pottery – Wheel thrown bowl is the perfect size for a yummy bowl of couscous

How do you feel about Etsy’s shift over time from offering purely handmade crafts to opening the marketplace up to a wider range of goods including mass produced items?

This is a funny question for me, because I know that people are really passionate about their answer to this question. I have never seen Etsy as a “pure” handmade marketplace.

There was a different vibe when the site was smaller when I joined in 2006. The issue people have with manufacturing help is really strange to me when, from the beginning, people could use commercially made supplies and assemble them, sometimes very simply, into a “handmade” object. I always believed Etsy to be a tremendous marketplace, but it never did really fit with my definition of handmade.  So in short, I don’t have a problem with people getting manufacturing help, whether it is in purchasing manufactured supplies at the front end of their creative adventure or if a person creatively designs a product and has a manufacturer produce it for them in the end.  To me there is not much difference. 

My own work is handmade from raw materials, there is no question about that, but I have no problem sharing space with all types of designers as long as there is full disclosure of the process. That is my one caveat.

Please be honest about your business model, whether you are buying commercial supplies or having someone manufacture your designs. Be clear about who you are. Ultimately, I see myself as a designer first and a maker second. My business has only grown, even while sharing space with all types of small creative businesses.

JD Wolfe Pottery - Cloud Dishes
JD Wolfe Pottery – Cloud Dishes

You’ve maintained a fairly consistent style over time, but have refined and expanded what you make to the point that you now work with major brands such as Pottery Barn, Anthropologieterrain and J.Crew. How have you found and cultivated these relationships?

I have to say, they have found me! I feel Etsy has been a big part of that. What I do with my business is know my audience, try to stay visible, be active in different online creative communities, be authentic in what I produce and try to develop my own style, strive to be the best at what I do (an unreachable goal, but the drive is there), and really stay personally connected to my designs. I know that might not make sense to everyone, but it is about putting yourself into your work and I feel that really makes your designs stand out.

JD Wolfe Pottery - Wheel thrown plate with Howling Wolf BBQ glazed short ribs
JD Wolfe Pottery – Wheel thrown plate with Howling Wolf BBQ glazed short ribs

Photos of your work often include food, beverages or plant material. They’re quite beautiful and tell a fuller story of your work. Can you speak to your connection to the culinary world?

My passion for food started with my family.  My grandmother was a great entertainer, my mother often says she could teach Martha Stewart a thing or two, and my mother and aunt are both wonderful cooks and entertainers themselves, so a lot of my memories are of our lavish family gatherings. Additionally, my adorable aunt has also taken photographs of every family meal since I can remember, way before posting photos of food online became a thing!

I have always been interested in food, and combining that with pottery is just a natural progression. Turns out, I married my lifelong friend, Ken Wolfe, who is also a chef and in the food production business. We run Howling Wolf BBQ together and are always playing around with different recipes and plating them on my newest ceramic designs. We are both avid gardeners, a passion I developed from my father, so both our personal and business life revolve around food in all aspects!

JD Wolfe Pottery - Wheel Thrown Plaid Cups
JD Wolfe Pottery – Wheel Thrown Plaid Cups

Who or what inspires you?

I gain inspiration from everyone I meet. I think people are fascinating! We are all on such interesting paths. My mom and my aunt would be my solid bedrock of inspiration though.  I love them both so much.  I learned about art and design from both of them. 

Overall, I live and breath being an artist.  I take it all in, and all of my experiences affect my work.  It’s inevitable.

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

Fun outside of pottery?  Ha. So much of my life revolves around clay, but I love to garden with my husband, we sneak off when we can to forage mushrooms and other wild edibles, I love visiting my mother in her cozy home, trips to Los Angeles to visit my husband’s family, hiking and any outdoor activity. Vintage design is also a passion of mine, I love to search for unique pieces.

Where can people find you?


Shop online –
Facebook –
Instagram –

Shop local:

Madison, WI –
Milwaukee, WI –
Santa Fe, NM – – this being my very favorite commission of all time, since I consider Georgia O’Keeffe an influence in my work. 
Occasionally my work is available through national retailers.  You can currently find my hearts at

JD Wolfe Pottery - Handmade pottery
JD Wolfe Pottery – Handmade pottery

Upcoming events:

Every summer from April through November you can find me at the capital square in Madison, WI during the Dane County Farmers Market hours.  Looking forward to my Saturdays in the sunshine!

I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays” which can be found when searching the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information. 

My Work Is Featured on Instagram by Skutt Kilns


Ceramicscapes featured on Instagram by Skutt Kilns
Ceramicscapes featured on Instagram by Skutt Kilns

I woke up to a flurry of Instagram notifications on Monday morning and was surprised to see that my work is featured on Instagram by Skutt Kilns. The current guest host for Skutt Kilns is Paul Blais, the founder of The Potters Cast.

I’m a total Skutt Kilns fan and user. I purchased my Skutt KM 1027 in 2008 when I first started to outfit my home studio. It’s a power house and has a capacity of 7 cubic feet. Some days it’s too big and during my busy making months it’s not big enough. In the near future, I would like to add an additional kiln to my studio, but can’t decide if it should be bigger or smaller.

Before I upgraded to a digital Skutt Kiln, my first one was a smaller ancient manually operated Paragon kiln that I found on either a free cycle or Yahoo group.  It has a smaller capacity – roughly 3 cubic feet – and worked well for a beginning potter. My advice to beginners looking to equip their studios is to scour Craigslist and similar sites for kilns, wheels, and other studio items. You never know what you’ll find. I also have a small Aim 88T test kiln (shown in the photo below), however, the elements need to be replaced. It has a teeny tiny capacity that is really only suitable for jewelry or test tiles. Although, I have used it to re-fire a mug or two on occasion.

Ceramicscapes - Skutt KM 1027 Kiln in my studio
Ceramicscapes – Skutt KM 1027 Kiln in my studio

Kiln Temperature Firing Ranges

Typically, I bisque fire to ^05 (1914 degrees F) and glaze fire to ^6 oxidation (2232 degrees F). Here’s a link to the Orton Pyrometric Cone Chart for more information on firing temperature ranges and a link to the Orton Ceramic website.

Soda Firing

About 6 times a year, I participate in soda firings at the Colorado Potters Guild with a group of women. The core group of us has been firing the soda kiln together now for about 3 years. The soda kiln at the guild is fueled by gas and has a capacity of nearly 25 cubic feet which we fire to ^10 or 2345 degrees F. Sharing the kiln makes filling, firing and cleaning the kiln a ton easier. I love the process and outcome of soda firings so much that I would love to convert an old electric kiln for home use. 

Typically, I bisque fire my ware in my Skutt KM 1027 before I pack it up and schlep it to the potters guild. 

To give you an idea how we load our soda kiln – also known as a vapor kiln, check out this quick 5 sec. time lapse video.

On Friday, I’ll be sharing another ceramic artist’s profile. It should be a good one!


Meet Jim Bridgeman – Ceramic Artist

Jim Bridgeman of Bridgeman Studios is a ceramic artist from Georgia. While his ceramic work is minimal in color and finish, his creations are functional works of art that beg to be displayed.

Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist - Ceramic Chess Set
Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist – Ceramic Chess Set

Please Introduce Yourself:

Hi, I’m Jim Bridgeman. A retired air traffic controller, husband and father and now ceramic artist? (I struggle calling myself an artist/potter)
Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist - Handbuilt Vase
Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist – Handbuilt Vase

How did clay hook you? 

In 2006 I was forced to take an early retirement from my job as an air traffic controller due to some health issues. Unsure what I was going to do with the rest of my life, my wife found a pottery wheel throwing class offered at the local rec department. I was hooked day one.

Ive known” you since about 2007/2008 when we were both members of the Etsy Mud Team. Your work has taken a fairly dramatic stylistic shift since then. Can you pinpoint when this happened or was it gradual? 

Yep, dramatic is correct, but not unexpected to me. In May 2012, I discovered Neil Gaiman’s graduation speech to The University of the Arts. A month later I spent 10 days in Uganda helping out in a remote village and spending time with two kids we sponsor there. I listened to Neil Gaiman’s speech over 50 times during the two weeks in Uganda and travel time to and from. Upon returning from Uganda, due to budget cuts, I was let go from a job I held as a contract air traffic control instructor for the FAA. This allowed me to begin handbuilding where much of the work is both very time consuming and time critical.
Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist - Ceramic Dream Bottle
Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist – Ceramic Dream Bottle

The “dream” bottle is one of the first pieces I made after being let go and was greatly inspired by the portion of Neil Gaiman’s speech where he says:  

“A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back.”
Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist - Horizontal Nail Vase
Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist – Horizontal Nail Vase

Your current ceramic work is very architectural, where do you find your inspiration?

Well, I actually went through 3 1/2 years of VA Tech’s 5 year architecture program before changing my major. Clay allows me to pursue and explore forms without getting caught up in the minutiae.
Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist - Inserting Nails into Pot
Jim Bridgeman Ceramic Artist – Inserting Nails into Pot

Do you still sell online, or mostly at in person events? Why?

Almost all of my work is sold in person at art shows for a couple reasons. The first is the time consuming aspect of the type of work I make. I haven’t reached a point where I feel I can safely set aside work to list online and still feel comfortable with the amount of work I am bringing to shows. The second reason is that every piece is unique as well as every side of each piece. The time needed to photograph, edit, upload and list images of all sides of a piece wasn’t making business sense in terms of time spent vs sales from those listings.
Jim Bridgeman - "Punny" Pot(ter) t-shirt
Jim Bridgeman – “Punny” Pot(tery) t-shirt

I love your new t-shirts – theyre very pottery punny. How did you come up with the idea and why did you decide to get into the t-shirt business? 

The Pot[tery] Makes Me Happy!!! shirt was a design I submitted for a yearly pottery show I participate in here in GA called Perspectives. The intent of the design was to grab people’s attention from a distance with Pot Makes Me Happy!!!, then when they got closer they would see it actually said “Pottery” as well as the name of the show which had been on the bottom of the design.
The show went with a more traditional design than the one that I submitted. I can’t say I was surprised.
(Author’s note – check out Jim’s t-shirts in his Etsy shop – only $24.95 with FREE shipping! I plan on wearing mine to my next in person event.)

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

I volunteer at the elementary school where (my now) high school aged kids attended to help kids with reading and math – I love it! I also like to take the dogs to a nearby nature area to hike a few miles a day. Feed the chipmunks that live around my studio.

Where can people find you? forwards to a mostly empty etsy shop (aforementioned tshirts are there)

Upcoming events:

Winter Park, FL 3/17-19
Dogwood, Atlanta 4/7-9
Fired Works, Macon, GA 4/21-30
Artisphere, Greenville, SC 5/12-14
Reston, VA 5/20-21
Decatur, GA 5/27-28

I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays” which can be found when searching the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information. 

Colorado Potters Guild Interview Repost

Cindy Guajardo - Handmade Soda Fired Pottery Bottle
Cindy Guajardo – Soda Fired Bottle

Please introduce yourself:

My name is Cindy Guajardo and I’m an artist/potter living in Fort Collins, CO. I also manage the Colorado Potters Guild website and social media channels. Chances are that if you’ve messaged the guild through our website, I’m the one that responds to your general query.

How many years have you been a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

I joined the Colorado Potters Guild in 2008 at the same time as Penny Woolsey and Wendy Kochar.

What does it mean to you to be a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

When I applied to be a member of the guild, I was a recent ceramics graduate and had been taking classes at the Art Students League in Denver to bridge the gap between school and real life. I had set up a home studio in my garage, but missed the interaction and community of being in a group with like minded and clay focused people.

For me, the Colorado Potters Guild is a wonderful community of people from all walks of life who share a love of all things related to clay. I still work solo at home most days, but enjoy firing at the guild on occasion, learning from other members, coming together for our biannual sales (shameless plug – our next sale is May 4-6, 2017) and eating really well at our pot lucks. In short, the guild keeps me connected to other creative clay artists in Colorado.

Cindy Guajardo - Handmade Soda Fired Pottery Planters
Cindy Guajardo – Soda Fired Planters

How many years have your been working with clay?

Short answer: 15 years

Long answer: I always describe myself as a late bloomer. I worked for United Airlines for almost 17 years and attended college part time while working towards a BFA in studio art. I was about half way through my art degree in 1997 when I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter. At the time, I had planned to take a beginning ceramics class, but the instructor discouraged me because of the danger of working with potentially harmful chemicals while pregnant. I was disappointed, because I just knew that I would love clay. I ended up taking a leave of absence from school until my daughter was about 4 years old and in preschool. In 2002, the first class I signed up for was Ceramics 101 and the rest is history.

Do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?

Yes, I earned a BA in Studio Art with a concentration in ceramics and a minor in art history from the University of Southern Maine in 2004. The head of the ceramics department at the time was Ray Chen – a fantastic sculptor who is currently the director of Fine Art at the New England Institute of Education in Falmouth, ME.

I have also taken classes with Mary Cay at the Art Students League of Denver and numerous in person and online workshops with Annie Chrietzberg, Diana Fayt and others.

Cindy Guajardo - Sketch to Pot using illustrations to make patterns on pottery
Cindy Guajardo – Sketch to Pot

How do you work (techniques/glazing/firing methods)?

In addition to making pottery, I enjoy dabbling in 2D work like printmaking, painting and drawing. In 2015, I took a series of illustration classes from Lilla Rogers, an artist and director of an art licensing agency, with the thought that I’d like to dip my toes into the commercial art world. At the end of the courses, I didn’t take that path, but the exercises did spark a new graphic direction in my work. In fact, my work changed so much that visitors to our shows asked if I was a new member because they didn’t recognize my work.

Since taking this class I keep a sketchbook and often use some of the icons in my work because I like to add an illustrative touch to my pottery. To translate 2D imagery to a clay surface I employ techniques like sgraffito and slip inlay – I typically hand build my forms for a more organic feel, but also use a pottery wheel. I have also narrowed down my color palette to make my work more cohesive. At home, I glaze fire my work in an electric kiln in oxidation – but about 6 times a year, I enjoy firing in the guild’s soda kiln with a group of women who share similar desired outcomes firing wise.

What does “being creative” mean to you?

I’m not often content to make the same thing over and over, so for me, being creative is a continued desire to improve both technically, but also to push myself to explore new ideas and forms. I think this is why making illustrative work is so appealing to me right now because it keeps my “canvases” fresh.

Currently, I’m exploring sculptural aspects of ceramics and plan on expanding my offerings beyond functional pottery. Scaling up is both a creative and technical challenge for me.

Cindy Guajardo - Handmade Pottery Mugs
Cindy Guajardo – Illustrated Pottery Mugs

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

Because I am a self employed artist, my schedule is my own – like many people, I can get sucked into internet rabbit holes or otherwise waste time. In the past couple of years, I have had to set limits on my internet browsing and to schedule studio time. I treat my ceramic practice like a job.

Typically, Monday – Friday, I allow myself one hour to peruse the internet while I drink my coffee. This allows me to wake up and to catch up with friends, read the news and research a potential glaze or new making methods. After this, I get to work in my studio. My system is not glamorous and involves referring to my planner that I map out daily/weekly and monthly depending on what time of the year it is. I definitely work in cycles and the items I work on in the studio depend on what events are on the horizon. Unless I have a show or other major deadline, I work Monday – Friday so that I can spend time with my family on the weekends.

I allow time for creative exploration which often sparks new ideas and directions in my work. I also listen to podcasts while I work to keep my mind active. Favorites are Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, The Potters Cast, The Moth Radio Hour and more.

How do you overcome obstacles or difficulties working in clay?

Clay is a demanding medium and it can be humbling when things don’t turn out. Bad firings, rushed work, cracked handles, glaze mishaps and ideas that don’t turn out the way that they look in my head make me want to quit some days. During this time, I take a break and do something else. I try to take daily hour long walks with my dog which always clears my mind, I’ll switch to a different medium like painting or drawing, I’ll do administrative tasks like working on my website or book keeping and more to just switch the gears in my brain.

Clay is very process driven which is something that engaged me in the beginning – it’s very much about problem solving which keeps me interested in the medium. By taking breaks, it gives me time to approach the challenges differently. I also brainstorm with other clay people if something is really stumping me. Asking for help can be difficult, but it offers an opportunity to hear about different approaches. Are some of my ideas bad? Yes, but ultimately, overcoming obstacles is about not quitting, just rethinking.

Cindy Guajardo - Illustrated Pottery Dishes
Cindy Guajardo – Illustrated Pottery Dishes

Do you pursue any themes in your art work?

After taking the illustration class that I mentioned above, I have started pursuing more themes in my work. In addition to art, I also have a background in landscape design so I tend to favor plant and animal/bird life in my work, in addition to patterns.

In a sense, I enjoy creating little drawings on my functional pottery. I have a “ground” and an “above ground” area. The ground is often a pattern like stripes, lines, dots, arcs, chevron, or herringbone. The above ground area is flora, fauna and sometimes other things like little homes.

My sculptural work is literal, yet stylized translations of plants, birds and rocks.

Who or what inspires you?

So many activities inspire me – being outdoors, gardening, listening to podcasts, going to the movies, drawing, looking at other art, traveling, cooking all spark ideas.

As to specific artists, I tend to admire a lot of ceramic work that is very painterly and graphic like the work of Craig Underhill, Brenda Holzke, Andrew Ludick, Louise Gelderblom and others. There really are so, so many more….

Cindy Guajardo - Sculptural Ceramic Components
Cindy Guajardo – Ceramic Sculptural Components for Ceramic Totem

Where do you see your work progressing over the next year?

I plan to continue to explore sculptural work and to scale up in size. My immediate goal is to make some prototype stacked sculptures that I plan to install in my garden. I’d also like to work on more ceramic wall art.

Where can people find your work? (websites/social media/galleries?)

I’m all over the place including:

My artist page

Link to original interview.