Tell us about your business.Cinder Ceramics is quite new, just over a year old. I am an accidental ceramicist consumed with passion and ideas that leap out of my head and into the clay. A few years ago I was doing lost wax casting, making silver and bronze jewelry. I wanted to create a bronze fireplace log-tealight holder, but quickly discovered it was much too expensive. Determined to make my fireplace log, I realized clay would be a cheaper option, and I could create a shiny white log. I had never worked with clay before, but popped into a local studio and asked for guidance on how to make my log. It is the first thing I ever made- it turned out great- and I've been completely hooked ever since. My work is evolving as I gain more confidence and skill... I make it up as I go!...and I find myself creating products that don't already exist or that need a major facelift, such as whimsical plunger holders. I like adding humorous little sayings, to prompt a smile, while keeping it simple and real.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.I may have the simplest, cleanest, clay studio anyone has ever seen! My dining room has a big white desk that functions as everything...it is where I make my pieces, where I glaze my pieces, and it becomes my photo studio as well. A huge collage painting with Brigitte Bardot, and inspirational pictures and phrases, hangs behind me. If you were to visit, you would never know all of this is happening here, as every evening when I finish it is all cleaned and vacuumed within an inch of its life. The Ashland Art Center is one block from my home and this is where I fire my work. They also carry my work there and have been incredibly supportive. As my business grows and I am making more and more pieces, I've determined that my next goal is to buy my own kiln and have a proper studio- one that might even get a little messy now and then! I would love to be set up with a fully functional, independent workspace.
What inspires you?Almost anything inspires me... usually while I am driving is when I have the most "brilliant" ideas. I keep an art journal where I sketch out all of my ideas and take copious notes on every piece, from start to finish, and add photos of the final piece afterwards. Sometimes things turn out the way I envision them, but most often they do not... they will morph into something close that I often end up liking even better (and sometimes not). I used to teach college level ESL, and American idioms and humor inspire me... funny little sayings that can be applied to products, like "Give it a rest" for a soup spoon holder. Other things I love... yoga, cooking, memories of my childhood in Germany.. these are huge inspirations as I work on merging design with the right glazes to express the emotions I am feeling and want to evoke in others. Beautiful work by other artists is also inspiring and instills me with a passion to become more skilled, to learn technique and continue to grow.
What makes your business stand out?I believe a contributing factor is that it's diverse, yet there is continuity throughout the line. It is always evolving as new ideas come, and I love being able to just go with it, and not make just one or two items over and over. Luckily, the ideas just flow and they are almost always unique in their category. An example of this is my plunger holder line, "Plunjart." Why not have an attractive, functional, unique way to store your plunger? I've done a lot of fun custom designs... the family St. Bernard, dragonflies and butterflies, and some favorites like owls and Buddhas. Sponge holders are my best-sellers... sponges get stinky if they don't air out properly, so I have a very simple design, with a few fun little sayings, such as "Give me a squeeze," on them. My hope is that there is a unifying factor that is evident throughout the line- that I have a love of the rustic, the simple, and that I also have a sense of humor and like to make people smile.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?My advice is to just keep going. Let the passion guide you, and where there is passion there is joy. And even without formal training, it's possible to gain skills and continuously improve over time. Also, have a great network of friends who can give you feedback and ideas. And customers often have great tips. This has helped me tremendously! Find a mentor or mentors (even if they don't know it) whose work you admire and learn from them. How did they start and how did their business grow? What can you take from their experience and add to your own? Also, there are many mistakes that get made along the way. Take this all as a learning experience. Take notes, and change what needs to be changed. Take joy in all the steps towards growth along the way, and treat every customer like they are your only customer and have absolutely made your day. When shipping a purchase, go above and beyond, send a little extra love to let them know how much you appreciate their business.
What does American Made mean to you?American Made means "handmade in America" to me. I see American Made as the creation of products that include at least a portion of the production process being done by hand. Things come very cheaply and easily today, and I admire greatly those artisans who produce beautiful and useful products by hand. My own work is all hand-built, and it is never perfect. One might see that one side is slightly higher than the other, or there is a fingerprint in the clay that didn't quite get smoothed out. That's ok. It means I am a human who made this piece, with its little imperfections and flaws, but there is only one piece in the world like it, and it is yours. American Made is a reminder of our humanity and community- artisans united in handmade crafts.
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