Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Member Feature: Jonathan (SawyerCeramics)

Featured: SawyerCeramics
Interview by: MargotBianca

Tell us a little bit about your background, how you learned your craft, and how you got started selling it on Etsy.
I grew up in San Diego, California where I still live and create my work. As a sophomore in college, I took a non credit beginning ceramics class at the UCSD Crafts Center. The class was once a week for a few hours in the evening, but lucky for me the course tuition included 24/7 studio access for the entire quarter. I took advantage of the open studio access but soon got frustrated with the amount of time it took to get to campus, pay for parking, park, and walk to the studio just to make a few pots. I went online and bought a used potters wheel and that’s when the whole pottery thing snowballed. For a while, I transported my work to the Crafts Center to be fired but once again, the added time commitment to and from was not practical.  By now I knew pottery wasn’t just a passing hobby so my next step was to build my own kiln. At that point it was a couple years since my first pottery class and I felt confident enough to start selling my work. I heard about Etsy from a friend so I posted a few pieces online and that’s how SawyerCeramics began. I sold my first piece for $6.00 with $4.00 for shipping, probably 5 cents profit… oops.

From your Etsy profile, I notice that you were studying Management Science when you took your first ceramics class. What is Management Science? Do you currently work in this field, too? Do you find that this knowledge and training helps you in running your own small business?
At UCSD I earned a B.S. in Management Science which is a major within the Economics department. I took classes including basic economics, statistics, and financial accounting which have all been very helpful running a small business. While I enjoy the art of making pottery, I also enjoy the art of selling my work and experimenting with strategies to become more successful. For example, one of the challenges with selling pottery online, is that high shipping prices can make sales difficult. As a result, I’ve had more success selling smaller items like mugs, small vases and butter keepers as the shipping rates are more reasonable. 

What do you think is the most rewarding part of selling your handcrafted work? What aspect is most challenging?
One of the most rewarding feelings for me is when I know someone truly enjoys a piece that I have made. A few weeks ago I was selling my work at a local Veteran’s home. I could tell that some of the people were truly excited to own something I’d made. It’s a special feeling to bring a little happiness to someone’s life, even if it’s only through a handmade mug used for someone's morning coffee. 

Right now the most challenging part of selling my work is deciding through what venues I will sell. Although my Etsy shop has been online for more than two years, I have only recently started selling my work in public. I have tried selling at local businesses’ craft shows and will start to sell at craft fairs and farmers’ markets in the future.

I see that your mom, Linda, helps you with your Etsy shop. That is pretty sweet! Can you tell us a little bit more about how you guys work together?
My mom, Linda started helping me with my pottery business late last year. Initially she helped by listing new pieces to Etsy, but now she helps me in almost all areas of my business from creating treasuries to firing my kiln. I am very thankful for the time and effort she puts into my business and I also value her insight and opinions on current or potential pieces for my shop. The air plants with small vases in my shop were her idea inspired by our friend Cathy from GlassEtc.  Cathy was also the one who got us or rather my mom in to the treasury making business.  

Why do you think it is important for people to use handmade dishes in their daily lives?  Do you have a personal favorite piece(s) that you use regularly?
I enjoy using handmade pottery dishes for the uniqueness and artistic flavor of each piece. Even if it’s just a set of four mugs, each has its own qualities created during the firing process. I don't have a favorite piece but I probably use my mugs most regularly.

What are your goals for the direction your ceramic work in the future? 
In the future, I would like to develop a better understanding of the relationship between my own wheel thrown forms, clay, glazes and the firing process that will allow me to express myself better as an artist. Right now my biggest challenge or obstacle is understanding my kiln…how to fire my kiln more consistently to achieve my desired glaze results.

On a free weekend, what do you find yourself doing?
On a free weekend I am often making pots, playing soccer, or learning how to fix my car. Usually it’s something outside where I can get my hands dirty.   

Visit Jonathan's Etsy Shop!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Congratulations to Jen of aubepine on the first Curation Nation/Team T Team Mixer treasury to make the Etsy front page, on March 15, 2012!