1 K&R bud vases, Rod’s Bod Clay from Aardvark Clay Company, AMACO Velvet underglaze, and Satin Matte White glaze, fired to cone 10 in a gas reduction kiln.
It is hard to say what our initial reason for pursuing pottery as a profession was. It seemed to be more of something happening around us that we felt we could and wanted to be a part of. Timing plays a huge part in our story. Initially, Kat and I were both teaching part time and also working at Heath Ceramics when we realized the potential of starting our own business. At the time, ceramics was once again gaining popularity and we knew there was a window of opportunity for us to venture into something fun, creative, and that would allow us to work to our full potential. We both received MFAs from Clemson University in South Carolina, Kat in painting and myself in ceramics, so it didn’t take much to motivate us to start our collaborative business, Kat and Roger (K&R), where we make hand-thrown and hand-painted ceramic ware.
Years as a professional potter: 3–4 years (in business of KR)
Number of pots made in a year: more than 100 and less than 3 million (we really have no idea)
Education Roger: MFA Clemson University, BFA San Jose State University Kat: MFA Clemson University, BFA University of Dayton, Dayton, OH
Apprenticeships/employment ROGER: Adjunct Instructor at Glendale College, Glendale, CA; Studio Assistant: Heath Ceramics, Los Angeles, CA; Instructor: Xiem Clay Center, Pasadena, CA KAT: Adjunct Instructor: Cal State Long Beach, Long Beach, CA; Sales Associate: Heath Ceramics, Los Angeles, CA
the time it takes Making work (including firing, studio maintenance, cleaning): About 80% Promotions/Selling: 15% Office/Bookkeeping: 5%
where it goes Retail Stores: 90% Galleries: 2% Studio/Home Sales: 2% Online: coming soon Pop-Up Events: 6%
where to see more Eutectic Gallery, Portland, OR, http://eutecticgallery.com Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, CA, April 17–Sept. 11, 2016, www.pmcaonline.org
We usually do a pop-up event at a retail stores during the spring/summer months and a holiday sale at our friend’s studio.
2 Kat and Roger in their Los Angeles studio. Photo: Ana Morales.
Living and working in Los Angeles, California, is a huge inspiration for us. We find ourselves inspired by the laid-back spirit of Southern California.
K&R began as a part-time venture. Starting in a one-car garage, we made work during our time outside of our day jobs, working after hours and weekends, until we finally gained momentum to invest back into our business. We moved into a house with a larger space but still felt that our studio was temporary. After months of searching, we finally came across a manageable space where we set up our very own studio outside of our home. Located in a small business district of an East L.A. neighborhood, our studio is technically a store-front. There is a large window that provides great natural light; we keep it fresh by displaying whatever new work we are working on for the community to have a chance to see. We chose the space for the potential to play multiple parts. We have ideas for having small shows in the front of the space, also involving more of our community of artist friends, while hosting a few of our own pop-up events throughout the year.
Partners in Life and Business
The pros of working as a collaborative team: Getting to work with each other every day. Cons of working as a collaborative team: Getting to work with each other every day. Seriously though, the advantage of our partnership is that we share the commitment to our work as a collaboration, and what one lacks as a weakness, the other compensates for with their strength. We tend to fill the gaps pretty well, which makes us a great team.
Operating our own business is full of difficult decisions, but the toughest one we have had to make was to leave our full-time jobs. We knew we would be compromising our financial security, health benefits, and the comfort of working a standard 9–5 job, but we also knew our opportunity was out there. What we compromised in security we gained in freedom to pursue our dream of being full time artists. We know we are very fortunate to be doing what we do, and now looking back at that moment when we decided to make the big leap, it was a giant step in the right direction. Kat was the one who really decided it was time to work for ourselves and it has been without compromise nor regret.
K&R is primarily a wholesale business. We make functional work that we would actually use in our own lives and see the potential of others enjoying the same. When designing and making forms on the wheel, I always consider the surfaces that Kat will paint, and mutually, Kat will paint pieces to thoughtfully consider the forms I throw. It’s a great collaboration where we have so much respect for each other’s process, which makes this whole thing so special.
As a wholesale business, we realize we do not have full control over how our work is presented to the public, which is why we carefully select the retailers we choose to work with. We tend to do business with specialty shops and independent businesses who carefully curate their merchandise while working with independent artists like us.
Working in wholesale is exciting, because each shop gives the work new life and a new community who may not have otherwise seen K&R. We have so much respect for how much our business has grown through the thoughtful and caring people we work with. They do not just try to push sales of a product, they truly care about how their merchandise is made and the materials used to make it.
4 K&R Large-scale vessels, Rod’s Bod Clay from Aardvark Clay Company, AMACO Velvet underglaze, and Satin Matte White glaze, fired to cone 10 in a gas reduction kiln. 5 Left: Kat working in her glazing and decorating studio. 5 Right: Roger throwing on his side of the studio. Photo: Ana Morales. 6 Roger’s throwing area. 7 K&R cups, Rod’s Bod Clay from Aardvark Clay Company, AMACO Velvet underglaze, and Satin Matte White glaze, fired to cone 10 in a gas reduction kiln.
Social by Design
In today’s digital world, we have the power to present ourselves in the way we would like through social media. Instagram has become our primary source of networking. We post images of our most current projects, so people can find our work and to connect us with the world outside of our studio. It’s really the best tool for any working artist and business.
Atypical Days in the Studio
We do not really have a typical day in the studio. So much of our schedule depends on what we are working on at the time. This year is going to be especially interesting because we have a few projects planned that are an extension of our pottery brand. This spring we are doing our first collaborative, large-scale installation at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, so that has made for a very different type of day than we have had thus far. Most days are full-on production, consisting of throwing, trimming, and painting. But a good deal of our time is spent with studio visits, planning future projects or meeting with clients. We also try to make time for brainstorming new products and to create our own work outside of the pottery production. When we are in the studio, we consume lots of tea and coffee and listen to our favorite radio shows and music stations. And we’re always accompanied by our favorite ray of sunshine, our dog Sugaree!
Hard Earned Advice
Some advice for those who are interested in pursuing studio ceramics as a profession would be to have faith in yourself and get to know your audience, because they are the backbone to the success of your business. Also, understand the importance of getting your work out into the world. If it is truly going to be a profession, you cannot expect people to just come to you, no matter how amazing the work. It is hard work making a product, but it requires just as much hard work spent giving it life outside of your studio.