The Face Behind The Name: Kristen Weeden - Garden Of Weeden Ceramics
Before we start I just wanted to say thanks to Kristen for being a part of this project – and being so open with sharing her journey so far. I hope there is a little something for everyone in this interview or just an enjoyed read for all. Thanks so much to everyone for reading, here we go!
Ross: What gravitated you towards doing pottery and making things, did it start with pottery? Did you have a different medium at first or was it just straight into it?
Kristen: You know what I was just dying for a hobby because I was working a corporate job at the time and I would just go home and I felt zero fulfillment. A friend of mine was like “Oh I think I’m going to sign up for pottery classes” and I was instantly like “I’m in”. That just kind of attracted my attention, it was kind of all things that I appreciated. I really liked art, design and interior decorating and stuff like that passively and I was like that sounds like a really cool thing to try. Like in the movie ghost, that was my only experience with knowing what went on with pottery, is that lady at the wheel. So that’s how I got into it and then I actually tried it and it grew into a longer standing passion than I would have thought.
Ross: Cool. So, you got into it as almost an experiment of something to try for a hobby and then what was the day that you were like “okay I actually really like this, it’s giving me exactly what I need”. What made you decide? Was it a public interest into people wanting your stuff or was it just you really enjoyed how you felt when you were doing it?
Kristen: I think it was, like when I first started I was like “this sucks, I’m really bad at this” and I thought I was going to go into it and be this pottery protégée, like just be amazing at it right off the bat. Which I’ve never done, I’ve never caught onto things quickly so I don’t know why I thought this was different. And it was really hard of course because it takes a lot of work. So I was thinking, I’m not going to stay with this. But then I got my first piece out of the kiln and it was just this tiny wonky bowl but it kind of turned out better than I thought and there was just so much satisfaction in taking a lump of clay and turning nothing into this usable small piece of functional pottery, it just gave me so much personal satisfaction that I’ve never really felt before and kind of just that creative outlet, so I think that was the moment where I was like I have to keep going and get better at this because there’s just so much room to grow and get better and so many great potters out there so you can kind of really see the breadth of opportunity and how much skill is involved.
Ross: Did you find that when you started working with clay that you had specific products you wanted to make or were you fairly mellow about what came to be knowing it may take some time to figure it out.
Kristen: Yea, you know I’ve always kind of been pretty loosey goosey with planning. Now that I’m making more specific things, I’ll have an end goal in mind. When I first started I was like I’m just going to see what happens with this and some were surprisingly good and some were horrifically awful. So it really is humbling because you’ll think you made the greatest thing that any potter has ever accomplished, and then you get it out of the kiln and it’s total crap. But that’s kind of the beauty with clay too, like I think it’s one of the only art forms where you really don’t have control over so many things and the clay body is going to do what it’s going to do, like it’s going to crack or warp and sometimes you just don’t have control over that and that’s kind of the beauty of it. It keeps you in check, it makes you always work harder, you can’t ever rely on something coming out of the kiln perfect, you always have to pray to the kiln gods so it’s always a gamble but that’s what makes it so satisfying when something comes out of the kiln pretty much perfect then it’s like there’s so much satisfaction in that.
Ross: So after your intro to the industry, obviously you were doing classes and then as you moved out of the class format did you have a mentor that was teaching you or did you have somebody that you looked up too that you were like “okay, I kind of want to take these techniques from whoever” or is it all kind of self taught. How does it the flow go? You obviously start with classes to learn the fundamentals, but after that is it like free roam and you do what you want?
Kristen: Yea, I took the classes and I didn’t really have the intention of stopping taking the classes but my dad actually got me a wheel for my birthday and so then I had to find studio space and it was this stressful undertaking but also really exciting. So then I found this space in like a co-op, the same space that you came to visit, and basically it’s just a cubicle in a warehouse building. So there’s no one really else there to mentor you but I had a bunch of friends from my classes and one of them came to visit me and she was ready to move on from the classes, kind of take the next step instead of doing it once a week have the freedom to experiment more. She ended up joining me and we got a bigger cubicle space and I think we are each others influences, we are both experimenting, she’s amazing with glaze chemistry which I would have never imagined comprehending but she ‘s really gone into the research with that and has a science background.
Ross: Oh wow thats wild!
Kristen: Yea! It’s crazy how technical so many aspects of pottery can be. So that was something that she’s really taught me and enlightened me about and then you know I try to bring things to the table as well. So I think we are both just learning off of each other. I would like to maybe take some workshops and stuff when the pandemic is done, I think you can just practice, practice, practice and get better and better but I also think that it’s also one of those things where you build bad habits and then you don’t even realize that they are bad habits until someone says “what the hell are you doing?”. So I would like to eventually learn how to throw way bigger and I think that would require some guidance from an instructor. But yea I do think that if you just practice, practice, practice, you are going to get better and you are going to learn to manipulate clay with a certain level of expertise. So that’s kind of where I’m at right now but I would like to get to that next level and take some workshops and stuff.
Ross: I guess you would pick probably only a couple of products at that point that you really want to master and then you move on, or are you still dipping into experimenting and stuff?
Kristen: I find it hard to keep it consistent. Like there’s a couple pieces that people really love that I make, I make these rainbow mugs and they are such a pain to make and I would love to move on from those but people like them and they’re really cool when they are done, but the process, I don’t feel attached to the process. Where as other things that I make, I feel really attached to the process, like moon jars and stuff like that. So I would love to expand more into that but you know there’s a balance because I really like making things people love and can use in their day to day lives but I also want to make things that are impractical and not functional. So it’s kind of balancing that time and findings space to make both, I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in making what other people want.
Ross: For sure, and you have to keep that big creative cloud over your head where you just go; “I feel totally drawn into whatever, this mug or this thing, I just got to mess around for a little bit and then it opens up” right?
Kristen: Yes, absolutely and I’m having a hard time. I’m such a people pleaser so I’m like “oh people want it, I must make it I can’t keep them waiting”. But I think I need to start putting my foot down and saying I need to dedicate like a month just experimenting. And I think that’s going to make even just the mugs better or my designs better.
Ross: And I think too that will increase, from a business aspect perhaps, if you say you are going to experiment and do this and say that this mug is a limited release and it only comes around seasonally you are going to increase the interest and then you’ll be able to increase the desire of the product because people will realize “okay this takes her a lot of time, it’s a lot of work and it’s mentally draining as well right” so if that’s what it is then you’re like this release we are going to do 50 only for the entire season, get it while it’s hot and they’ll fly. Then come fall there’s another fall release. If you do it seasonally like that I think people will be waiting on the edge of their seats for your next release.
Kristen: Yea, that’s a great point! I’ve been trying to figure out the business end as I go. But that’s a really good point because as of right now I just haven’t really been managing expectations well and I think kind of setting those expectations of customers is going to let customers not wait indefinitely and take that stress off of me a little bit.
Ross: It’s kind of like what you did with your website, so you put “May 1st we’re launching”, so if you put “estimated August there’s going to be 50 of this product that’s high in demand” so people will know that in August it’s going to be ready. But what that will also do is you won’t run yourself into the ground, cause if people are like “hey I want this rainbow mug, where is it?” and they put their order in 2 weeks ago but you have a million other things going on it becomes stressful.
Ross: Do you have advice for makers coming out, could be n artist, a clothing designer or somebody that wants to experiment with pottery. Is there sort of a wall that you think people hit that will discourage them to even try it? You know what I mean? That question of “is this is what I really want to do but I’m kind of afraid to try it.”
Kristen: Right, I mean I still feel so new to this craft, it just feels like there’s an endless supply of things to learn. So I still feel quite new but if I was to give advice I would say, I think the reason I got into this was because I would throw anything at the wall and see what stuck in order to find something that I enjoyed and I finally did and I think the reason I did was the satisfaction that I talked about but also there was a really great community of people around me that was interested in learning, growing and experimenting in clay just like I was. I think the community was what kept me going and through every kind of hurtle of things that have been hard or things I haven’t known that community of people has been such a great support within pottery. So I guess just finding people in your own industry that you can relate to and talk too and bounce ideas off of and can help you be better
Ross: Here is another question that I think is the most over looked because now you are in the industry, you’ve got your feet wet you are in it but there’s a phase that I find a lot of artists, designers and even young business people trying to do their own thing go through and it’s the “who do I talk to first?” So my question to you is, an entry-level person wanting to get into pottery, how do you just take that first step? Is it classes, do you just talk to people in an online forum? Because I find that as a business owner myself there’s a whole lot of steps to get from A to Z and those are sort of unknown, and I find that there’s a lot of people that appear to have gone from 0 to 100 really quickly and we’re not able to observe those steps. So is there anything that you think would increase the likelihood that they could even get into the community?
Kristen: Yea, I think the classes are so key, I look at people that just go out an buy a wheel and I’m like “wow” because clay is a huge commitment, it is like time and space and money, it is not a small endeavour compared to some other artists just in terms of the equipment and stuff. So I think in terms of getting into it, classes are key and they are key because you are just going to learn things that you just can’t really learn off of Youtube, like learning from other people, other styles and it’s going to be tougher to meet people when you are just kind of trying to do it all on your own. I think in the pandemic, if you want to pick up a hobby you don’t really have a choice to take classes and it’s a wonderful amazing hobby, but then once the pandemic is over I think workshops and art shows and just places where people share their ideas and stuff is a great resource and I think that is key too growing as a potter for sure. Is kind of getting those other perspectives and being open to growing and taking criticism and all that stuff.
Ross: Would you say as a whole that the pottery community is fairly open?
Kristen: Yes, more so than anything I’ve ever tried to join into. I feel like the pottery community is really sharing oriented, like idea sharing is so welcomed and accepted and people are really warm. That’s my experience at least so yea I would recommend it to anyone and if anyone is interested they can also reach out to me, I am happy to chat!
Ross: So now you have a new studio that’s coming up, so what does that mean? Does that mean way more stuff, way more time?
Kristen: I don’t know yet, I hope it does! I hope it means more stuff, more time and better pieces. It’s actually in my studio-mates garage, so right now we are renting a pretty small space and we don’t have the capacity in that space for a kiln because there’s a lot of electrical requirements to get a kiln. So we are firing through someone else, and the person we fire with is really great but we just don’t have control over that process and like I said having as much control as you can over each step of the process is going to guarantee better output so my studio-mate bought a kiln and we are going to move into her garage, so I think having the kiln is going to be a game changer more so than having a new space, I think that will be business as usual. For me having access to the kiln will be huge, we can just fire when we want, produce as much as we can, it will just open up some doors.
Ross: Cool! So what does the future look like? What do you want to do, we talked before about could this be full time for you, do you even want it to be full time?
Kristen: At first I was like “Yes!, I want to do pottery all day everyday” and now that I’m doing it with a bit more of a business mind, I think I like the balance of my full time job and pottery cause they give me such different things. At my full time job I get to do sales and working with people in the health food industry, which I’m really passionate about, and we are really focused on sustainability at my main hustle. Pottery gives me such a great creative outlet and I’ve kind of tried to integrate as much sustainability aspects as I can but it’s just kind of hard to scale that and feel like I’m making as big of an impact as I do at my full time job. They both give me different things, so right now I’m really happy but you know if I ever did get the opportunity to do pottery full time that would be a great privilege. So I’m open right now I’m happy where things are but I’m open to what happens.
Ross: Go with the flow!
Kristen: Go with the flow, exactly!
Ross: Love it. Thanks so much Kristen it was great chatting. I can’t wait to do this in podcast format in the future.
Kristen's socials if you ever want to reach out to learn or purchase some of her amazing stuff are below: