This post is a larger photography project called Millennial Makers – a 52-week visual project featuring intrepid young professionals passionate about running their own businesses and inspiring others to do the same. If you are interested in being a part of this photography project email us at [email protected]
Kelsey Jo, 25, Potter
What are you making today?
I was working on a mug order and glazing.
How did you start your business?
I’ve always been pretty creative as a kid. Going to school I always gravitated to the arts. So I took a pottery class in college and fell in love with it.
There is something special when you have that connection with the clay. You are in it physically, emotionally, and mentally. I love pottery because it’s such a physical craft. You get covered in clay and I love getting dirty and having clay up to my elbows. I also love the functioning aspect of it. It’s what has drawn me and kept the passion alive. I can make things which is the creative outlet but I can use it as well means so much more.
You are providing a service but also create art. How does that feel?
It feels great. If it wasn’t for the utilitarian aspect I’d likely be doing something else.
Do you feel more of an artist or an entrepreneur?
That’s a great question. It always has been a balance for me. People have told me over and over that, I have always been an artist. But when I look back at my art I never feel like an artist. I feel like I have a trade, like a craft trade that I use to serve the community with and serve people who want handmade wear. As time wears I’ve leaned more into the artistry of it but the entrepreneur aspect has always been super fascinating to me as well. I love small business and the economics of it. It’s certainly the marriage of the two.
How did you start your business?
Pottery can be an expensive hobby and so I just started selling my pottery to family and friends to fund my hobby until it grew and grew. I originally started with an Etsy shop. It was my initiation to online selling. I also did farmers markets for a few seasons as well as craft fairs, but now most of my sales are on my website.
How did you find such a beautiful space for your business?
I used to be part of an artist cooperative with other potters which was fun. But as my business was growing I needed my own space. The goal from the beginning has always been to have my own space, having a shop dog, playing my music and my podcasts as loud as I want. I just wanted a space that was mine. A sacred space for Kelsey but also for my work. That’s always been the goal.
So I was walking down Garland one day, trying to envision myself here and get the feel, dream and imagine if you will. And I walked down Lincoln street and I saw a little rent sign in this building that looked rough around the edges. I instantly fell in love with the space and immediately called the number on the sign. This older gentleman picks up and I tell him that I want his building on Lincoln and he replies that he just sold it to another guy named Jim who I knew! And just when I was about to call Jim he pulls right up the driveway and I tell him right there that I wanted this place. We negotiated for a bit but at the end of it, we struck a deal. After months of remodeling, I opened the doors to KJ Pottery. I’ve has this space since June 2017.
Where do you find your customers?
The majority of people find me online. I’m mostly an e-commerce company. My website and my Etsy is what pays the bills. I do quite a bit of wholesale which has been my side project that I’ve been trying to grow, like restaurant wears and wears for coffee shops, and cafes. And now I have a studio space that I can open to the community and have more of a local involvement.
How do you approach wholesale?
All my projects have come to me which has been awesome. Word of mouth is big. But the marriage behind handcrafted meals, intentional and creative, and that farm to table aspect pairs perfectly with locally sourced handmade wares. It makes no sense to me when someone buys industry wear from Sri Lanka after putting so much effort and time into locally sourcing their food. Because of this, I’ve been passionate about wholesale.
Do you know anyone in Spokane doing what you are doing?
There are a few potters in Spokane who are doing what I’m doing but not too many people who are selling pottery for a living in Spokane. There are a handful of exceptional artists but it’s a small community for sure.
You have been living off your art for how long? and how does that make you feel?
I’ve been living off my art for 3 years now and it feels really good. I’m proud of myself. It’s taken some time to get there. Obviously, a small business is always a work in progress, but it’s also a labor of love. You don’t make a ton of money with small creative businesses and you work a ton. But I love it. I’m hooked.
Is there a certain pottery piece that you love to make?
For the longest time, I would have told you making mugs is where it’s at for me, which is still true today in some ways. There’s something very personal about mugs. A lot of people have that favorite mug that they will reach for every morning.
My most beloved pieces are dinnerware. It’s part of the story. I love the idea of wares being in homes, set on tables with families coming together. I’m passionate about the use of my wears, community and the choice involved with purchasing handmade goods. Dinner wares sort of bring all that together for me.
Stylistically, how are you different from other potters?
I have tried to create my own style. I’m always refining it but my style gravitates to a more minimal look, through clean lines, neutral tones and an emphasis on simplicity.
How are you growing your business?
My next step is to hire someone . . .
You ever get lonely working by yourself?
Sometimes. But I came from working in a communal space, knowing that I always wanted my own space. I’m an introvert at heart. All I need are my podcasts and a whole day can go by like that.
What kind of podcasts do you like to listen to?
Podcast about small businesses, psychology and spirituality. Also quite a bit of NPR.
When did you get Jill your dog?
I got her in October. I recently bought a house and it felt like a wright of passage so I got a dog. It’s nice to have a companion. I’ve always wanted a shop dog. She goes everywhere with me.
I’m gearing up for open hours at the studio on Saturday’s. I’m doing an event in the spring with a few other makers.