Behind the Scenes with SGP: Meet the Maker
Welcome to Behind the Scenes with SGP! This series will hopefully give you an idea of who we are, what we do, and a little bit about how we do it! If you have any questions about our process or studio set up, leave a comment below and we will publish a follow up post and cover some topics you may want to know more about! So ASK away, friends, and we will do our best to answer! This week, we'll start off by introducing you to SGP's namesake: Susan Gordon!
1. Where did you get your start making pottery?
My first pottery class was in college while studying to be a graphic designer...clay and I were insta-friends. No other medium has ever felt more natural or come so easy to me as ceramics. After receiving my BFA in Ceramic Sculpture, I moved to Birmingham to attend graduate school, which felt like the next natural step. Towards the end of graduate school, functional ceramics begin to pique my interest.
2. How did Susan Gordon Pottery LLC begin?
Officially we got started in 2013 in my basement. Prior to that, I worked as a Director for a not-for-profit art council for seven years and acquired a lot of experience running various aspects of a business. Coordinating a county-wide education program and teaching a slew of pottery and painting classes for adults and children taught me a lot! It also gave me an education on how to use electric kilns and mid-range (cone 6) glazes. At the time, even though we had a kiln for class use, there wasn't a lot of access or space to make my own work, so I would make a few pieces here and there and peddle them at local shows. For a long time, my dream was to be a painter until my husband spotted an example butter dish from one of my classes. My husband, who is pretty hard to impress, was emphatic that I make more pottery. His faith in me really made the wheels start turning.
By 2013 my pottery studio was set up in my basement along with my very own kiln and first employee. My Etsy shop was up and running and one by one, I started listing items that were ready to ship. That following spring, my work was all set up at a local art show in Birmingham. A local retailer noticed my work and BOOM I picked up my very first wholesale account, Chickadee. Now, SGP has over 100 active wholesale accounts and 3800 sales on Etsy! We have come a long way since my dank, dark basement and I am truly grateful.
3. Give us a peak into your current studio. Why Make Bhm?
Before it was a reality, Bruce Lenier, the founder of Make Bhm, explained his idea for the communal studio space to me. His vision was compelling and my first thought was, Birmingham really needs a place like this. The basic concept is that makers shouldn't have to create alone and that collaboration is essential to good ideas. Their motto is "...our facility is a gathering place for people who believe that good design, original ideas, and collaboration are the foundation of the creative community".
We have formed a lot of relationships and collaborated with artists that we would not have gotten to know if we had moved to a dedicated studio just for SGP. Make BHM is such a fun place to come to work. There's always somebody working here. It's exciting; it makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself.
4. Tell us about being your own boss. What is your favorite aspect of running your own business?
Even though I am mostly right-brained, running and accelerating a business is totally thrilling. It is exciting to be given a dream, to think BIG, write down your goals, and work towards making them a reality. Yes, sometimes it is hard WORK, and the not-so-fun stuff such as filing taxes and renewing business licenses can be soul-sucking. To be completely transparent and honest, not all of my goals and dreams have come true!! There have been lots of failures along the way. Mistakes which have taught me a lot about myself, how to keep trusting my gut intuition, and believe the vision that God has put in my heart is good and worthy to pursue.
5. Tell us how your creative process works. What are your go-to places for inspiration? Do you keep a sketchbook? How do you come up with new ideas?
Probably the biggest influence on my work is all my years painting abstract expressionist work! That experience has directly informed the surface application of my pottery. I do keep a sketchbook but my inspiration comes from working with my medium directly. There's something magical about the physicality of clay. If an idea is circling around in my head, most of the time it gets written down on a list and then I make a physical sample. Clay in raw form is like a sketchbook; it can be cut, pasted, and formed and then smooshed (erased) together again to create something completely different.
Real, regular life - cooking for a family of four, entertaining, and simply getting dressed - is also a big source of inspiration. I will realize something is needed, such as a certain size bowl or a pair of earrings in this or that color! For instance, our mini abstract bowls. I have a dozen at home. They come in handy for everything from candy on a table for guests, fruit storage, or for a yummy dip!
6. What is the most challenging aspect of being a creative entrepreneur?
For me, it is staying true to what I want to create and not letting comparison steal my joy. In art school, they taught us that "new ideas" do not exist anymore, that everything has been done. That can be disheartening when an idea births itself in your mind! Whether that is true or not, I am just going to keep my head down and create what my heart wants.
We hope you have enjoyed the first installment of the "Behind the Scenes with SGP" series. Let us know what other questions we can answer for you in the comments below.
Starting this blog is our way of showing you what we do, what we enjoy, and who we are. Over the course of this blog's life we are going to cover three general topics that excite us: food, design, and style. We hope you will sit back with a cup of coffee and get to know #SGPteam and a few of our favorites that we have invited to be guest writers here. Stay tuned y'all!