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Interview with Sara Pilchman of Sara Pilchman Ceramics

Tiny Pots by Sara Pilchman Ceramics

TSF: Tell us a little about you. 

Hi!  I’m Sara, from Long Beach, CA.  I’ve been teaching ceramics for the last eight years in Southern California and have been selling pottery through my business Sara Pilchman Ceramics since 2016.

TSF: How did you get started in the creation of pottery? Are you self-taught? 

I’ve been working in clay most of my life!  I started at a summer camp called Idyllwild Arts Academy as a kid and my passion for clay was mostly fueled by my competitive nature, a love of getting messy, and the fact I was allowed to play with fire.  About ten years later I returned to Idyllwild to finish my high school education at a boarding art school, ironically going to study French horn and creative writing but instead rediscovering pottery.  In 2008 I moved to central Pennsylvania to study ceramics and museum work at a little liberal arts school called Juniata College.

TSF: I watched your videos on instagram. That wheel is mesmerizing. Do you find yourself lost in time while you are creating? 

Thank you!  A lot of people call working on the wheel meditative.  For me as an angsty kid (like many young potters!) it was more about getting out frustrations and anger.  Throwing pottery is incredibly physical work, so using your muscles to create can be an amazing stress reliever once you build a relationship with the clay. There’s an integral step to throwing once you start called centering; you almost rock the clay as its spinning into the center of the wheel.  To make a too-cheesy pun, you find yourself centered as well while you work and can leave the rest of the world behind.  Its only been in the last year or two that I’ve been able to recognize throwing on the wheel as a meditative practice.  

TSF: What or who inspires you?  

I’m a big museum nerd and love modern and contemporary art.  I get frustrated by the performative aspects of visiting museums at this point (the next time I go to the Broad and watch someone taking a selfie covering a piece of art I’m going to scream) but absolutely love the idea of museums and art spaces as a whole as a source of equitable art education. Art saves lives and must be accessible to absolutely everyone.  Off of that hill and in an attempt not to ramble further, my inspirations: international travel, greenhouses, abandoned and overgrown human monuments, Rene Magritte, Scott Musgrove, good scary movies, Roberto Lugo, the Huntington Library, and the Rudolfinum. 

TSF: Let’s talk about Ring dishes. Personalization is everything right now. Can Brides (and/or Grooms) customize something that is just for them?  

Absolutely!  That’s the fun thing about TinyPots – every single piece is one of a kind so your piece will be just for you.  I make each piece start to finish so if there’s something my wedding [client] wants or needs we can have a consultation to make that happen.  Pottery takes a good amount of time to process though, so the more personalization/specificity you need from your potter the longer the lead time you should give them. Think six weeks to make is pretty normal, but more time would allow for any misfires, breakage, etc that’s especially common in the making process.  Keep in mind if you’re using a ceramicist like me you’re asking for handmade, not factory made, work.  It will look it, and that’s the fun!

TSF: I saw on your instagram page beautiful pots and bowls for centerpieces and candles. My favorite were the tiny Pots in wine, green and ivory colors. Do you develop your own color palette and how does it change with time? 

The great and sometimes frustrating thing about the type of firing I do (high temp reduction gas firing) is that the final result is always a little bit of a surprise–less like working with paint and more melting a mixture of glasses.  I use about 7 core glazes and clays that I mix and match and I have a basic idea of which combinations looks best, but even the same glaze/clay combo can still surprise me!  It’s a good thing too–everyone’s tastes are different so luckily I don’t have to pick just one palette.

TSF: Do you guide couples on creation of a palate that would work with their wedding?  

Now this is the fun part!  With my couples and customers I will show them combos they might like in planning and I’ll share with them the range that glaze has. For example, my white glaze will always be absolutely white, but my green has a range of almost metallic brown all the way to a near teal depending on the clay and shifting oxygen levels in my kiln.  I always make at least twice the pieces you’ll need in order for you to pick the out the pots you absolutely love!  The part that makes my business fun is the conversations I get to have with my customers.  I love to help make the day just what my couples imagine!

TinyPots by Sara Pilchman
TinyPots by Sara Pilchman

TSF: I love the idea of tiny succulents as wedding favors. And  your tiny pots seem perfect for that. Do You offer large bulk orders?  

I offer bulk orders at wholesale prices!  I like to keep them affordable because honestly I love weddings and people LOVE these favors.  TinyPots are absolutely food safe and multifunctional, so you’ve got your air-plant pot to set as a place marker that doubles as your shot glass in the after party, or a bud vase that also works as a match striker in your home.  How many weddings have a favor everyone can keep and use that’s handmade and absolutely one of a kind?

TinyPots by Sara Pilchman

TSF: Are there any recent projects you would like to tell us about?  

Right now I’m just keeping up with these!  I initially began SPC as a dinnerware company and made entirely dishes, mugs, and planters. One day I may return but for now I’m working to take over the country with TinyPots! You can find them in many major cities around the US and can always reach out for info on your nearest retailer. 

TSF: What attribute do you feel best characterizes an excellent piece of pottery? 

Wow!  That’s a tough question.  I would say intentionality….if that’s a word.  However simple or complex a piece is there is a sense of aesthetic balance in it.  Usually that comes through knowing the material after decades of work and having it be such second nature the balance comes intuitively.  Its hard to describe but its like sincerity-you know it when you see it.  On a much more basic level, the walls of the pot are even, its not too heavy, the base isn’t too thick, the rim doesn’t chip easily!

TSF: What’s the most unusual pottery request?  

In high school I made a drinking fountain for my teacher’s retired celebrity cat!  Since then people have requested nesting bowls, knitting bowls, basic dish-ware, but I rarely take on odd commissions anymore.

TSF: What projects have you most enjoyed making?  

TinyPots are thankfully really fun to make!  I’m looking forward to being able to get back to making some extra large planters, bowls, fountains again though.  Sometimes you have to balance it out!

Thank you Sara!

Derek and I look forward to seeing what you create next. I already have ideas for tiny pots and gift boxes floating around in my head. Check out Sara’s pages below.

Instagram: @sarapilchmanceramics/

ETSY: SaraPilchmanCeramics

FaceBook: @SaraPilchmanCeramics/

SHOP: Sara Pilchman Ceramics

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