My name is Paula Lopez-Otero, and I am the owner and creator of Paulova Ceramics. I make ceramic wares inspired by the functional and simple beauty of Scandinavian design. I recently moved my business from San Francisco, California, to Portland, Oregon, where I currently live and work.
I never formally studied art in school, but it’s been a part of my life ever since I can remember. It may have had something to do with my early education at the Waldorf School in Linz, Austria, where I was born. When I came to the United States at age seven, it was a bit of a shock to discover that art was, for the most part, an afterthought in the schools I attended. From that point on, it was always something I pursued on my own time.
It was only after 10 years of working as a digital photo retoucher that I took my first pottery class. After so many years staring at pixels all day long, I had the urge to create something three-dimensional that I could touch and feel. I never thought of it other than as a hobby and something to break the monotony of my job, but I steadily progressed. I received so much encouragement from my peers that I decided to test the waters when a friend told me about Etsy. Etsy definitely helped launch my passion into a full-time business. This was never a path I intended to follow, but it found me in the end.
I run my entire business on my own, from making the actual ceramic pieces, to packing and shipping, to running my shop. I do all of my ceramic production in a separate studio space. It definitely helps to have another place I can go to create rather than just working from home where it’s easy to find an abundance of distractions.
To avoid getting overwhelmed, I head to my studio first thing so I can get a full day in, and save the emails and packing orders for the evenings. I feel like I can shut all of my worries out when I’m in my studio. I tend to get lost in the process, and 10 hours can go by in the blink of an eye. I usually start by pouring molds and getting on the wheel for a few hours to make my jars.
I’d have to say my favorite pieces to make are my candles. I especially love figuring out which scent combinations to choose. When I have a large order come in, I know my house is going to smell amazing for a week. It’s also helps to get a break from my studio every once in a while.
I think there’s never been a more important time to be a conscious consumer. With more and more products being mass-produced, it’s getting much harder to find a product that is not made in a factory overseas – even high-end designer goods. While I cannot compete with low-cost, mass-produced ceramics, I feel like the advantage I do have is a personal touch. I think that is something people are craving, the more plugged-in and tuned-out we become.
I never imagined I would be making a living from my art, and now I can’t imagine it any other way. My day never really ends and I’ve never worked harder in my life, but I’ve also never felt more fulfilled. There are definitely days when you want to give it all up – like when my kiln overfires and I lose weeks worth of work. But after the initial shock wears off (and maybe with a helpful shot of Patron), I brush myself off and start again, because it’s so very worth it. I still have to pinch myself every now and again that I am able to do what I love for a living.