Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Shelley. I started Vitrified Studio in the spring of 2011 in my backyard in Portland, Oregon. I love simple handmade ceramics, and I want to share what I make with other people so they can enjoy it, too. All of my work is simple utilitarian wheel thrown ceramics, made of five types stoneware or porcelain fired to cone 4-5 in an electric kiln.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
When I was in architecture school, I studied ceramics in the architecture department, learning about form and function. Since leaving school, I worked for 10 years in architecture and landscape architecture offices, taking a break this past fall to focus on ceramics and construction management. Currently, I split my time between working for a local home builder and ceramics at Vitrified Studio. I enjoy finding a balance between well-crafted homes and my own functional handmade ceramic wares.
What would be the title of your memoir?
Simple and Quiet.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I grew up with my mom always making things, from Ukranian pysanky eggs to braiding wool scraps into rugs. She inspires me to keep making. We lived in Central Pennsylvania, where I admired utilitarian home and farm objects from the neighboring Amish community. My design aesthetic was influenced by years spent studying architecture with my professor, who was from Finland. My home in the Pacific Northwest keeps me close to amazing natural places and to a community of urban craftspeople.
What does handmade mean to you?
A handmade object is created from memories of your life experiences, your hands, and bits and pieces from the world around you.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
People from years past (and a few cultures still remaining) who had simple, hardworking lives and made everything that they could by hand from the materials of the place where they lived. They knew how to make what they needed to live, or trade what they made with other craftspeople in their community.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I knew I always wanted to have ceramics in my life since the first time I sat down at a pottery wheel. At times, it is hard to consider myself an artist, as everything I make has been made by someone before me for thousands of years. I am only continuing the tradition of making and firing clay into functional ceramics, hoping to make something beautiful and timeless that will be well cared for and enjoyed.
How would you describe your creative process?
My hands take over my creative process. They decide the shape and I just follow along. The bottles especially seem to make themselves – the forms evolve and change on their own over time. Recently, I started using a mirror to watch the reflection of the profile of what I am making. It’s the only way to see the subtle lines of the form when you are sitting so close the the piece you are making. Because of the disconnect between how a recently thrown piece looks and how it looks out of the kiln after shrinking and changing from mud to stone, I end up constantly starting fresh, making and trying again to get the form just right. I have been working hard to measure as I go, trying to be more methodical, so five cups made of five different clays with five different shrinkage rates all end up about the right size. All the measuring and scaling reminds me of architectural drawing.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Edmund de Waal, Sue Paraskeva, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Kirsten Coelho, Lucie Rie and all the other artists on my ceramics inspiration blog.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A chunky metal ring given to me my partner, Mitch. I impress it into the clay as my maker’s mark.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Hiking and exploring beautiful places with my partner and our dogs.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Exactly where I am now, with a little less stress and more time to enjoy life. For the past 10 years, all I ever wished for was my own home and ceramics studio – I spent any chance I could sketching little pots on Post-it notes and stashing them in my pocket. I occasionally worked in community clay studios in San Francisco, Tucson, and New York, but I was always frustrated with not having my own space or choice of materials. It wasn’t until we moved to Portland and bought a house with a large empty garage that we knew it was finally time to build a studio and get back into making in a big way. We renovated our garage into two workshop spaces: a wood shop, and an efficient but small ceramics studio with big glass doors that open into the backyard. We share the backyard with our chicken coop, a gigantic Douglas fir tree and two dogs, Lily and Arthur.