Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
My name is Amanda Ryznar. I am 30 years old. My company is YogaGoat Pottery. The name comes from a doodle I drew in the margin of a college notebook of a goat doing yoga. I thought, “Hmm- YogaGoat… that will make a good name for my pottery someday”. I love the name more everyday. I briefly considered changing it to something “classier”, but then I figured, hey, even classy people like the idea of the YogaGoat. They are humans with a sense of humor, too.
My house and studio are located in Rochester, VT, a real “you can’t get there from here” town smack in the middle of the state. I am located on a scenic route just south of the village. We have our own store and gas station, which makes it a very happening place! I love it here, and I feel blessed and lucky to have made a home and a job here for myself. Buying a house was a scary thing for me, but has turned out to be the smartest thing I’ve ever done. While it doesn’t look exactly the way I pictured it, when I think about what I have always wanted in my life, it is just right. I share my home with a very fluffy cat named Phyllis. She likes to sit in an old cardboard clay box.
I graduated from Slippery Rock University (It’s in western Pennsylvania, about an hour north of Pittsburgh.) in 2000. The mascot there is a rock. I am not joking. It resembles a giant sweatsock. Oh, and its name is Rocky…
After college, I moved to Vermont, and worked in 2 production potteries before going out on my own April 1st of this year.
I have an awesome boyfriend named Bob Gray. He is also self-employed, so he understands completely when I am too busy to hang. He is also very helpful around the studio; won’t touch clay, but hook up the kiln? No problem!
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
My mom used to make play-doh out of flour, water, salt, and food coloring for me and my sister, Janelle. I think we ate most of that, though! Real play-doh objects were lovingly collected by my father; he dried them out and kept them all. Aw, dad…
I remember making a diorama out of those little plastic things that used to come in the tops of toothpaste pump dispensers. Do they still make those? I thought they looked like dinosaurs for some reason, so I pasted them onto a piece of cardboard… random.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
Just the action of making is inspiring in and of itself; creating a surface to decorate. Patterns on anything, fabric, plastic dishes, wallpaper… there are so many amazing fabrics here on Etsy I have to stop myself from going on a shopping spree. Customers have some great ideas. Kids are so creative; when they’re around I like to try to figure out how their brains work.
What are your favorite materials?
Porcelain is my clay of choice now. I made the final switch from white stoneware (before that, groggy brown stoneware) about a year ago. I don’t want to go back! The colors really pop on the porcelain, and the carving is very smooth and satisfying on that surface. I also love my slips, and making new colors. Mason stains; I could go broke buying and mixing new colors, so I let myself get a new one every once in a while. These are more tools than materials, but I love hake brushes, porcupine quills, and little bits of bamboo. I like drawing out designs in Sharpie markers.
What have been the most valuable lessons learned from other artists on Etsy?
List often, send hearts, reply to conversations promptly. Most importantly, make sure everything you put out there is of the highest quality. Be honest and direct in all of your dealings. Be nice. Everyone on Etsy is so helpful; it is a great world in which to be.
Why should people buy handmade?
Some things are better made in factories; pacemakers, prosthetic limbs and home appliances, to name a few. When shopping for gifts and for items to grace our bodies and our homes, I believe that handmade is better. The piece will come with a story, and you’re supporting the person who made it.
What features/services would you most like to see on Etsy?
Etsy is such an amazing place, not only for selling, but also for networking and meeting new people. I love it here.
The only request I would have is to be able to have pieces in more than one section, so that they could be grouped by shape and by design, for instance.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
You mean there’s a world outside my studio? Seriously, I work all the time. But I enjoy all aspects of my business: the making, the marketing, the schmoozing, the selling.
When I give myself some time off, I most enjoy the simple pleasures in life: spending time with friends, going out to dinner, trying out new cocktail recipes.
I like hiking, visiting swimming holes or going to the beach. Visiting my parents in St. Thomas is my favorite, but that’s pretty rare. I also indulge in guilty pleasures from time to time, namely the Lifetime Original Movie, or reruns of CSI. I also really like math, so any excuse to calculate something in my head; drawing diagrams is also good fun. Those sudoku puzzles are evil and addictive. Do I sound like a dork?
I really want to have a pet goat, so my hobby right now is trying to convince Bob that he needs a goat! I’ll give out his email address to anyone who wants to help in this pursuit.
Read any good books lately?
I am addicted to audio books. Jeanette, our local librarian, will call me when new ones come in! Over the past year, I have come to appreciate the mystery novels; they keep me in the studio wondering who the killer is, even if it is obvious most of the time.
Recently, I read a marketing book called Zag, by Marty Neumeier. I like reading books about business and marketing; though geared for larger businesses, I find that a lot of the pointers are helpful in a small business as well. My sister is starting an MBA program soon, so I look forward to getting her text books as hand-me-ups.
In ten years I’d like to be…
splitting my time between Vermont and St. Thomas or St. John, & working on pots in both places. I hope I will have enough residual income by then to start collecting other people’s work. I would love to have my own gallery and help support other artisans and artists.
The idea of grad school has recently been planted in my brain by another Etsian, so I wonder if I may fit that in somewhere.
I would love to design a line of housewares that could be made more affordably than my current line.
I also see YogaGoat as a brand that could grow to include other things besides pottery, though I’m not sure what those would be at the moment.
Okay, the truth… I want to be on the Oprah show, or interviewed by Terri Gross. I don’t need both, one or the other would do!