My name is Christine Silbaugh, and my shop is called Back Bay Pottery. I live with my husband and two children at the back of the bay in Los Osos, California. My studio is behind our little beach bungalow and is always filled with family and friends.
I make a wide variety of whimsical pottery, from tiny little bird beads and buttons to functional pieces for the home and kitchen. Most of my ideas come to me in quiet moments – often while I’m sleeping – so I keep a notebook by my bedside table to jot them down. Sometimes a drawing is the next step, and other times I go straight to the clay. All my pottery is fired twice, and sometimes I use a process that requires a third or fourth firing. One of my favorite things is to open the kiln to see the amazing transformation: what was once a ball of clay is now a beautiful piece of art.
I have more ideas than I have time, but luckily I have some great friends who come over when I’m flooded with orders and stay late into the night to help (and keep me company). My husband Tino is a huge support for me in life and work. He built my studio, and finds all of my used equipment – like kilns and potter’s wheels – which he fixes up so they work like new. My twin sister Lyssa helps me ship orders. She’s meticulous, and makes sure each order is beautifully wrapped and packaged.
Then there’s my studio apprentice, Camilla, who cheerfully helps with all the behind-the-scenes work involved in running a pottery studio. We often work on our own projects side-by-side, and she’s even starting to sell her work at One Next Door. Camilla’s mother, Gina, is the one who first encouraged me to open my shop. She runs Camilla Cotton, and has been there any time I have questions or problems. My lifelong-fiend Giselle (of Giselle No. 5) helps me with customer conversations when things get busy, and sometimes even comes over to glaze or load the kiln with me.
When I was looking for a way to help support my family, starting a creative business was the natural choice for me. My daughter was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was two years old, and being my own boss has allowed me to shape my work schedule around her care. The additional income from my shop has covered many of her expensive treatments and doctors’ bills. She is now in remission, and it’s been such a joy over the past few years to watch her steady improvement as my business grows.
I have to say that I’ve really surprised myself with what I’ve been able to accomplish with my creative business. It’s really added to my confidence. I feel very blessed to have a life where I can make beautiful things full time, and be there to watch my children grow. For me, Etsy is a place where I can bring my creativity into the world. I love this amazing community, and I truly believe anyone can a have place here and make a business that will work for them.
All photographs by Back Bay Pottery.