Twelve years ago, while both were students at the Appalachian Center for Craft, Anderson Bailey teamed up with his creative partner and wife-to-be, Jessie Bean, in a glassblowing studio in Tennessee. “I was trying out glass blowing, and she was more advanced,” recalls Anderson. “You had to have a partner when you worked in the glass studio, so we became working partners.” That partnership blossomed into a friendship, and then more, and when they graduated — Anderson with a degree in ceramics, and Jessie in glassblowing — the duo decided to pursue their crafts, and lives, together.
In the summer of 2012, the pair married and applied for a grant to develop a line of slip-cast ceramics. “Jessie saw me really struggling to make a living drawing pots because of all the labor involved, so she suggested we give slip casting a shot. She thought we could get some more equipment and combine our expertise, and man, that was a great idea.” They got to work designing, and in 2013, Anderson and Jessie launched Bean & Bailey Ceramics on Etsy to sell their collection of contemporary, slip-cast porcelain pots.
We chatted with Anderson to learn more about how he and Jessie got started, their favorite parts of the job, and their tips for achieving a healthy work/life balance.
When did you and Jessie first try your hands at ceramics?
I started throwing pots and working for potters when I was in high school. I took my first clay class at school, and then I found a local potter and took another class. From there, I got a job working for him, and I just stayed with it.
Jessie took her first ceramics class in college. She started to going to college when she was sixteen, and when she turned eighteen she wanted to drop out — she didn’t know what she wanted to do. Her mom had taken a pottery class when she was in college, and she told Jessie, “Look, before you change gears completely, take a ceramics class.” So she took a ceramics class and she loved it.
And what drew you to the craft?
I think it was the opportunity to make something that could actually be used. When I signed up for the class in high school, it was just because it was an art class, but then all of a sudden I saw: Oh wow, you can use this stuff. I can design and make a cup and cereal bowl for myself and it can look however I want it to — it can be completely original, like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and also be useful, something I interact with every day. That was really what got me hooked on the medium, and what really drew me into the craft in general: making functional objects.
What’s it like combining your different areas of expertise and running a business together?
It’s just started running smoothly this year because we’ve finally figured out what we each do best. I do more of the mold making, the glazing and finishing work, and the loading and unloading of the kiln. I also keep up with all the equipment. Jessie does a lot more of the actual casting of the work. She also handles more of the communication, and manages all of the production. She has a multi-tasking brain, which I do not — she has this amazing ability to see the big picture, all the while attending to five different details. I think we’re a good team.
You and Jessie live and work together. How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Honestly, it’s kind of weird how it’s developed into a nine-to-five, Monday-through-Friday schedule. That seems to be the best way to separate the two — to work when most other people are working — which is funny, because that’s something I always wanted to stay away from.
In the past we were always taking work when it came, because it was never steady; we felt like we had to do all the work because it was there. We’d go back to the studio after dinner, and go in on Saturday and Sunday. But now we’ve learned that we can pick it up tomorrow or pick it up on Monday. We’ve proven to ourselves that yes, we will get everything done. It’s just about finding a schedule and forcing ourselves to not go back to work.
We also both have hobbies: I like to work on bicycles and motorcycles, and Jessie is into Zumba and dancing. She’s also got a band with a couple friends that she practices with — she’s trying to learn how to play drums.
Vases by Bean & Bailey Ceramics, $35 and $65
What’s your favorite part of your job?
For Jessie, she really loves casting things — that’s the part that brings the product to life, that brings it from the mold into a physical thing you can hold in your hands. And we both really love designing new work. That’s a longer, slower process, bringing something out of your brain and into your hands, but it’s really the most exciting part. Seeing something brand new — that’s the most rewarding for me, for sure.
What’s next on the horizon for Bean & Bailey?
We’re continuing to push forward! We’re learning to set aside time to make new work and to come up with more thoughtful designs — that desire is only getting stronger. I don’t know if getting much bigger is that attractive to us, because we both have our hands in the process, and at heart we’re not business people, we’re materials people. We’re still young, though — who knows where we’ll be in ten years. Maybe we’ll find another material that we fall in love with, but no matter what, I see us making work. Right now, though, this is going great.
Keep up with Bean & Bailey Ceramics on Facebook.
All photos by Grant Dotson.