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Featured Shop: Burning Fork Studio

Apr 1, 2013

by Lahla Deakins handmade and vintage goods

My name is Lahla Deakins (pronounced LAY-la, like the song). I make hand-built, functional pottery for my shop Burning Fork Studio. I live in Knoxville, Tennessee.

When I’m working with clay, I feel so at home – like there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. I think everyday life is a little more luxurious when you drink your morning coffee from a handmade cup, or serve your family dinner in a handmade dish. It is so gratifying to create objects that people can use.

All of my hand-built pottery starts with a slab of clay. Next, I add texture using a striped roller and one of a variety of lace patterns. I use one of my own templates to cut out my desired shape, and form the slab into a tumbler, vase, or planter. Once the pieces are dry, I bisque fire them in my electric kiln, apply glaze, and fire once more at a higher temperature.

I offer customization options for many items I sell, like pet bowls or house numbers. Custom orders allow me to experiment with different forms and colors, which is fun for both me and the customer. Sometimes I do completely custom items where the customer gives me their design specifications or sends in their own lace for me to press into the clay. These options allow the customer be a part of the handmade process, and it’s rewarding for everyone involved.

I have a few requirements for any item I sell – it has to be functional, beautiful, and (most importantly) it has to be something I love and love making. I’ve found that when I’m not crazy about a piece, customers don’t seem to like it either. I also like to keep a tight palette of colors, and make everything in my shop cheerful and bright. For the past year or so, I’ve used only turquoise and white glazes. It gives my work a really cohesive look, and customers have really responded to it. This year, I’m adding one new color: orange!

My tumblers (above) are my favorite thing I’ve ever made – they’re the perfect size, and fit in my hand so nicely. I spent a lot of time tweaking the width and height, and even the thickness of the slab. People like that the rim is thin, so it’s comfortable to drink out of, and they’re very lightweight. I love to serve summer cocktails on the porch in my turquoise set. When I make mugs, I just add a handle to my tumbler form; I think it holds the perfect amount of coffee.

I’ve spent the last couple of years building a very local business – setting up booths at local craft fairs, teaching classes in my studio, and selling my work on consignment in local shops. But a lot of the people I meet at craft fairs are from out of town, and they always ask me if I sell online. Etsy is such a great way for me to extend my products to a broader audience. I get orders from right here in Knoxville and all over the country – it’s incredible to know my items are in homes in New York, California, and many places in between. I’m also one of the team leaders for our local Etsy team – the Knoxville Creative Hands Street Team. Etsy has connected me with a community of local artists that I may not have gotten to know otherwise.

My creative business has changed me in a lot of ways, but the best change has been that it continues to make me a better artist. When you’re in the studio all the time creating, you can’t help but learn and grow. I’ve also become more outgoing since I’m always interacting with customers, and I’ve learned to embrace the business side of making art, which is something I am still learning as I go along!

All photographs by Burning Fork Studio.

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