Walking into the Circa Ceramics studio in north-side Chicago, I was overwhelmed with the urge to create. Lauren and I were in for a real treat on this studio tour. Although Andy and Nancy apologized profusely for the alleged messiness of their space, through my eyes it was exactly as a workspace should be: buzzing with energy, well-equipped, and clearly well-used. Their studio is brimming with drawings, clay, kilns, and ceramic pieces in all stages. I prefer to equate mess as evidence of a healthy, humming studio practice.
Circa Ceramics is a collaborative studio team composed of the warm and wonderful Nancy Pizarro and Andy Witt. This dynamic duo creates a delicious world of candy-colored ceramic dishware, magnets, tiles, tabs, and cylinders adorned with their signature decals. Their fun and functional decorated wares can be found in their Etsy shop and at craft fairs.
One of the most fascinating elements of visiting a studio is witnessing other makers’ creative processes and the behind-the-scenes secrets. Andy and Nancy were incredibly generous and open about sharing their process. They walked us through all the steps of how they make one of their mugs, from the production of a mug to surface decoration to firing.
Andy’s focus in the team is to produce the pieces (mugs, bowls, cylinders) using a pottery wheel that he converted from an awkward kickwheel to smooth motorized wheel. The clay, either porcelain or earthenware, is pressed into one of their handmade molds and formed on the whirling wheel with the aid of a wooden template, which carves away a consistent interior. This process is repeated for every single piece of dishware that Circa Ceramics creates.
Nancy’s focus in the pair is on the surface design of the pieces. She applies the glazes and decals to the wares. As an ardent fan of all things Gocco, I was particularly intrigued by their decaling process. The decals are created either by printing with overglaze through a Print Gocco screen, or by printing from a laser printer (which contains iron oxide in the toner), onto decal paper. Once the decal is ready, Nancy “floats” the paper backing off, leaving only the image adhered to the gelatin surface of the decal. The decal is then applied to the mug (or bowl or cylinder).
I left the Circa Ceramic studio longing to revel in a ceramics studio, getting messy and making stuff in this intensely hands-on, process-oriented medium. I am thoroughly motivated by this prolific pair, who are living proof of the possibility of making a living making things. Viva Circa Ceramics!
For more information on the wares and process of Circa Ceramics, visit: