Art Star at Winterfest

Art Star at Winterfest

We are excited to announce that we opened up a 2nd Seasonal location within The Lodge at Winterfest this year! For those of you that came last year, it is much different and even better! Instead of having rotating craft vendors, we just have one big Art Star shop that is within a 40 foot shipping container, which is along the perimeter of The Lodge.  The other difference this year (from last) is that our store is accessible from within The Lodge (which is one of the huge heated tents) with giant sliding doors that we will keep open. It is warm, cozy and inviting with a fireplace inside (super excited about that!)

Inside The Lodge at Winterfest / photo courtesy of DRWC

Right next door to us is beer and food.  Throughout The Lodge are cozy couches, fireplaces (mantels from the Divine Lorraine Hotel) and much more.  This year is a HUGE improvement from last year (which we all thought was pretty amazing anyway) so just wait until you see it! We encourage guests to make a day (or night) of it and enjoy all that Winterfest has to offer: ice skating, good food, booze, beer, arcade games, pool, the firepits + fireplaces, etc.  PLUS you can get your holiday shopping done at Art Star!  We are fully stocked with gifts to give everyone on your list this holiday!

Outside of The Lodge (photo courtesy of DRWC)

DRWC is the fantastic non-profit behind all the development you are seeing along the waterfront, including Spruce Street Harbor Park and Winterfest.  They are an incredible group of passionate people and we feel so honored to be a part of these projects.  If you see any of the DRWC staff walking around, please thank them. They’ve worked so hard to make Winterfest amazing for you to enjoy! And we really think you will!

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NoLibs + Fishtown Holiday Shopping Spree

The annual NoLibs Holiday Shopping Spree is back and this year we’ve expanded to include our friends in Fishtown!  Mark your calendars for the largest Holiday Spree to date!

Art Star is pleased to present the annual Holiday Shopping Spree, which will be held on Saturday, December 6th  from 11-8pm and Sunday, December 7th  from 11-6pm.  The spree will take place in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia and has expanded this year to include Fishtown shops as well. 16 retail shops will be participating in the spree.  The more you shop at each location, the more you save!

Here is how the spree works:
1st Participating Store: Customer receives 10% off their purchase + a spree card w/ one sticker on it

2nd Store: Customer shows spree card  w/ 1 sticker & gets 15% off their purchase + a 2nd sticker

3rd Store: Customer shows spree card w/ 2 stickers & gets 20% off their purchase + a 3rd sticker

Once the customer’s spree card has 3 stickers, they will receive 25% off at any additional participating store that they shop at throughout the event.

Participating Shops
NoLibs: City Planter, Philly Phaithful, Ritual Ritual, Art Star, Casa Papel, Once Worn Consignment, Bloom, Swag Boutique, Jinxed at The Piazza

Fishtown: The Art Dept, Adorn Boutique + Showroom, Toile, Catch & Release Merchants, Craft Foundry, Jinxed Fishtown, Two Percent To Glory

The spree was conceived in 2006 by local retailers Art Star, Arcadia Boutique, and Conspiracy Showroom as a way to encourage shoppers to support independent boutiques in the Northern Liberties neighborhood.  Now in its 8th year, the spree has become a shopping tradition for hundreds of Philadelphians looking for unique gifts to give for the holiday season!

Each shop will be serving up light refreshments and plenty of holiday cheer!  Support your local independent retailers this holiday season!

Special thanks to friends + neighbors at Liberties Parcel for sponsoring this event!

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Get to know Mauro Baiocco, the artist behind Naughty & Nice

We are so excited to be carrying the Naughty, yet Nice line of work by Mauro Baiocco.  He first caught our eye when he participated in our May bazaar.  We completely fell in love with his work and we were curious to learn more about him.  Enjoy our little interview + be sure to check out our full stock of his paintings here.  Meet him in person at this weekend’s Art Star Craft Bazaar. He is just as charming in person as his work (I know, how is it possible?!)

Art Star: Tell us a bit about your work.  What inspires your imagery?
Mauro Baiocco: I paint silliness. I guess the best way to summarize my process is this: when i was a kid, there was a catch-all, make-no-sense TV line up every Saturday from 2:00-8:00pm called “Super Action Saturdays”. A typical programming will be something like “Plan 9 from Outter Space”, followed by “Spartacus”, “Motra vs. Godzilla” and “Valley of the Dolls” -I know! So awesome! By the end of it, I was so stimulated and exhausted I used to merge all the plots into one long movie and that’s how I remembered it: Hellen Lawson kicked Godzilla’s ass, married Spartacus and helped him liberate the world from zombie aliens (which would be a blockbuster by the way). I try to tap into that old way of seeing things when I’m painting.

AS: Are you formally trained? If so, where did you study?
MB: No formal training at all.

AS: You currently live/work in Brooklyn, correct? Where are you from originally?
MB: Yes, that’s correct. I have been in NYC for 15 years and in downtown Brooklyn since 2006. I’m originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

AS: What are some of your favorite places in NY to go for inspiration?
MB: Hands down the Metropolitan Museum. I have visited so much and still always find some amazing piece that i overlooked before and it blows my mind. And also I keep coming back to the dioramas in the American History Museum. If it is a nice day to be out, i’ll just walk around the city or sit in a park and people watch.

 AS: Are you able to focus on your work full time?
MB: I have been painting silliness full time since 2008. Sometimes I even get to pay all my bills!

AS: What materials do you primarily work with?
MB: I enjoy working with bright colors in any shape or form, and I love using vintage photographs and antique frames in my work.

AS: Aside from Art Star, Where else do you show/sell your work?
MB: Right now I’m gearing up to open my booth in the Winter Village at Bryant Park starting October 21st till January 4th. It is a joint venture with a fellow artist friend and we decided to name our holiday shop “Gomez & Petrov” as a wink to our respective latin and Russian origins. Also, I will be participating in One Of A Kind Chicago from December 4th-7th. Busy times are a-coming!

AS: Who are some of your favorite artists?
MB: Oh God, so many I don’t know where to begin! Photography is really dear to my heart and I enjoy a really wide spectrum from Berenice Abbot to Ryan McGingley. I also have a soft spot for pop surrealism, so Gary Baseman, Mia Makila, Anne Faith Nichols, Camille Rose Garcia, Marion Peck, Elizabeth Mcgrath,  Jose Rodolfo Loaiza Ontiveros, Alex Gross, the Clayton Brothers, Martha Rich, I mean  I can go on and on…


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An Interview with Amber Zaraza of Phea Jean

First time ASCB booth mates Jamie Williams of Dop Dop Designs and Amber Zaraza of Phea Jean interview each other and find out what is in store for the upcoming bazaar! This first post features Jamie’s interview with Amber of Dop Dop Designs.  Enjoy!

How did you find sewing and what influenced you to turn your skill into a business?  I began sewing around the age of 12. I found my mothers old Kenmore sewing machine and an assortment of my grandmother’s notions and thought I could make things. I didn’t have any fabric so I cut up clothing that I got at the thrift store.  Of course I had no idea what I was doing but managed to make a very simple cross body handbag out of an old blue and white houndstooth polyester suit. I took a crystal clasp off of one of my mothers sweaters to use as a closure and wore that bag for years. I was immediately hooked! I took sewing classes in high school where I was able to hone in on my skills and really learn proper techniques. I went to college for fashion design and during that time made handbags for myself, and then friends, and soon after strangers were asking me where and how to order. So in 2005, phea jean was born, sort of by accident, but once the ball started rolling I just went with it and I love it! It’s still funny to think that I originally set out to be a bridal designer!

 Where did the name phea jean come from?  Settling on a business name seemed daunting at first- what name would I always want to be associated with and never be tired of?!  phea jean, of course, had to be it…phea (Phyllis) and Jean are my two grandmothers, both wonderful and strong women in different ways and both very dear to me.

Describe your personal style and how that translates into phea jean.
I love vintage clothing…dresses, coats, hats, etc. The fabric really draws me in, as I find the bright colors and bold patterns hard to resist. I use primarily vintage fabric because I find it so intriguing, I, too, sometimes find inspiration in vintage styles. For example, one of my hat patterns is loosely based on the cloche style made popular in the 1920′s. I also just really like unique, funky pieces. I like when unexpected fabrics are used for traditional silhouettes. I love mixing fabrics and patterns which I do in my designs. In my personal style, I pretty much go for it- wearing and mixing things that other people wouldn’t think to, but somehow (most of the time) ends up working. I never take fashion too seriously, but I want to look good. I want people to look good (great!) in my designs but I also want them to have a good time with the pieces and mix and match them together.

What inspires your work?
I am inspired by all the vintage fabric patterns and textures. I “treasure hunt” in attics, basements, estate sales, thrift stores, etc for fabric and I never know what I will bring home, so I have to let each piece speak to me and inspire me as it comes. I’m even often inspired by buttons and will sometimes start with the buttons and design around them. Everything I make is one of a kind and even though I have patterns in place, I do very little planning when it comes to the production aspect of sewing. My process consists of looking around my studio and seeing what catches my eye at the moment.
My clothing designs are definitely inspired by women, of all shapes and sizes. I really try to accommodate different body types and design pieces that will fit a variety of sizes. I want anyone to come to my booth and be able to find something flattering and leave feeling confident.

In a literal sense, I am inspired to make things that I want or need for everyday life. My head is cold, therefore I should make hats. I need a specific size/shape handbag so I’ll make it.

What items will you be bringing to the bazaar? phea jean will be bringing things to keep you warm:  Plenty of hats and scarves of course. I’ll also have my unique wrap tops and ponchos for stylish winter clothing options.

What item is perfect for gift giving?  The scarves are a great gift and an easy way to spruce up any outfit. At $35-$45 you really can’t go wrong.

What other artists at the bazaar are you excited to check out?  Considering the shows are our only chance to do our holiday shopping I am excited to see and support all the other vendors!  First thing, I’ll be hitting up my booth mate dop dop designs for a housewarming gift. I’m also a huge fan of miss millie and will be dropping hints to my partner on which of her latest work I need to have. I’m interested to see the coffee drip cones from Melissa Weiss Pottery and the jewelry by Maureen Duffy.

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An Interview with Jamie Williams of Dop Dop Designs

First time ASCB booth mates Jamie Williams of Dop Dop Designs and Amber Zaraza of Phea Jean interview each other and find out what is in store for the upcoming bazaar! This first post features Amber’s interview with Jamie of Dop Dop Designs.  Enjoy!

How and when did dop dop designs develop into a business?
Where does the name dop dop come from?

The name dop dop comes from my youngest son, Kiefer.  When Kiefer was nearly 1, he didn’t say many words, but he sure loved flip flops. Having difficulty speaking, he would always call them dop dop’s.  As time went on, he would say dop dop whenever he was happy.  So, eventually, dop dop came to mean “all things good”.   My design focus started with an emphasis on aprons due to Kiefer’s acid reflux and my need to protect my clothing during feedings. There were a ton of cute burp cloths and baby coverage, but nothing for me.  So, I started designing aprons that were durable, easy to care for and pretty without being over the top. Therefore, I felt it only right to immortalize Kiefer’s role (and sweetness) in the development of my brand,  In July 2011, dop dop designs became a legitimate business.  Three years later, here I am expanding my products and hoping to transform your kitchens.

Describe the dop dop style.
My style is fresh, and clean but with an element of whimsy. Specializing in kitchen accessories,  I like to merge utility and practicality with a dash of happiness and turn the things that we need into the things that we want.  dop dop designs is all about versatility, quality, easy care, and pops of color.  I put the extra care into production so that you don’t have to.

What inspires your work?
As for inspiration,  I am totally inspired to create a comforting haven at the dinner table where my family and yours can reconvene at the end of each day.  Life is full of fast paced activities, dinner  shouldn’t be one of them.  Even when my children are getting mac n’ cheese for dinner,  I love how they feel like it’s the most special thing ever! Simply using a cloth napkin and a place mat transforms the everyday into an occasion.   Many expected and unexpected events can become inspiration.   Inspirational things (for me):  sounds and smells of the ocean, walks in the woods, running water in the shower, blooming flowers,  80′s/90′s industrial music (oddly enough),  old photo albums, and canning.

What items will you be bringing to the bazaar?

dop dop designs will be bringing a slew of items to the ASCB November 8th and 9th.  As always, full and half aprons in fantastic fabrics will be available,  potholders (deluxe and mini grabbers),  reversible placemats, double-sided deluxe napkins, linen napkins,  reversible table runners, and market tote bags made of vintage tablecloths~ perfect for any excursion.   All items are made of 100% premium cotton and handmade in Chester Springs, PA.

What dop dop item is perfect for gift giving?
All of my items are the perfect gift for anyone who has recently moved into a new home or apartment, an avid cook, anyone who has recently remodeled their kitchen, or someone who loves to create intimate dining spaces.  dop dop designs’ potholder gift sets are the perfect hostess gift,  placemats and napkins are the perfect gift for the new homeowner, and a fantastic one of a kind market tote would please anyone with a heart!

What other artists at the bazaar are you excited to check out?
I am so excited to be a part of the ASCB this fall, not only as an artist/maker, but as a shopper!   I’m a big pottery fan and love giving pottery as gifts….so, I’m looking forward to Little Flower designs for those needs.  As a sewer, can’t wait to see Group Hug Quilts!!!  Big quilt fan and love their work!  For my nieces, I am sure to be hitting up Dahling accessories.  AND, of course, I am looking forward to Phea Jean.  Nobody works vintage fabric like Amber.  Can’t wait!

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Eling of Migration Goods Shares Her ASCB Shopping List

Hi everyone! Eling from migration goods here. As a maker I rarely get enough time to properly shop at the events I am vending at, and this is doubly so during the fall + holiday seasons. I am always kicking myself at the end of a show because I haven’t had enough time to complete my own shopping!

This year I decided I would try to organize + plan my holiday shopping ahead of time for events that I know will have really great vendors– like, yup, the upcoming Fall Art Star Bazaar!

Here’s what’s on my list (so far)!

All of Dirty Ass Soap‘s soaps are so fun, but this ramen soap is definitely tops on my list for gifts this year (hope none of the potential recipients are reading this)

Also on my list for gift shopping (and in the category of food related accessories): The everything bagel necklace from inedible jewelry

and the amazing Old Bay Seasoning earrings from Flat Rat Studio. (Their pet portraits are totally on my own wishlist too).

I’m obsessed with paper goods & can never find enough time to look at them all! But I’ll be making a point to find Bowerbox Press next weekend for this card & to check out all the rest of the lovely work in person.

 More paper goods please! I can’t wait to see Sarah Ryan‘s sweet cards + illustrations up close!

For my book-loving friends (and me too), I’m very excited to pick up these bookmarks from New Academy Press, and this super-cute tote from Common Rebels too.

Common Rebels also makes a ton of cute cat items, which I will be shopping for my cat-loving friends. Speaking of those cat friends, I’ll also be looking for this sweet cat lover scarf from Red Prarie Press.

If my friends/family are very very good, they might find themselves the recipients of one of these gorgeous spoons or sake cups from Melissa Weiss Pottery (I’m coveting these ramen bowls for myself).

And how cute is this stegosaurus from By Yivvie? Some tiny (or not so tiny) people I know may need a few of these plushes…

A couple other items I will be checking out for some potentially very lucky folks include this beautiful whale skeleton necklace from J.TOPOLSKI (I am saving up for this sloth bracelet for ME!)

 and the beautiful printed work of Bonnie Kaye Studio – so good!

Finally, I’m really excited to see these diorama & miniature pieces from metamorphosis metals up close!

And I won’t be leaving without a print for myself from Naughty & Nice. I’m pretty sure I want Tag You Are It (below), but I’m also eyeing The Terror of the Sea

really hope I get a chance to see all of these things in person next weekend, but at least I’ve made my list, right? There are SO MANY talented artists + makers vending at the Fall Art Star Bazaaron November 8th + 9th. Don’t forget to check them out ahead of time here & make your own list!

Thanks to Eling from Migration Goods for sharing her Art Star Craft Bazaar Shopping List!  Be sure to stop by her booth to check out her line of adorable felt accessories and illustrated paper goods.

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“Robots and T-shirts and Art Star, Oh My” by Matt Eyer + Pete Oravetz

If you’ve been attending Art Star events for the past few years, you’ve probably seen Matt Eyer and Peter Oravetz’s shared spot full of robots and t-shirts. Matt creates limited edition graphic t-shirts, tank-tops, and hoodies inspired by Philadelphia under his brand Wear Liberty. Peter has been illustrating his Robots! series for almost ten years now in which you can find them in all walks of life from battling giant squids to drinking beers at the bar.

Peter Oravetz

This Fall bazaar will be Matt and Peter’s fifth Art Star event together and to celebrate they did a little interview with each other.  Matt goes first with questions for Pete and then Pete follows up with questions for Matt.  Enjoy and be sure to stop by their booth (#41) at the bazaar!

Matt Eyer: Why robots? Why not dinosaurs?
Peter Oravets: Dinosaurs are so Cretaceous period…robots are the future! Not to mention that they’re made by us…we’ve essentially engineered a new species that could potentially think for itself. It’s inevitable that they’ll have some of the same ticks and hang-ups we humans do, especially when it comes to movement and gesture. It would be interesting to see how a robot might respond to the world with the outlook of an adolescent and a similar range of motion.

“Squid” by Peter Oravatz / graphite on paper (also available as a print)

Matt: How long does it take you to complete your big pieces? How many hours total and over how long of a time period do you work on them?
Pete: They can take a tremendous amount of work. The more detailed pieces like “Squid” or “001″ took about a month each but that was when I had more time to produce them. I’d say close to 60 hours a piece (not including preliminary sketch time). The small ones are much quicker but do take a lot of consideration and brainstorming as well.

“First” by Peter Oravetz / graphite on paper

Matt: Have you ever collaborated or do you plan to collaborate with any Philly artists or others?
Pete: Yes, I have collaborated with a now ex-Philly artist…my friend Mike Studebaker of Studebaker Metals. We were getting into the business of making toy soldiers, lapel pins, and other tiny metal versions of the Robots but it never got off the ground. Partly because he moved away to Pittsburgh. He produces excellent work, I highly recommend his line of mostly male oriented metal-ware (tie-clips, mustache combs and the like.) Recently I have collaborated with Printer Martin Peeves to help produce my new series “Catastrophe”. Screen prints of those will be available at the Fall ASCB too.

Matt: Why black and white and no color?
Pete: I have no simple answer for that. One of my works, the Robot Normal Rockwell self-portrait was re made into a color piece. It came out great but took forever and had to be done digitally. I have never been particularly good with markers and water-color and, truly, I would have to introduce that kind of medium into the Robots. They benefit from the precision and clean straight lines a pen offers. Beyond that, some of my favorite illustrators and cartoonists worked mostly in B+W.  Perhaps the next evolution of them will be in color.

“Drunk on Oil” by Peter Oravetz / graphite on paper (also available as a made to order, hand inked print)

Matt: What’s next for the robots? Or will there be a new theme/series?

Pete: Like I just said maybe I’ll introduce some color! T-shirts are a must, that will happen soon; a lot of people have been asking if I have a book of them made. That might be my next big project… I’d like to make a children’s book of the bots telling a story without any sort of caption or written word, just images to get them thinking critically and come up with a story of their own. Kids have such great imaginations like that.

A new series of drawings! Yes! I have started a new, albeit depressing, series of drawings titled “Catastrophe” that deal with natural disasters and urban destruction. You won’t want to miss it. Great gifts for the holidays.


Matt Eyer

Peter Oravetz: Wear Liberty is a specifically Philly themed line of apparel. Do you simply tell the designers “Give me Philly!”? Or do you ask for more specific themes like the Philly Skyline, Ben Franklin, or City Hall?
Matt Eyer: All Wear Liberty designs are my ideas and concepts but I collaborate with a few different artists to come up with the final product. Usually I give them a very rough sketch (sometimes digital mock up) of what I’m going for and then tell them to incorporate their style into the design. So yes, it’s always very specific.

Pete: In the past your clothes have been displayed on the runway by beautiful models. That’s a big jump from craft fairs. How has that helped/hindered you? Has it inspired you to find other creative ways of getting the word out?
Matt: Having Wear Liberty worn on the runway opened up a whole new side of things for me. I never considered myself a “Fashion Designer”, but when grouped with other mediums of art, t-shirts fell into the fashion world for the events I’ve done. It gave me a chance to present my brand to a new audience and it was very exciting to have beautiful models wearing my shirts! Because of those events, I’ve met people I might not have otherwise and it certainly helped in expanding the reach of Wear Liberty.

Philly Famous Zip hoodie by Wear Liberty

Pete: People always seem to ask you for screen prints of the designs on your apparel. Are you planning to make that happen?? (I promise I won’t get mad if we continue to share a booth, so long as you won’t get jelly when I sell robot t-shirts, just sayin’).
Matt: I’m actually planning to have a small run of screen prints at the Fall ASCB! This will be the first time I’ve ever done it, so I’m just doing a small run to see how it goes. This one guy has been asking for a print of my Ben Franklin design since we started doing Art Star events in 2012. I hope he shows up to this one!

Founding Fathers Tee by Wear Liberty

Pete: Do you have any advice for the young creative type dreaming of starting their own clothing brand?
Matt: Reach out to your favorite artists and/or brand owners. There are so many smaller, independent clothing companies these days and most of them are very willing to share their experiences with you or pass along some advice. Also – do events! Present yourself to the public. Even if you have the coolest clothes ever, no one will buy them if they don’t know about them.

Pete: You freaking love Pugs. What’s up with that?
Matt: There’s not a logical explanation for that, which kind of bothers me cause I’m a very logical person. My family didn’t even have a dog growing up. There was just a point when I fell in love with them. Their cute faces, their funny grunts and snorts, and their amazing energy and personality. Oliver (my pug) will be 8 in November and my life has been ever the better since I’ve had him :) I also have a pug tattoo!

Ben Franklin Tee by Wear Liberty

Pete: Have you considered a Wear Liberty line for dogs and/or babies?
Matt: I have! I’ve been planning a Wear Liberty doggy line since the beginning, I just wanna do it right. I recently found a lady on Etsy who makes custom dog collars…so I think it should happen soon. Maybe Spring 2015? Stay tuned!

Pete: What’s your favorite color to wear? Don’t say grey, that’s really boring.
Matt: Funny you say that cause I used to hate heather grey, but now it’s definitely one of my favorites. Recently I’ve really liked “coffee” colored shirts and also “cranberry”. Pretty much any of the American Apparel tri-blend colors. It also helps that their super soft and comfy. And I could never deny how good a design looks on black, plus black goes with everything.

Pete: What’s next for Wear Liberty?
Matt: Wear Liberty will be expanding into more than just Philly designs very soon. I love Philadelphia which is a major reason why I started this brand but I feel that I’m limiting myself. I want to create designs that people worldwide can appreciate, but the roots will always be here in Philly.





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Now Hiring PT Shop Manager

We are look for an outgoing, friendly and reliable person to manage our pop up shop at Winterfest at the Blue Cross River Rink this holiday season.  Applicant must be available to work Thursdays + Fridays 5-9pm, Saturdays 12-8 and Sundays 12-6 (including special preview/press parties on November 24th + 25th).  We are looking for someone with a flexible schedule to be available to stay open later if it is busy.   Position will begin on November 24th and run through February (shorter days in Jan/Feb). The shop will be closed on Christmas, but applicant must be able to work on Dec. 26th and possibly extended days and hours the week before Christmas.

Responsibilities will include:
Opening / Closing Shop
General Sales
Customer Service

Must be reliable and trustworthy
Must be able to get to the shop in a timely manner,  in all weather conditions
Excellent interpersonal skills
Retail experience
Must be okay to work in cold weather (our shop will have space heaters but still might be chilly)

Art + Craft knowledge/background a plus

If interested, please email us at info(at)artstarphilly(dot)com to schedule a day to drop off a resume and cover letter in person, at our shop.  Deadline to apply is November 11th.

Megan + Erin

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Guest Post: Melissa Weiss Pottery

We are thrilled to welcome new Art Star Craft Bazaar Vendor, Melissa Weiss, to our November 8th and 9th show at the 23rd Street Armory and as a guest writer on our blog today!  Melissa is a studio potter from Asheville, NC.  She digs all of her own clay off her land in NW Arkansas and each piece is made entirely by hand.  Enjoy her post about her work and process. Be sure to check out her website and her booth (#47) at our upcoming bazaar!

Melissa Weiss in her studio

About 6 years ago on a visit to my land in NW Arkansas I dug a bucket of clay out of the ground and brought it home.  I made a cup and fired it.  It withstood the firing but had some issues. On my next trip to Arkansas I dug a few hundred pounds.  I brought it back to my studio in Asheville, NC and started adding feldspars, sand and other commercially available dried clays.  I made about 13 variations of clay bodies incorporating my hand dug clay in different percentages.  I tested all of these variations with all of my slips and glazes and after hundreds of tests came up with a working clay body that was what I wanted based on functionality and aesthetics.  The clay I dug from land is 25% of the body and this is the clay I use to make every single pot.  The process is arduous but the reward is grand.

About once a year I drive to the land I bought in 2002 with friends.  I was not a potter then.  We bought 75 acres of wild woods an hour from town.  This land is full of a beautiful iron rich, red clay. I dig about 1000 lbs on a trip and bring it home.  This will enable me to make 4000 lbs of clay.  I make clay at my studio in batches of 1000 lbs.  I put the Arkansas clay in a 55 gallon drum and add water.  I let it sit for a while and drill it up until it’s a slurry.

Then I screen it to remove the big rocks and debris.  This now liquid clay is in a giant metal trough.  I then add all my commercial ingredients and drill it up.  At this point the clay is mixed and is the consistency of yogurt.  I remove this liquid clay by the bucket full into racks lined with old bed sheets.  The racks are basically wood frames with a chicken wire bottom.  These racks get stacked upon each other until they are all filled with the clay.  They will then sit for 2 weeks or more depending on the weather.  At this stage the water slowly drains through the sheets and screen and eventually I am left with a useable clay.

the clay’s water slowly drains through bed sheets

The reason I do this is not to save money on clay.  After all the labor and driving it costs much more than buying clay at the store.  I do this for many reasons.  The most basic is aesthetics.  The clay I make looks different.  It is imperfect and slightly varying.  Small rocks and bits of iron remain, which melt out in the firings and give the pots a raw, wild look. This clay also feels different.  It feels alive.  It has a character and a life of its own.  I also love the process of autonomy.  I like being involved in the making process from the beginning to the end.  The finished pot was made by me every step of the way.  It gives me a connection to my work I don’t think I would have if the clay was more easily come by.

hand formed spoons made from Melissa’s own clay body

I work out of an 8000 square foot warehouse in an industrial section of Asheville, NC between the railroad and the river.  It’s called SouthSide Studios which I founded in 2013. I run the studio which houses about 20 other artists working in a variety of media.  My studio hours are dictated by the fact that I have a 10 year old in public school.  I get to the studio by 8am, Monday through Friday.  I work until 3 most days and later when I have the opportunity.  I spend time there on weekends when I can.  On average I spend about 40-50 hours a week in the studio.

I work in a rhythm. It starts with making clay, slips, glazes and washing ash for glazes.  I then make pots.  I usually have the pots I want to make laid out by weeks.  This is dictated partly by orders and deadlines.  This system seems to give me structure and keep me from becoming overwhelmed with too much to do.  For example, I will lay out the month of making by Week 1: slab pots, Week 2: mugs and drip cones, Week 3: pitchers and animal pots, Week 4 thrown bowls and teacups. This is never rigid and I ALWAYS make or do something new in every cycle.  When the making is complete I bisque fire all the pots. Then I glaze and decorate all the pots.  They are now ready for the final firing.  I fire the pots in a gas reduction kiln at the studio.  The firing lasts about 10 hours.  The kiln cools for a day and then I unload the pots.  All the pots get their bottoms sanded to make them smooth.  They then get washed and priced.

Everyday I am in my studio I feel grateful and lucky.  So grateful that I do what I love for a living.  It takes a strict discipline and sacrifice of certain things but they are all worth it.  I will be making pots in my studio, listening to music with my dog and drinking coffee thinking – “I am at work right now!”  I work hard and it feels easy.

Iron + White “V” Lidded Elephant Jar by Melissa Weiss Pottery

Purchase Melissa’s work at our upcoming bazaar or on her website here

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Guest Post: “Power of Three” by Forge & Finish

The women behind Forge & Finish jewelry collective invite you into their Philadelphia studio to catch a glimpse of their creative process through these fun short films.

You can find their work at Booth #20 at our upcoming Fall Art Star Craft Bazaar on November 8th + 9th! Look out for more Guest Posts by participating vendors in the days leading up to the show.  Enjoy!

Demure de Rigueur’s Little Shaker Necklace from Fo Sho & Tell on Vimeo.

Lace Army’s Fortune Cookie Necklace from Fo Sho & Tell on Vimeo.

Bombita Designs Raw Diamond Ring from Fo Sho & Tell on Vimeo.

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