MEET THE MAKER: ANDREA OF JAVELINA RANCH

MH-20150325-64Hello & HAPPY FRIDAY! Candice here and you are in for an amazing treat today! More than ever people are saving up to buy beautiful, meaningful things for their wardrobes and spaces.  But when I started developing this collection, I had no idea how long the production process would be nor the cost of the product.  I mean, a cup for $24?  Could I be serious?

Then, I met Andrea, of Javelina Ranch, over a coffee date and she shared with me a little bit of the backstory of pottery.  It would take at least 3 weeks to make candle holder or drinking cup she said.   We’re so used to instant gratification and multiples of everything, I could hardly get my head around it.  I knew I had to find out more.

I asked if I could have a behind the scenes look in her studio one afternoon, and handmade took on a whole new meaning.  Scroll through to see her process and stop for the interview along the way – you don’t want to miss it!

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{Andrea shares a studio with other ceramicists, and their entrance is a little store front where you can buy their work.}

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{We met up with Andrea in the studio where she was cutting and weighing clay.}

MH-20150325-42Tell us about your journey towards becoming a ceramicist.

I’ve always felt the need to create. Over the years, I’ve gone through countless mediums (probably spending the most time on sewing), but nothing has felt as natural as pottery.  I started taking a pottery class as a much needed creative outlet last spring. I had been interested in it, but intimidated by the idea of relying on a workspace outside of my home. After doing some research and finding a studio that fit my wish list, I signed up for a two month course. To say that I fell in love with the art form is an understatement.
After saving quite a bit, and with the loving encouragement and support of my boyfriend, I made the jump and left the corporate world last summer to pursue my dream. I have spent the past year working in the wedding industry, continuing pottery classes, and working at the pottery studio as a way to learn more about the overall process.
I’m now selling small batch pottery and select home goods through my brand, Javelina Ranch, while saving to buy some property here in Central Texas and planning next steps.
To call this a journey is so fitting. I’m not even at the halfway point yet, and I’m so so thankful for the love and support I’ve received so far!

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When you make a new ceramic piece, what’s the first step in the process?

Music selection is first! My hands are rarely dry or clean after my earbuds go in. Then it’s time for cutting, weighing and wedging and wedging and wedging. Did I mention wedging? When I get to the studio I’ll usually cut, weigh and wedge anywhere from 10-20lbs of clay depending on what I’m making that day.
The process is tiring, so it’s nice to knock it out and then take a short break before sitting down to throw. I love to throw a pound or two at a time creating smaller pieces like cups and bowls, so I prepare a large tray of perfectly wedged and patted clay balls. It’s amazing how easy centering and throwing can be, if you start out on the right foot.

MH-20150325-21MH-20150325-34MH-20150325-26MH-20150325-23MH-20150325-27 What happens next, and how long does it take?

After wedging, I’ll usually take a short break for the sake of my forearms.
When I am ready to throw, I sit down to the wheel with a large towel and my prepped clay handy. Timing really varies depending on what I’m making, but all pieces start with the same basic steps: centering, drilling, opening, and compressing the bottom. Once those are completed I can pull the clay walls to the desired height and thickness and adjust them to the desired shape. Once a piece is thrown, I’ll cut it from the wheel and place it on a board to dry.

Drying slowly can take anywhere from a day or two depending on the humidity.Next is trimming. Once pieces have dried to about leather hard, I’ll spend a good amount of time trimming the bottom, signing each piece, and carving any designs I may want to add to the sides or edges. Then I set them on new boards to dry completely before loading them into the bisque kiln.

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Tell us about the kiln.

At my studio, we use electric kilns for bisque firings and two large gas kilns for glaze firings. Fun fact: I can just about stand in one of the gas kilns!
The studio as a whole probably produces enough work to run two or more bisque loads a week, and full glaze firings every other week. It’s really quite the production for a community of students and teachers.
When I started there as a student, I wasn’t a part of the behind-the-scenes action. It wasn’t until I started working there that I was trained to load kilns and mix glazes. It’s been such an eye opening experience. SO MUCH work and care goes into the process before you get to a finished piece. First loading the greenware (fragile un-fired pottery) along with kiln shelves weighing anywhere from 15-25lbs, bisque firing, cooling, then unloading the bisqueware and shelves, glazing, then loading a glaze kiln (with more kiln shelves), firing, cooling and finally unloading the finished pieces (and the shelves).
And we’re doing this sort of work in an outdoor kiln shed year round. Which means even now. In the famous Texas summer heat. That’s some serious love and dedication to the craft!
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How has becoming a ceramicist changed you?

 Through pottery, my creative side has a purposeful outlet now; the product of my labor is something that I can take pride in sharing with others. It’s such an amazing feeling to make something that’s functional and beautiful.
And I will add that pottery is a slow art, so I’ve definitely learned how to be patient.

MH-20150325-45MH-20150325-46 Finally, where can we find more Javelina Ranch goodies?

 I’ll be reopening my Etsy shop July 15th and I accept custom orders regularly, so please feel free to email me for a quote any time at andrea@javelinaranch.com!
While I sell primarily online, I LOVE to participate in pop up shops whenever I get the chance. My next scheduled event is set for September 10th at Black Lagoon Gallery.   And you can always follow along on Instagram @JavelinaRanch for behind-the-scenes details, shop updates and giveaways!

Andrea, Thank you one million times for sharing the process of pottery with us!MH-20150325-40


Photography by Minette HandCandice Button

  • I very much enjoyed reading about your process and seeing the great photography. Thanks for sharing!