Last week we featured the ceramic creations of Frances Palmer Pottery. Today, Frances Palmer herself (pictured above in her Connecticut studio) indulges us and answers our questions about her craft and creativity. We find that our fire is always fueled when we hear about the experiences and listen to the advice of other fine artists and craftswomen and hope that you, too, will be inspired to follow you vision and stay true to your path as Frances has.
Read on for the whole interview with Frances and see what she has to say about inspiration, business and life.
Thank you, Frances, for sharing your beauty and insights with us! Blair
SS+C: What was the spark that started Frances Palmer Pottery?
FP: I began my business when I moved to CT from NYC after the birth of our first child. (She is now 27 and we have two sons also). I was unprepared for motherhood and life outside New York. I felt very lost and to focus my thoughts, my husband suggested that I try something that I had not done before. I had always wanted to try ceramics and signed myself up for a throwing class at a nearby art guild. I immediately knew that ceramics combined and connected the things that I love to do – making work with my hands, gardening and cooking.
SS+C: What has been the biggest surprise since starting Frances Palmer Pottery?
FP: The biggest surprise is that I enjoy working every day. This is not an exaggeration. I am always excited to sit at the wheel to throw and explore form. Ceramics has connected societies for thousands of years. I spend a good deal of time studying pots from different centuries and relating them to my ideas. That being said, it takes discipline to have one’s own business and I am inclined to work every day. Sometimes, I have to make myself step away and take a respite.
SS+C: What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?
FP: Owning my own business has allowed me to follow my instincts and take my work in a direction that is true and pleasing to me. When I go by this standard, I feel that the work has integrity and sincerity. I believe my customers respond to this sincerity as much as they like to use the shapes.
SS+C: What were the most important elements to you when you set up your creative environment and studio?
FP: The most important element to me is natural light. I need to see everything well and light always is calming. I also need space and tables to put the pots as they are thrown, as well as areas for glazing and firing. And, I need to be able to leave pots and not have them disturbed. I am lucky to have a barn to work in and I can have everything where I wish.
SS+C: Where is the most exciting place your art has taken you?
FP: I think that the answer to this question can be in two parts – mental and physical. Mentally, making pots for me is an ongoing journey. One needs enormous patience and perseverance to make ceramics. You have to be prepared for failure and yet still enjoy the process. There are many aspects to making pots that are out of one’s control and I find it all a metaphor for many things in life. Physically, making ceramics has taken me to parts of the world to meet people, learn and exchange ideas. I’ve been to China, Japan, Denmark, France, among other countries, just to see pottery first hand and understand the aesthetic. In both the mental and the physical, the learning is ongoing and makes me want to value every day.
SS+C: How do you gather and process inspiration?
FP: Often, making one piece will lead me in a new direction. Things that I might initially deem a mistake turn out to be a different road that I begin to follow. I also gather inspiration by looking and reading. I see as many exhibitions as possible, not necessarily ceramic, and read constantly. I subscribe to many design blogs and try to keep up with what is happening in the ceramics world as well in food, design, gardening and fashion. Luckily, I am an early riser!
SS+C: How long have you been visiting Maine and/or what is your favorite thing to do in Maine?
FP: I’ve been visiting Maine for about 15 years now. Very good friends of ours have a house on North Haven, off the coast of Rockland, and I’ve been going there each summer too. For the past six or seven years, I have had an exhibition in the North Haven Gallery. I also have work in the Hopkins Wharf Gallery on North Haven. Two years ago, I met Tony Elliot of Snug Harbor Farm and I have gone there to have an event with him. Snug Harbor is a fantastic place and Tony is truly a magician with plants and animals.
SS+C: How has your craft, aesthetic, and/or business changed since you first started?
FP: I think that my aesthetic has been pretty constant since I began making ceramics. I continually work on my craft and technical skills. As I wrote above, I work every day and still feel that there is much to learn.
SS+C: What is the best piece of business/life advice you’ve ever received?
FP: The best piece of life advice that I received was that if you begin something, follow through to the end. That may sound simple, however, sometimes one has to push to get through a situation and not quit midway. The best business advice that I received was to not look left or right, but straight ahead. Meaning, you cannot worry about what your competitors are doing. You must believe in and keep to your vision, as that is what will move you along.
all photos provided by Frances Palmer