Growlers, Brewers, & Doing Big Installations | Shay Church | Episode 296

Shay Church | Episode 296

Shay Church is based in Kalamazoo, Mi. Shay is co-owner of Grayling Ceramics with his wife, Maura Church. For the past 18 years Shay has also created wet-clay and wood installations of whales, elephants, wolves, and trees left to decay in abandoned buildings, fields, parking lots, and galleries across North America.



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You said that you have had twenty years of experience as a clay artist. What motivates you to be a creative person?

It’s such a long story to be honest. It just goes way back to being a kid and being curious about the world and just being inspired by what I have seen other people do. That is a big part of it for me. Everything is just gradual. Just learning one step at a time. In my case with ceramics, the first couple of years that I was learning it was not like I really knew what I was doing or knew any of the key figures or the history of ceramics. In my case I just wanted to be a part of it. I have done that though installation work and now through making pots.

With that much time under your belt you had to have dealt with failure. How do you deal with failure as a potter?

Obviously if you can’t deal with failure as a potter, I don’t know how long you are going to last. It is just such a regular part of what we do. Failure is such a tough word. I teach at the university here too and I work with students all the time and that word failure, it’s so interesting. Research, especially in academia, we should be failing all the time. I think failure should be part of the process, I don’t even think it should be called failure. I think failure has a bad name, I mean it’s just research. That’s how we work. Making mistakes , you should be celebrating it.

How do you recognize when an opportunity is something worth pursuing? 

It’s all about timing, right? Opportunities come every day, all the time. Every little experience I think is an opportunity. It’s hard to be that focused and that in the moment. You don’t want to overlook anything. The farmer’s market. That’s a great example. Never judge a book by its cover. I never know who I am gong to meet there and anything can come out of that conversation. Whether it is something good for me or the business or something good for that person.

Are you nice to others?

Yes, I hope so. That whole, being present, I always think I have so many things on my mind. If I can just be present in that situation.

So how does being nice to others benefit your business?

We are just this big world of 7 billion plus people, so you better be nice. Yes, it benefits me. People want to trust what they’re buying. If you are sitting there in front of it. I stand up right behind my work and I talk about it.


Wolf by Jim Harrison

True North by Jim Harrison 


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