Marina Temkin | Episode 335
Marina Temkin is a potter in Washington, D.C. She got into making pottery on a whim, when she took a class at a local community studio and fell in love with clay—but quickly learned that making good pots requires a lot of hard work and vigor, hence her business name: Whim and Vigor. Marina loves to play with color, texture, and pattern, and she gets her inspiration from nature, museums, books, and conversations with creative friends. Her focus is on functional pieces because she wants her work to be loved and used often—folks who own her pieces tell her that they keep washing them to use over and over, even when there are plenty of other clean mugs or bowls in the cabinet! Marina wants her work to produce the kind of happiness that one feels when they get a hug from someone who cares about them—being enveloped in kindness, warmth, and love.
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Have you ever been blocked in your making where you don’t know what to do next? If yes, what did you do to get past it?
Yes, absolutely. Anyone who says they weren’t are lying. If I am blocked I usually do what comes easiest and that is make a mug. I use the same glaze that always makes me happy, usually it’s polka dots, I love polka dots. So I will just make a very simple mug and put polka dots on it and it just sort of clears everything.
What is a lesson you learned yesterday that you feel is very valuable?
I think that everyone should, in terms of sort of making pottery and growth and progress and things like that, is that what you mean?
Well, of life, of anything.
I think generally people should try things and be OK with things not working out and not feel that they wasted their time or wasted their efforts. You sort of, by trying things, there may be one take away that is useful to you in your next effort and it’s all good and all for a good reason and has a purpose. Just try things.
We all have preferences and tastes, what is one potter that initially you didn’t really like but then that pottery grew on you?
You know, and I am being 100 percent honest here, I think all pottery is great pottery. I think anyone who has the motivation and the dedication to make pottery, whatever comes out is great. I taught beginner pottery for a few years and when you are first learning to center you make a clunky pot, it’s kind of off center and it is super heavy, and it looks terrible. But I think that is you put in the work then the result is beautiful.
What did you do with the money you made from your first sale?
I paid for another clay class. I put it immediately back into pottery. All the money pretty much goes back into the clay.
What does ceramic success look like to you?
I think of the older generation of older American potters especially and I see them still working and teaching and having a voice in the ceramic world and that seems amazing to me. To be in your 80s or 90s and to do what you have loved to do for your entire life, to know that there are pieces of you left in the world even when you are gone, that seems amazing to me.
What is the best practice you have for marketing your work?
People who buy my pieces tend to say nice things about them to other people and that sort of continues the selling process. Positive feedback is the best sales tool, I think.
Do you view making ceramics as a spiritual practice?
That is a heavy question. I think that when you do something that you love, something that connects with you on a physical and emotional level, yes, I would say that is a spiritual thing. I don’t know if you know about the idea of flow? When you sort of get into a process of something and your brain just sort of stops thinking and you enter this zone of pure focus. So when I am working with clay, I get into that zone. When I run, that happens too, but with clay, yes, that is a very long-worded way of saying yes, I think so.