Liz Pechacek | Episode 358
Elizabeth Pechacek was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, by her artist mother and chemist father. She grew up making all manner of things and found her way to clay in college. She earned a BFA in ceramics and a BA in art history from Indiana University in 2012. She now operates her ceramic studio in Minneapolis and teaches at Powderhorn Park and The Northern Clay Center. Her work is all either handbuilt or slip cast from handbuilt prototypes. Layered with slip, stains, and glaze, the work achieves a rich and complex surface that above all communicates a sense of touch. Pechacek draws from a diverse range of historical sources, such as Mimbres and Neolithic Chinese pottery. She bridges these influences with Danish Modern Ceramics and the work of such pioneers as Lucie Rie and Ruth Duckworth.
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Instagram question: Reflecting on your own ceramic journey, what’s the best to do or not to do advice would you offer someone who is just starting out?
Definitely to do would be to have some kind of online presence right off the bat. That is a platform where you can sell your work. For me that has been huge. I wouldn’t be anywhere if I hadn’t right off the bat started an Etsy shop. That way you can start fine tuning your photography and the language you want to use around your work and sort of figuring out branding or whatever. Which I think is really important as it’s the way you are trying to have a relationship with your work as an artist, if you are going to try and have a business.
Then not to do: Don’t be too set in stone what you think you are too early. Because the work is going to change and your aesthetic may change a little bit, so be willing to roll with it when things start to happen. Even though you have that web presence out there be willing to say, No, no I don’t make that anymore.
How do you measure growth?
I do look at the sort of fiscal solvency of my business and the amount of time I am spending in labor. That is something that I pay close attention to because in a way when you have lots of opportunities, when you are working all the time you could be sort of miserable. I have been paying closer attention to what are the opportunities that I want and where I want to put my effort and watch things grow. For instance I know that I want to grow my online sales and spend more time crafting my online presence. I try to post on Instagram three times a week. I try to have shots of in process work but also have finished shots.
You mentioned that when you worked as a welder that you had health insurance, as an entrepreneur you need to provide your own. How do you take care of health insurance?
I have subsidized health insurance from the state of Minnesota. I keep really close track of my income so that I know exactly where I stand at any given point. At a certain point my income will be too high and I am going to have to figure something else out.
Instagram question: What is your favorite thing to make regardless whether it sells?
Bowls. I love making bowls. There is something about a bowl that even if I don’t want to do anything, if I go into the studio and start one, then I’m in.
How important is it to know why people buy your work?
Very important to me. As much as the money I need to survive is important, my main motivating factor is the experience they are having. For me it is almost fifty percent of it is that the work goes on to live with another person and I love to hear those stories.
Instagram question: Has there been a time when the ball of clay spoke to you and you listened?
Yes, I would say so. With my peculiar method for forming where I start with a ball of clay and then I pinch it up slowly adding coils, I think that almost every time I start something I have the wad of clay in my hands and I am passing it back and forth and thinking, OK, where are we going with this? And there is a definite dialog between what’s happening and what I am letting happen.