Our very first maker interview is with Kayley Vandenberg of She Made pottery. We recently placed our first order with her — an oil cruet, spoon rest, and juicer. These pieces are as functional as they are beautiful and we were so excited when she agreed to answer a few of our questions.
Tell us about your first experience with the potter’s wheel.
The very first time I used a wheel was in middle school. My 7th grade art class was doing a segment on handbuilding, and my teacher approached a few students about staying after school one day to try the wheel. I was so honored to be included and loved throwing on the wheel immediately, but I chose not to continue taking art classes in high school in favor of more 'academic' pursuits. Despite this, I always remembered how working with clay made me feel and wanted to give it another try someday.
How did you go from that experience to creating She Made?
Finally, after years of saying I wanted to get back into ceramics, I signed up for a 4-week beginner's throwing class . By the time the course was up, I already knew I wanted pottery to be more than a hobby — I wanted to start a business. Soon after, I signed up for a semester-long course at a community college. Class was only once a week, but I went to open studio every day to practice. One afternoon, on my drive to the studio, I thought of the name She Made. At the time, I had no idea when I'd make it official, but I snagged the @she.made Instagram handle trusting that I'd use it someday. That day came about two years later.
I love the acknowledgement on your site that “imperfection is natural, comforting, worthy and true.” How is that expressed in the pieces you create?
One thing that drew me to ceramics is how closely connected the final product is to the maker. All She Made items are made by hand and I've never had the desire to create distance between myself and my work. I am imperfect, my process is imperfect, therefore I have no desire to create 'perfect' work. My favorite pieces are the ones with reminders of how they were made, like a color swirl where one of my custom clays didn't blend completely, a small dent in the foot that occurred when a wet piece wasn't set down just right, a hint of clay peeking through glaze that has adhered unevenly. These details make all of my pieces slightly different and lovely in their own way — just like the people who use them are.
On the oil cruet, you have your signature fingerprints from where you hold the piece as you dip it into the glaze. I love that detail. It makes each piece feel special and I feel like I can see you in your studio working when I hold it. Was that planned or something that grew organically as you created more pieces?
Thank you! This was something that came to be after I made my first batch of cruets. The bottle shape of these pieces can't be easily glazed with a single dip like, say, a mug or a tumbler can. To ensure the interior is completely glazed (which is essential for food safety), I have to pour the glaze inside, pour it out, then glaze the outside separately by dipping it in the glaze. To do this, I hold each piece at the base with three fingers and submerge it. Originally, I was dabbing glaze onto the bare spots my fingertips left behind, but I quickly realized that I love the way the finger marks look. I think it adds some visual interest and personalizes each piece, making them truly one-of-a-kind. I'm so glad others agree!
Thank you, Kayley, for taking the time to answer our questions! Check out her beautiful pieces here.