I’m so pleased to share with LAB readers that I’ve picked Shelley Martin as our 2017 HM100 Artist of the Year. There is so denying that Shelley is a quiet giant in the maker community. Her cohesive collection, her use of social media, her tireless management of both online shops and a brick & mortar shop makes her a stellar example of what artists can do.
Shelley, congratulations on being our HM100 Artist of the Year! We truly are appreciative of both your craft and your tireless work. What inspires you to create?
Right now I am at a point where I really love making custom pieces that will be loved and cherished by the people that order them. I want the things I make to go beyond the everyday, and become things that people will hold onto for their lifetime. My focus currently is making pieces that serve as a marker for very important times in people’s lives, and these are pieces that will be held onto for decades.
How do you manage both an online and brick & mortar shop?
I spend all of the time that I am in the gallery at the pottery wheel where I can make my online orders. People who come into the shop love to see me making, so I try to keep the shop simple enough that people can browse on their own and then come talk to me at the pottery wheel. I also try to keep as many things as possible that are in my gallery, also listed on my website. So when the gallery is closed, people can still see the items online and shop.
I am still learning the balance of what sells in the online shop vs gallery, what things might be a distraction in the gallery for the shoppers or for me, and what people are most interested in seeing in the experience of visiting the gallery. Currently most of my sales are still internet based sales, and I am very much okay with letting the gallery become a tool for sharing my craft and process, and not focusing too much on needing to make constant in-person sales.
“I want to offer them a product and a collaborative experience that no other mass produced manufacturer could ever offer. My customers know that my pieces come from my hands and heart, and it adds value and meaning to the pieces.”
Why do you think it is important for consumers to support makers?
I have tried to shift my focus to be things that people want and need, and not just making things that I like to make. I try to make things that can feel a small void in people’s lives, and the relationship between consumer and maker becomes reciprocal. They support me as a maker, as I make things that they need and want. I want to offer them a product and a collaborative experience that no other mass produced manufacturer could ever offer. My customers know that my pieces come from my hands and heart, and it adds value and meaning to the pieces.
What is your favorite aspect of being a maker?
Right now I am trying to shift from being an online seller who does occasional craft and art shows, to being a member of the community as a potter and shop owner. I opened the gallery which is a few blocks from my house, as a way to step out from behind a website and online presence, and be a visible maker in the community.
When I am In the gallery, I am throwing at my pottery wheel visible through the storefront window to people passing by as well as shoppers that enter. I love that my process of making is so integral to my finished work that surrounds me in the gallery. I feel like I am contributing to my local community by directly bringing craft and the pottery making process into the neighborhood.
Across many cultures, for hundreds of years, the local potter has filled a needs in the community for ceramic wares, and I am hoping at a very small level, my small local pottery can also do the same for my neighbors, while simultaneously using the internet to expand my neighborhood’s reach.
“Across many cultures, for hundreds of years, the local potter has filled a needs in the community for ceramic wares, and I am hoping at a very small level, my small local pottery can also do the same for my neighbors, while simultaneously using the internet to expand my neighborhood’s reach.”
What goals do you hope to achieve in 2017?
If I could just slow down this year and spend more time making new designs. I can get so caught up selling and making orders, but I would love to just focus on trying new forms and glazes. I also have a new baby coming in June, so I am really focused in keeping a good balance of caring for my family and keeping my business going.