Interview with Green Ware Studio

March 18, 2024

Interview with Green Ware Studio

If you've visited the Alternate Histories Studio in Greenfield lately, you may have met Kelsey, our Studio Associate, behind the counter. You also may have seen the wonderful ceramics from Green Ware Studio, but (brace yourself) did you know they're made by Kelsey?! 

It's been a delight to see Kelsey's work develop at the studio and her ceramic artistry has become really popular. Since we're hosting a pop-up with her on Saturday April 13 (click here to RSVP), we thought it would be good to ask some questions and get to know the artist behind the work!

How long have you been creating pottery?

I took my first pottery class when I was 11 years old (so more than 20 years ago). I may have been the youngest in my class, but I begged my parents to sign me up for a summer session at the local college. I barely managed a collapsed cylinder, but after that, I was hooked. I focused on the sciences for my formal education, but I took every chance I could to sign up for a class or play with mud. I took a few classes in through the Craft Studio on my college campus and signed up for some one-off workshops. I really just enjoy creating, so I also explored painting, cooking, baking, sewing, paper crafts, even macrame. There was a short time I taught craft classes at a stationery store—dream gig. While never my day job, art was always close to my heart. Like many things, when life picks up, we’re quick to cut back on luxuries. I would argue that art is never optional, but we get fooled into thinking that when the daily grind gets in the way. I had put a pin in pottery around 2012, but came back in 2020.

When did you start Green Ware Studio?

Like most folks, 2020 and a global pandemic forced me to reconsider where I put my energy and how I spent my time. I was inspired to return to ceramics after seeing so many amazing artists on social media and discovering the wealth of talent and resources we have in Pittsburgh. (Yes, I also binged the Great Pottery Throw Down like everyone else.) Since moving to the ‘burgh in 2017, I am constantly surprised by all the city has to offer—ceramics was no different. There are several studios that offer classes, many more spaces that can be rented, an insanely supportive community of artists, ample opportunity to be inspired by others’ work and showcase your own, and the nationally celebrated Standard Ceramics supply just minutes away in Carnegie. I was able to secure my first spot in a class at the Union Project in 2021. Shout out to the family and friends who graciously accepted my tiny, lumpy pots and semi-vases while I got centered again—clay pun intended. After a few years of giving pieces away, finding new uses for tiny pots around the house, and building up a cabinet’s worth of extras, I decided to put my pieces out for sale during the Greenfield Community garage sale last summer. I felt extremely exposed to showcasing my artwork on however small a scale. I sold a few pieces, but what made a world of difference was feedback from everyone. I was still intimidated to sell my pieces more officially, but I was inspired to try.

The perfect opportunity arose when Matt hired me to help around the Studio on weekends. He has been insanely supportive while I (still) figure out my business. I eventually landed on Green Ware Studio—a nod to the Greenfield neighborhood and my process of doing most of the detail and carving on greenware (unfired clay). I also discovered I love layering several techniques and colors and I hope that care is apparent in the work. The finished product is the funky functional ware I’m selling today—mugs, earrings, planters, kitchen ware—pretty much anything that could make your everyday a little brighter. During the 2023 holiday season, Matt and I decided to try a few pieces to see how they did in the Studio. I wouldn’t describe myself as an emotional person, but seeing the first few pieces go to new homes meant everything. Over the last few months, Matt has kindly let me expand my footprint and I now have a variety of pieces available, with new ones being cycled in almost every weekend.

What is your favorite thing about selling at Alternate Histories Studio?

I’ve tried to describe this in a less cheesy way, but I cannot imagine a more supportive space to start Green Ware Studio. I cannot say enough about Matt’s mentorship and support…seriously. Fans of his work and the Studio have also been so welcoming. The space he has created just radiates community, and I consider myself lucky to be part of that. The Studio really has become an integral part of the Greenfield community and it has been so fun to see people interact with my art. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to talk about my work and meet so many great folks, many of them just streets away.

Where do you create your work?

I’m very much “on the road” at the moment. I throw pieces at Union Project in Highland Park during their open studio sessions. I have cleared out a space in our attic to do the trimming, attaching handles, carving, and design. The pieces then go back to UP for firing and I use open studio time to glaze the pieces. Once they are fired again, I bring them home for finishing touches before they’re studio-ready.

If you get a chance to support the Union Project by donating, going to one of their events or classes, or just sharing their story, please do. They are an amazing nonprofit aimed at making art accessible. Their focus on community-building and empowerment is apparent in everything they do.

What do you like best about the work you create?

The uniqueness of each piece. In ceramics, many people evoke the kiln gods to watch over our work through each stage and firing. At any point, you can lose the piece and you can’t truly create an identical one again. I have really leaned into that as part of my process. I use the same general styles, but I don’t try to make sets. Even my earrings are literally one of a kind. All of my designs require several layers of color and carving and I am still amazed to see the final process at the end. I also like that that uniqueness can then be taken into something you use every day. Having a favorite coffee mug, or plant, or dish on your counter can really brighten your mood. I try to use colors and themes that support the goal of brightening the everyday.

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