In January we had the opportunity to sit down with Heather Knight and ask her some questions about her life as a ceramic artist.
SAVCC: What got you interested in clay to begin with?
Heather: I saw a potter’s wheel when I was 5 and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. It wasn't until I moved back to Arizona as a teenager that I was able to learn how to use one. It was true love right from the beginning.
SAVCC: How long have you been working in clay?
Heather: I started in high school 25 years ago, and got serious my senior year, making tableware and organizing my own independent study courses. Unfortunately, when I went on to attend College of Charleston, there wasn't a ceramics department, so I was forced to do other things until I enrolled at UNC - Asheville in the early 2000's.
SAVCC: What is your work about?
Heather: I don't have some grand statement about my work at this point - I got enough of that in college. I want to make good design, things that I would like to put in my own home. My most popular work, the tiles, started as a texture study, a way to challenge myself and make a wall installation. I am still working on that challenge and add new textures each year.
SAVCC: What is your next project?
Heather: I’ve spent a solid ten years making the same thing. I want to take the move as an
opportunity to make new forms, maybe experimenting with new glazes.
SAVCC: What got you interested in design?
Heather: My mom was always decorating, she worked in design stores and we always had fabric and color swatches in the house when I was little. I think it just sank in and became part of who I am - how a space looks is important to me. I am just one of those people: I love cooking, I love decorating, I’m a little Martha Stewarty.
SAVCC: How did you learn to run your own business?
Heather: I’m still learning. When I started in clay it did not occur to me that I could make a living just from selling my work. I worked in restaurants in my previous life and I think I got my organization, style and work ethic from that experience. I learned how to run a clay studio in college, things like firing kilns, mixing glazes, setting up a work space etc.
I actually started Element Clay Studio as a group studio so that I could have a nice, comfortable place to work that was more or less subsidized by the renters. But when I walked out of my last restaurant job in between teaching sessions at the museum, I had to do something to supplement my rental income and opened my Etsy shop. I was really lucky to be dating a photographer at the time - so my pictures were great, and I just built from there. I like to say that "I faked it till I made it" - I presented myself well, researched a lot and worked 80 hour weeks to establish my business. I think getting in on Etsy early was a really great thing for my career, it was a lot easier to be found than it is today.
Now it’s a matter of keeping up with all of the latest trends, social media, marketing and branding. It’s a process.
SAVCC: What made you decide to move to Savannah?
Heather: I was in Asheville for 18 years, but for the past few years, it just became less and less sustainable for a small business like ours (My husband and I run Element together) We kept being pushed out by developers and decided to try to keep up with the growth we were seeing in our area by opening a very retail focused studio. That was the beginning of the end for us - It was more stress that we wanted for ourselves, and with a young son at home, we were exhausted trying to do so many things at once.
When Caleb was born, I really felt a strong pull back toward the coast, where I feel the most at home. I spent time in Charleston growing up, moving back to attend the College of Charleston while my brother was enrolled at SCAD. I spent 3 years going back and forth, and Savannah became an extension of my home.
When we got serious about making a move, we quickly ruled out Charleston, opting for Savannah's dark and mysterious presence and artsy vibes. We weren't planning on moving until this fall, but a major water intrusion issue in our Asheville studio accelerated our plan by a year!
SAVCC: What is your biggest challenge as an artist?
Heather: Trying to find the time to make new things and be inspired while running the business and doing production work.
SAVCC: How do you balance work and life?
Heather: I don’t. It’s not balancing it’s juggling. I feel like you can only be good at one thing at a time. One thing seems to always be suffering - when I am wrapped up in the studio, my house is a mess, when the house is in order, the studio is a mess and so on...
Part of my reason for moving was carving out more time for my family and having more flexibility for myself as well as my husband and son. Working from home again is an adjustment, but I am so glad that now I can run inside for dinner even when I am working late, and Caleb can come work alongside me in the studio any time he wants - which right now is a lot!
SAVCC: What is your dream project?
Heather: I don’t even know. I have so little freedom that I don't let my imagination go to wild, but I think I would like to do a large installation - something with a big budget and enough time for me develop the ideas and t to get everything just right.
To view more work visit Heather's website http://www.elementclaystudio.com/ or her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Elementclaystudio/ and keep an eye out for her soon to be coming SAVCC artist page.