If you’ve been following along for a bit, you won’t be surprised at all when we say we’re thoroughly obsessed with Victoria Morris. She’s an LA-based ceramist who makes the most beautiful pottery (think: Scandanavian-meets-Japanese inspired pieces) and she’s the most down to earth gal you could hang with. If you take a peek in any of our Shoppes, you’ll see that her swoon-worthy ceramics are almost always on our shelves.
We were lucky enough to hang with Victoria at her brand new Altadena studio, watch the magic happen and talk about all about her creative process. Read our inspiring convo below and browse her handmade ceramics that she makes just for Shoppe.
I started taking pottery in high school as an art elective and was totally obsessed after the first class. It honestly never occurred to me that I could possibly make a living as a potter. I worked as a freelance set designer in fashion and advertising for 20 years, while making ceramics in my free time. I started selling my work to a few stores and designers in Los Angeles, and over the years the demand became such that I decided to give it my full attention. I felt like it would be better to try and fail rather than to stay on the path I’d been on.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced getting there? And how did you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenges have come with trying to manage both the “business” and “creative” sides of the work now that it’s more than just a hobby. I have the type of personality (control freak!?) where I think I can and should do everything myself, but I realize that having help in various ways is key to freeing up my mind so that I can get in a creative mindset and push through to make new and interesting work. It sounds like an easy thing, but it really has been challenging.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a creative journey?
The best advice I could offer someone looking to start a creative journey or business is pretty cliché – practice, practice, practice. WORK HARD and be nice. To have real growth and success you’ve got to work your ass off and be tenacious.
What inspires you?
For direct inspiration, I refer to the works of craft masters from the past in pottery, wood turning, and basketry and weaving. Mid-century ceramic artists like Gertrude and Otto Natzler, Lucie Rie, The Marzs, Shoji Hamada, and anything made by the Bay Haus school really gets me excited. I also particularly love the works of pre-modern traditional cultures from all over the globe. Some of it can be SO “modern.”
Indirectly, travel and nature are huge inspirations. Being somewhere new, looking closely at anything from a stone at the beach, to a tree bark or feather, I’m reminded that subtlety is truly beautiful (not boring!). I feel my best after a long walk in the mountains, or after surfing. Being outside in nature is really energizing to me and when I get back to the studio I’m excited to throw.
We’re huge advocates of shopping small and supporting local artisans. What’s it like being a small business in the (relatively large) LA community? It’s big, but small. Ya know?
I think being a small fish in a big pond actually has its advantages. In this age of mass consumerism and mass manufacturing, I think most of us prefer when we buy something special and unique with some sort of humanity to it. So, although I’d probably be financially better off if I were mass producing work, I feel like I’m able to have pride in my work on a different level since my hands touch every single piece that goes through my studio.
What’s a typical day like at the studio?
A typical day at the studio is, I’m afraid, totally unexciting. It involves a few hours at my computer doing “admin work” — answering emails, and invoicing, which takes a lot longer than you’d guess. And then it consists of some combination of the various processes involved in making ceramics: trimming work that was made in the days prior, throwing new work, glazing, loading/unloading the kiln, sanding and packing, driving to the shade maker, electrician or shipper, constant clean up (constant!) and then back to making the to do list for the next day.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, either professionally or personally?
I think the best professional advice anyone has ever given me is to “Say NO.” However, I’ve been pretty mediocre about doing it, and often find myself completely over extended. Taking on too much is not good for business or for creativity in the long run. To me, a successful business is not only reflected in demand and earnings, but also by the ability to support the life you want and have the time to actually enjoy it (away from work!).
What are five things you can’t live without at the moment?
The five things I can’t live without at the moment are…my friends, my cats, regular hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains of Altadena, La Gritona Tequila, and of course pizza.
What’s next for Victoria Morris Pottery?
Going forward, I’d like to make fewer production pieces and focus more on creating limited editions and small collections. I want to experiment with different glazes and techniques, too. Although I’m really grateful for and proud of the success I’ve had so far, I feel it’s time to focus on the playful creative side of making the work. I’m having my second show at SO1 Gallery in Tokyo this May and am quite excited to get that collection started.