So I’m fairly biased with the next design advice interview because Hannah of Speck + Stone, is one my closest friends. I think her and her husband are simply some of the most creative, intriguing, coolest etc. etc. people out there, and I cannot brag enough about them. If you don’t know of her ceramic already, you might have vaguely come across her company’s name/work because firstly, I did S+S’ branding a while back, and secondly because I always feature her pottery on my Instagram, it fills my home so beautifully.
Though Speck + Stone isn’t graphic design/paper related, the reason why I wanted to interview Hannah is because a) she recently started her business, and b) because sometimes it’s good to get inspired by other creative industries. I knew Hannah, before she started Speck + Stone, and it has been such a privilege to walk alongside her company; to see her build, grow and get completely lost with passion over ceramics.
1. Hello Dear Hannah! Tell us a little about you and what you do.
I’m in my late twenties and decided in my mid twenties that I think I would enjoy getting my hands dirty in some clay. A few years later and I am now a full time potter based in Toronto and I have a small batch, strictly hand thrown, stoneware line called Speck + Stone.
2. How long have you been doing Speck + Stone for and how did you get started in it? Did you always aspire to be a ceramicist?
I officially launched Speck + Stone in early 2014. I was throwing as a hobby for a few years before that, but never really aspired to be a ceramic artist, to be honest. I grew up in Ukraine from the ages 7-18 and, aside from digging up the clay from our land and shaping it like hot dogs for my side salad of grass, I was never introduced to ceramics. I originally went to university for nutrition and worked as a consultant in that field for a few years. While working in that, I then went to school for music composition which was always my life’s true love. And THEN while doing that, I took a pottery course just for fun. THAT turned out to be everything I liked coming together and, thankfully, the final stop. Long story short, I had to make a decision between the two, music and pottery. It was the hardest decision but I choose ceramics. I quickly took to it and fell into fascination with more than just the clay, but also the scientific and physical components to what goes into every step of the process. Although it was completely out of my ‘life plan’, it’s exactly what I needed.
3. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get their own store front started? Do you think you have to be business savvy to have your own business?
I would recommend really investing into great branding. Ask your friends and even acquaintances about opinions on the name. Research and see what e-commerce site works best for your product, needs and tech literacy. Taking into account your aesthetic, design or template, shipping, payment processing fee’s etc. Along with having a quality and genuine product, branding can create traffic, widen your customer audiences with varying tastes and it can enhance your products aesthetic and even show off your personality (which I really enjoy when that is done well!). I don’t necessarily think you have to be business savvy to start off but I do think you have to be willing to learn fast. It’s tricky when it comes to the admin and little details of running a small business, but organization, consistency, wisdom and knowledge can make or a break the growth of your business. It’s the grit behind all the romantic small business Instagram personas.
4. Do you think it’s important to keep all your pieces cohesive? If yes, how does one achieve that?
I don’t think its necessary. It totally depends on the artist and the personal goal of the company. Speck + Stone started as me wanting functional ware for my home. I find a huge appreciate and beauty in the fact that I can take materials that are clumped into our natural world and turn them into pieces that we EAT OFF and use in our every day lives for years. When I think of that my brain kind of shakes and screams, I think it’s so amazing! There is a different but true fulfilment when you throw 50 matching cylinders for mugs in one sitting. The way to do that… practice and a ruler.
5. What’s your biggest fear in terms of your business? And what are some feature dreams?
I think my biggest fear is pretty big and straight forward and it’s still that it might not succeed. And, what if, for some odd reason I just get worse and worse at the craft instead of better and better with time! Haha I hope those are ridiculous fears but still. I used to be really scared of making a mistake or how I came across or making someone unhappy but worst of all was actually having to speak with a strangers in person! But I, obviously, had to live and conquer all of those fears pretty quickly.
Oh man, I have a lot of future dreams for Speck + Stone. I take everything in intervals of a few months, but I do hope in some years to have it be a consistent and evolving brand with a production house (with more than just myself working, of course) and a shop with a cafe to put all the pieces into good use. So… lots!
6. How do you keep creating original pieces, without ‘copying’ others?
I think it’s easy. The scientific methods and elements, materials and styles allow for such a vast range of options and outcomes. That mixed with personal taste and aesthetic should make it fairly difficult to copy. Although saying that, I know there are traditional methods and shapes and elements that are commonly used and taught so those could come across similar and like copying. Customized glazes are like the potters secret ingredients to their sauces. It’s an understood thing to not ask for recipes. For me personally, I do draw the line on how much I take it visually, whether it’s subconsciously or not. I do have the same hand full of artist that I admire and feast my eyes on but oddly they are quite different from my own work. I never ever want to stop learning and growing, but I love learning and growing out of myself and my own abilities and inspirations. I always throw what I personally think is beautiful and simple and practical and what I would want to hold in my hands, have in my kitchen, or appreciate with my eyes.
7. Any last words/ advice/reads?
If you want to start something on your own, surround yourself with good and honest people on the outside. You will always appreciate a fresh perspective when you get trapped. They always say it, but be prepared to work hard and stretch your brain with new knowledge. Do not be afraid of feeling a lot and sometimes every emotion at once; fear, doubt, embarrassment, on top of the moon happiness, pride and humility, passion and the lack of passion some days; learn to live with these all as they will be permanent life long buddies of yours. Realize no matter what you do or make, its still not worth your sanity, friends or health. Being generous and kind with your time and craft is never a bad idea, but also learn to be okay with saying no at times. To draw lines to sustain not only yourself but also to keep the love of whatever it is you love enough to give most of your time, money, brain power, emotions and energy into building. Build it so you always have the space to enjoy the little things because those little things are actually what keep building it onward. Oh, and don’t necessarily take my advice! :)
I love her heart so much! She one quirky, gem of a thing- so filled with talent and wisdom. I love what she said about embracing your emotions, because my gosh, is it true; when owning your own business and putting your whole heart into it, every emotion is heightened x 10. Thank you Han, for sharing your heart and process with us!
Read last week’s Honest Tid Bits with Bianca Cash. And also feel free to send me questions your dying to ask these creatives.
Hope you’re all the more inspired!