A Potter's Journey: Part One

A Potter's Journey: Part One

The Beginning

Joel Cherrico Pottery Throwing

A detail view of Joel Cherrico throwing pottery; Photo: Steve Diamond Elements

This is the first post in an eight-part series by Joel Cherrico, a young potter and recent college graduate determined to make a living at his craft. We asked Joel to tell us how he developed his plan to become a full-time potter and small-business owner.

"The fragile planet that we so eagerly exploit shows signs of imminent demise. And here we are playing in the mud. Why do we make pots? Do we serve any useful social function? Is it merely self-indulgence? Are we just fiddling while Rome burns?" ~ Malcolm Davis, NCECA, 2010

Does society still need studio potters? Industrialized ceramics has eliminated the need for handmade, functional wares, but the potter redefined his/her place in society by creating an artistic language in clay. While academia and the contemporary art world find immense value in clay, it is rare that pottery climbs the ladder to the pinnacles of fine art. Why should we strive to make great utilitarian wares? Moreover, why should we try to sell them?

As Theaster Gates said at the 2014 NCECA conference, "We should make work that elevates the ceramic field, and elevates all human beings."

I believe the ability to eat and drink from pottery lets people develop intimate relationships with each pot, and that these relationships evolve over time. I also believe there is value in waking up everyday and making art, and a small business provides me with that opportunity.

While many art careers allow for full-time art making, very few provide financial freedom and the ability to steer your career down an innovative path. As my father, Gene Cherrico says, "Owning your own business is one of the best ways to personal wealth."

Since my freshman year of college, I knew that my calling was to become a potter. I spent four years of undergraduate studies as an art major while exploring every avenue that could help create a pottery career. These avenues included off campus internships, paid jobs in studio ceramics, and business classes. Immediately after graduating college in 2010, I took out a small business loan to launch a pottery business.

This is the start of a series about how I've created innovative pathways that have allowed me to make a living as a full-time potter and small-business owner. Throughout these posts, I will share the details of how I've arrived here by covering planning for four years of undergraduate college to become a potter, creating a business model, launching a small business venture, and selling enough pottery to support a business and a livelihood. My hope is that by sharing this story, more people can create their own innovative model that allows them to work as full-time artists.