Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Stephanie C. Theado of Little Delaware Pottery in Delhi.
How long have you lived in the area?
Six years. Before that, I lived in the mountains of North Carolina for eight years.
Tell me about your business:
I am a potter, working in soda-fired stoneware and porcelain. Although I have a full line of functional ware, I have been focusing on steins and mugs lately. I love to make things that a person will use daily, perhaps bringing a new awareness to their day.
I have a lovely studio on the ground floor of my house in Bovina, and I fire the pots in my gas kiln in the garage. All my pots are thrown on the wheel and fired to 1280 celsius _ very hot! This ensures that they are microwave-, dishwasher- and oven-safe.
I have studied with Masako Miyata (James Madison University) and Susan Beecher (Sugar Maples), but a lot of my influence comes from my grandparents’ home pottery in France as well as my peers in western North Carolina and nature itself.
Describe a typical day in your business:
Before starting anything, I like to make sure that my workspace is clean and organized. First, I’ll get some clay, wedge it, which is like kneading bread dough, and weigh out different sized pieces. Then, I’ll sit down at my wheel and center myself first by looking out to the mountains and river. Once I feel good, I start throwing the clay on the wheel. I like to make things in a series because I enjoy getting into a rhythm and more in tune with that particular shape. One day, I’ll throw pots all day. The next day, I’ll work on attaching handles or spouts or finishing the bottoms and lids. Another day I may spend glazing and decorating. In either case, I like to focus on one main task per day. I end each day with a good session of cleaning.
How did you get started in this line of work?
I fell in love with ceramics 27 years ago in college. Although I was able to keep my hand in clay throughout the years, I was only able to build my own studio in the last five years after buying my own home. Now that my daughter is entering college, I am focusing my free time on becoming a full-time potter _ my life’s dream.
Where do you see this business in five years?
I would like to have quit my day job and be living my dream life as a full-time potter, doing shows and selling online and to galleries.
Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:
I recently had four lovely women come for a studio tour. This was a turning point for me, going from hobbyist to professional. I also realized what a great setup I have!
What have you learned from your work?
I have had to learn how to let go of expectations. I have a unique firing method that allows the clay, the fire and me to have equal voices in the outcome, and I never know what that is going to be until I open up the kiln.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
Making pots comes from my heart, but the business end uses the left brain, and that can be challenging!
The most enjoyable?
I love losing myself in the process. All time disappears when I’m throwing or decorating.
How do you define success for your business?
If I am able to make something that will help people feel more present while doing everyday tasks, I will feel fulfilled.
I would also like to be able to sustain myself through the sale of my pots.
What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?
The Catskill Mountains have such a creative and peaceful energy, which I draw on when making pots. Also, having lots of weekend visitors helps with sales.
I can’t think of a drawback.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
My firing style, called soda firing, is very unique. I don’t use a lot of glazes, as many potters do, so the color of the clay has a very strong voice.
What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?
I’m still such a novice myself, but I would suggest that having a good workspace will make life easier and more healthy.
Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information or to suggest a business, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or email email@example.com.