i have a real thing for ceramic jewelry. to me, it’s an unexpected material that both makes soft but strong statement. i became aware of tasha mckelvey when i wrote a “shop local” piece for try handmade about richmond, virginia.
tasha creates much more than ceramic jewelry, though, she has a whole range of pottery pieces perfect for a gift for weddings, anniversaries, housewarming, or just “because!”
i met up with tasha at the buyer’s market of american craft in philly last month to view her collection up close & personal and to chit chat!
you’re a talented crafter, a member of the richmond craft mafia, and i noticed on twitter today that you even teach kids pottery classes! what aspect of your creative life are you most passionate about at the moment?
Right now I am focusing on my craft. Last year, I taught middle school art part-time, in addition to making pottery and for the two years previous I was taking classes part-time to get my teaching license. Now I am happy to be able to just focus on my own work for awhile, but for me part of that is being an active member of the Richmond Craft Mafia. Staying active in the craft community is something I feel is important for a work-at-home crafter. Interacting with other crafters and artists helps me come up with new ideas for my work and business. Right now I’m helping organize our winter show Handmade Holiday.
tell me about one of the obstacles you had to overcome in becoming a full-time creator.
I started my pottery business right after I finished college in 2000. Those first few years were tough and there was a huge learning curve because I didn’t have a background in business. I had to work out a lot of marketing & business related issues. The readily available resources that we have today just didn’t exist then – just think about how limited the internet was then.
when i met you at bmac, you told me the amazing story of ginkgoes. can you tell me again so that I get it right?
Ginkgo leaves have been a part of my work since I was in college and were even the theme for my wedding in 2005. I first learned about ginkgo trees when I was 15 and had to do a leaf project for biology class. While I was compiling all of my leaf specimens I was quite taken with the unusual and beautiful fan-shaped ginkgo leaf. My dad, an arboriculturalist at the time, told me the ginkgo’s story. The gingko is considered a living fossil. Gingkoes were widespread in the time of the dinosaurs, but today only one species of ginkgo still exists. It is believed that ginkgo trees would be completely extinct if not for the efforts of a group of Chinese monks that cared for the trees over a 1,000 year period. Now ginkgoes are an ornamental tree found in gardens and lining city streets all over the world. My husband and I recently bought our first house and I planted one of the ginkgo saplings from our wedding in the front yard (my Dad had kept it in his greenhouse for us for the past four years).
what is something you struggle with in your creative process on a daily basis?
Time management is a constant struggle. There are so many aspects to running a business that have nothing to do with actually making work in the studio. I am always looking for ways to streamline things like packing orders, doing marketing and paperwork so I can spend more time in the studio. Spending too much time away from clay makes it harder for me to find my rhythm in the studio.
if you weren’t pursuing your passion for pottery, what other passion would you like to give a whirl?
My first choice would be a pottery teacher, but that is still pottery isn’t it? So I would say that I would like to work with kids who want to go into the arts, but may not have the resources available to make that happen – kind of like a guidance counselor for art kids.