April Visiting Artist: Sidewalk Ceramics

This month we are joined by Courtney of Sidewalk Ceramics! Courtney creates delightfully designed and functional ceramics for your home. Learn more about Sidewalk Ceramics and Courtney below! 

How did you start your pottery journey? 

I took my first pottery class over ten years ago at The Clay Studio here in Philly. I was completely overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood and full-time work as an OT; my spouse nudged me to take one night a week off to nourish my creative self and gifted me an all-levels hand building / wheel throwing class. I was immediately smitten.

I spent the next several years taking a weekday evening pottery class and found that pottery was occupying more and more space in my mind. I would use my lunch breaks to plan out ideas for my next clay creation and would literally move weekend plans around in order to maximize time in the studio. 

When the pandemic shut down everything including community studios, I decided to finally purchase a pottery wheel to keep in my basement at home. I fired my work with a local mosaic artist until I happened upon a used digital kiln for sale. Slowly I built up my home studio and continued to work nights and weekends on ceramics. Friends and family supported me through modest porch sales until I entered my first craft show in the Spring of 2021. I’ve been focused on growing my business ever since!

Where do you draw your inspiration from, do you know what a piece is going to look like when you start it? 

I grew up dreaming of life in a big city, and though I’ve lived in Philly for nearly 20 years, I still walk around the city like a tourist! I am endlessly captivated by the beauty and complexity of the built environment and our interactions with it, so it’s no mystery as to how I came to put rowhouses on pots! But craft is an iterative process, and though I usually have a strong idea of what I want a piece to look like, I often change my mind and find my vision evolving with each making cycle. 

What does a typical day look like for sidewalk ceramics?

Ceramics is a cyclical practice composed of many distinct processes which means that my days can look completely different depending on what stage of production I’m in. I may spend the day throwing and trimming on the wheel, glazing pots or even designing stencils on the computer. Here’s a peek into a recent day:

8:30am The kids are at school and it’s time to get to work. I put on my apron & studio crocs and walk downstairs to my basement studio. I spend the morning at the wheel throwing a red clay that I weighed out and wedged yesterday. The cylinders I throw will eventually turn into mugs and jars; I leave them uncovered so that they’ll be ready for trimming first thing tomorrow morning.

12:00pm Lunchtime! I clean up the wheel, wipe the clay off my face and head upstairs to microwave my lunch. I complete my daily Wordle over a warm cauliflower bowl.

12:45pm Back down into the basement. I’ve been putting off organizing my glaze ingredients which are currently sitting in an assortment of paper and plastic bags. I gather a couple boxes of these powdered ingredients, put on my respirator (some components are toxic if inhaled) and head outside to sort them into a stash of Talenti jars that I got from Rabbit Recycling. This will make glaze mixing much easier the next time I’m testing glazes. 

2:00 I try to end each day in the studio by setting up for the next morning. I write a quick to-do list on the whiteboard for tomorrow–pull handles, trim mugs and jars & throw specked planters. I weigh out 50 lbs of clay into 3.5 & 1.5 lb balls and wedge them so that they’re ready to be thrown on the wheel tomorrow. 

2:40 The timer on my phone rings, alerting me to the fact that it’s time to pick up my younger child from school. I’ll duck back into the studio later today to check on the moisture levels of the pieces I threw this morning. 

What do you listen to while you're working in the studio? 

I’m always listening to something in the studio; it strangely keeps me on task and helps me escape the loneliness of solo studio work. I’ve been making good use of my library card by listening to audio books. I just finished listening to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and am now starting All the Beauty in the World by Patrick Bringley.  Heavy art focus as of recently! I also listen to a ton of podcasts–Maintenance Phase, WTF, The Maker’s Playbook and Ologies are in frequent rotation.


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

Upcoming Events

We host a wide range of events to bring the community together for art, sales, and classes taught by some of our incredibly talented friends.

Check out our workshops!