Visiting Artist: Cloud 9 Clay

Q: Tell us about your journey living in Philadelphia and how you began working with clay? 

I’ve been working with clay for a long time now, since high school, but I started turning my hobby into a business in 2018. I was pulled back to Philadelphia by the amazing building that I now live and work in. Starting a business and finding a place to work as a ceramic artist can be tricky. I was trying to figure out how to afford an apartment and a studio, and really wished there was an all in one solution, and luckily I found it! I sort of tiptoed into the business side of things and just started making stuff as soon as I could once I had the space and equipment. Philly was super supportive right from the start. I used to live here in college, so coming back was a little weird at first, but then I was super grateful when I realized how many connections I still had here. It just felt really easy and comforting coming back to a city I know well. I started selling my work at some local shops in the city and was hustling as much as I could at craft fairs and events, (while working various other part time jobs). Eventually in 2020, I went full time with Cloud 9 Clay and started taking things a little more seriously. I’m still staying busy and feeling extra grateful for my space since the pandemic!  

Q: What is the significance of your company’s name? 

I started out calling my business Peyton Flynn Ceramics, and it just didn’t feel right. I wanted to have a name that felt more like a brand and wasn’t so...serious sounding I guess? Cloud 9 Clay was born from a lot of random lists of words and phrases and brainstorming, and after crossing off lots of bad ideas, Cloud 9 Clay just sort of stuck! The idea of Cloud 9 is where we aspire to be, to me it's that lofty, blissful, dream-like sensation of not having a care in the world. I want my brand to feel lighthearted and fun, and I want my work to reflect that as well. I love to be playful with my work and to invoke a playful spirit in the day to day of those who own my pieces. 


Q: Can you share the standards you uphold for yourself while working in such a popular field? Which pieces go in the ‘do not sell’ pile? 

If something is cracked on the base or structurally unsound, I won’t sell it, but now I usually catch those things before I fire them and try to address it then. I also might be unhappy with something if it seems too heavy or the weight isn’t right, or if the glaze didn’t do quite what it was supposed to do. If the flaws aren’t not toooo bad, I usually sell them in a flash sale for a discount. It’s hard for me to literally throw something away if I think there might be a use for it. I rarely do that. I usually end up keeping a lot of my seconds for my own space if I can, or giving them away to friends etc. 

 

Q: You love to collaborate! Which projects are you super happy with and do you have any exciting ones coming up that you can share with us? 

Yes! For sure, it’s always so fun to work with fellow artists. I love all of my collabs, but I just launched a project with Madewell that is available now! I picked some of my favorite multi-use pieces for this collection, and lots of spring vibes :)

I also have some new vases in collaboration with Krystal Quiles coming up! Krystal is a dear friend of mine and an illustrator from NYC. This is our second round of vases together, and these ones are extra hot!! 

Q: How do you foresee the rest of this year going for you and your business? And years to come? Anything exciting on the horizon for Cloud 9? 

It’s so hard to call anything these days. Lately, I am just doing my best to roll with the punches! One of my hopes is to get a more shoppable space set up in my studio so that I can host pop ups and little events again. Getting back into the community of clay again feels really important this year too. Participating in the wood firing this March was so much fun and lit so much positive, excited energy in me. There is no way that the wood firing mission could happen without community and working together towards a shared goal. I learned so much and met so many amazing people. I’ve more or less operated on my own since 2018, so that experience was a good reminder to continue to connect and learn. My goal is to keep pursuing what excites me and let go of the things that energetically drag me down much as possible. Everything on the horizon feels exciting, because I still just feel endlessly excited about this craft, so I’m excited for whatever comes next.

 

Q: How did your business change within the last year, with covid-19 and quarantine? 

Before lockdown, I used to do the bulk of my sales in stores and at events. It was super scary at first when all of the events for the spring that I had lined up started to fall through with no plans to reschedule. Luckily, I had just launched a new website pre-quarantine, so I shifted everything online! Selling online is a whole other beast, but I’m glad that I was forced to get comfortable with it because it enabled me to grow beyond my local audience. Otherwise, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with my work this year, and tried to keep things fun. I had a lot more space in my schedule to play and work outside of my typical production.  

Q: The pieces you are showcasing at Moon + Arrow have gone through a process called Wood-firing. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Wood fired pottery dates back to the dawn of the craft itself; the process involves all of nature's elements. All pottery used to be wood fired with wood, in pits, caves, and tunnel style kilns. In a world of electricity, wood fired kilns are rare and revered. Today, most potters fire work in an electric or gas kiln for consistency and convenience. A typical gas or electric glaze firing takes about 10 hours or so. Each of these pieces were fired for 36 hours and hand stoked every 15 minutes. 

The unique atmosphere created from burning pine and oak wood resulted in burnt oranges, gorgeous golden crystals, and plenty of fun surprises! Fun fact: minimal glaze was used for these pieces; the glossy, metallic, and charred surfaces come from wood ash floating around in the kiln. Depending on the pieces proximity to wood and fire, the ash adheres to the surface of the molten hot clay and results in a wide range of finishes. Golden sheens and crystals are a result of the final reduction process, where the kiln was starved of its oxygen and left to slowly cool for an entire week. All pieces were made and fired in a train style wood kiln in Pennsylvania and are completely one of a kind. 

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