I first met potter Grea Joachim in 2017. Well, I actually didn’t meet her, I saw her creative clay work just before the Chrismas holidays at a showing of selected artists at a local gallery. It was there that I spotted a rustic teapot set that was so beautifully crafted with the right amount of modernity and throwback to 60s nostalgia that I stared at the set for a full 5 minutes before taking out my wallet to purchase it.
At the time, my wallet was already groaning with the weight that comes with being over budget but I rationalized the purchase by saying I would get one last gift for a friend, who mind you, already had her gift tucked under my tree. But who was I kidding? The set was for me. I’ve used Greta Joachim’s teapot every day since I bought it, it’s a wonderful source of delight.
Today, I’m happy to not only get to know this gifted potter some more but also introduce her to you. Her work is truly something to behold. Her finished products are so beautiful and well crafted that you almost forget that a real person went through all of the steps and work to create it. In this #bosbabefromaroundheway series, we ask Greta about her creative design process, her studio and why on earth in an era of mass production and consumption, artists like herself will always remain relevant and busy.
My grandmother was into horticulture, shell craft, basketry and all other forms of weaving, cake decorating, baking. She created magic with her hands. She would take me to all her meetings and I would be there watching all the ladies crochet or embroider or make baskets. On our Sunday outings to the beach, I remember us collecting shells for her boxes and vases. I learned how to crochet and weave baskets and embroider from her, she taught me the value of and respect for using my hands to create and the love for artistic pursuits.
I am still not a full-time potter in the true sense of the word because I teach Art at secondary level but in 2018 I began to seriously plot a course toward my ultimate goal: becoming a full-time potter. I have been learning about business and planning.
That my work is not good enough and I will fall flat on my face.
My first true appreciation of a meal was when I prepared it from scratch: going through the menu, selecting the ingredients and herbs, tasting and adjusting until I knew it was right. That experience was further enhanced when I had that meal on a handmade plate and drank from a handmade vessel.
Knowing that someone took the time to conceptualise and form the plate or cup that I use; that a part of the maker has been indelibly stamped on this piece and I am now part of is an age-old tradition that dates back to the forming in Eden.
Using something that is not mass made does something to the experience of eating, It elevates it to an intimate moment. That is what I want to share with those who purchase my work. It’s a melding of the old and new; the difference between going to the kitchen and taking the time to prepare a meal, eaten around the table with family or friends and going to the kitchen and opening a cup of soup in the microwave.
My creative process starts with an idea derived from dreams, or a glimpse of some shadow in the trees or a pattern that emerges from the surface on the furniture or mostly some childhood memory. I sketch and I research and depending on what it is, make prototypes so I can see the problems and find solutions. Problems can be how the spout pours, or whether the surface interferes with function. A lot of times inspiration comes from just being on the wheel and working.
My studio space straddles the world between showroom and workhorse room. One of the kilns sits in the middle and forms the boundary between work area and office/showroom. My goal is to eventually broaden the space so that I can better showcase my work and hold workshops more comfortably.
Desire, Determination, consistency and thick skin. Using your creativity to start a business is not like tmainstream businesses. Sometimes inspiration does not show itself, sometimes you will face the typical Trinbagonian response which is to overlook the work, the quality and effort and become a voice of negativity. This can be discouraging. Many times I have wanted to give up on my course but I don’t because that’s part of it. You have to take the lumps and the bumps and then show up and do the work; be willing to take the hits and just keep going. It can’t be the case where you sit and wait for creativity or inspiration. you just work until it comes. You have to be there everyday plodding along. You have to learn ( if you don’t know) how to run and market a business. Creatives can no longer just rely on the creative side. We also have to be savvy in the other areas. It takes discipline.
Social media is a big part of my business. It’s the direction to which the world is heading. It’s potential for sales is huge if done right. I now have to include, in addition to planning for markets or galleries or shops, social media marketing. I have also taken workshops on how to do this. I also spend time looking at Instagram and website insights and tracking interactions. It is a huge deal.
In the beginning, I just posted my pots or artwork with very little impressions; very little reactions from my followers. I have since come to learn that it’s not just about showing the work but about sharing myself; my thoughts, my face, my story. This has pushed me way out of my comfort. So now I post to my feed once a day in the morning. I try to have images that not only show my work but also me and I talk about what prompted the making and not so much on the sales pitch. My love of writing helps. During the day I utilise my stories for regular posting. When I have special campaigns or events I use FB/ IG ads to help boost and market. I make sure to actively and sincerely engage with those who express a liking for or reaction to the work; something I wasn’t doing before.
Social media can be addictive; especially for those like me who are not lovers of crowds and lots of people. We can use social media to hide. In recognisng what a potential for time wasting it can be for me, I am determined to discipline myself. I have set a time limit for myself with alert, I plan other things like reading and writing and also I like to cook. I use to do lists which help me to stay on track and Apps like Planoly and Canva help in scheduling posts. My spiritual life is important and helps with balance. It also helps to have strong support, which I have in my husband. We make time for each other and support each other in the shortfall. He is my number one cheer squad and my business partner.
This is not a whim. Do your research and be certain. Put in your hours. success is not overnight. There are some days when it seems you haven’t made enough then there are the days when it seems nothing will sell. You have to take the sour with the sweet and just show up and do the work. Make sure you can stand by your brand and that it is synonymous with quality and fair practice and above all, don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t be so tied to the work that you are not able to look objectively at what you do and be willing to change what isn’t working. Be honest in your dealings and have strong support. Stay spiritually grounded.
Order. The studio will get cluttered and crazy by the end of the day and that’s fine but to start working the day after, I must have order, my tools cleaned, the clay prepped and the wheel cleaned or I won’t be able to work.
My most memorable custom piece came out of a collaboration with Rachel Rochford in 2016 for her February subscription box. I used local Valencia clay to make one-of-a- kind espresso cups. It made me proud to use a clay body dug here in my country and to know that my former lecturer and someone I consider a mentor, was pleased with them.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
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