I'm very proud to present our very first pottery artist on the Meet Your Maker series today! Isabelle Abramson was one of the first artists I "hearted" when I first joined Etsy and she's held a permanent place in my favourites ever since. I'm just so completely blown away by the delicate intricacy of her designs. I'm a sucker for lacy things, but lace porcelain? How is that even possible? Well, you're about to find out! I'm so pleased to show you some of Isabelle's stunning work and incredibly honoured she has agreed to share her story here with us. Welcome, Isabelle.
WHO are you? Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
I was a school nurse before I was an artist. I was able to slowly teach myself to make porcelain pottery through a lot of trial and error. My work tends to be very feminine, detailed, functional porcelain artwork with a lot of time spent on each individual piece.
WHAT inspires you?
I love the detail and craftsmanship that I see in antiques and some vintage furniture. I think that, except for in very high end home decor, a lot of that attention to detail has been lost. The spaces that feel the best for me are really simple, but decorated with a few ornate pieces of art or furniture.
WHERE do you work? Describe your workspace.
My studio is tiny (I think only about 200 square feet), so I have to be very conscious of what I fill the space with and how I work. I usually only have one or two pieces in process at any given time so I am totally focused on what I’m working on and then as soon as a piece is finished it goes into the kiln, because there’s not anywhere else to put it. It’s taken a few years to find a way to use the space in a way that is the most efficient, and I’m sure it will be an ongoing process. That being said, I really love my studio. I’m totally used to it and I feel good working there so I think I might feel like I was swimming if I moved to a larger space now. Also, commercial space in Boston is really expensive and the rent in my studio building is based on square footage, so having this tiny studio frees me up to focus on my art and not have to worry about overhead.
WHEN do you feel most successful? When do you feel most frustrated/insecure?
I feel most successful when I’m steadily selling artwork at a pace I can keep up with and making just a little more money than I need to get by. I feel most frustrated when things don’t come out right or break in the kiln. I always learn something when a piece doesn’t work out but if I spent a long time on something it’s definitely a bummer when it doesn’t turn out to be something I can sell.
WHY do you do what you do?
I really enjoy being my own boss. I feel like I’m good at the things that one would need to be good at to run a very small business like this. The balance of alone time where I create intertwined with the social part of selling is a great way to work.
HOW do you do what you do? Describe your creative process and/or your typical work day?
A lot of my focus in how I work is keeping the website stocked in a way that I feel like I’m providing a good variety of items that look good together as a collection. I can usually only finish one small piece or part of a large piece in a day. I slip cast the body of the piece before I leave the studio. At night when I’m home I look at what’s been selling on the website and what seems like it would fit with the other things I have and I start to think about what the design will be for the piece that I work on the next day. Most of my day is spent sitting at a desk with reading glasses on and an x-acto knife in my hand.
It’s a really hard time to be selling something that is fundamentally unnecessary. I would tell anyone starting out not to forget that it is abnormally hard to be doing something creative as a job right now, especially if you rely on outside feedback for encouragement or direction. Focus on making your art better and less on people’s reaction to your art. When it is truly a labor of love it comes through and the people who buy your things with see that. Also, don’t quit your day job if being stressed about money is going to interfere with your creative process.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Isabelle. Your self-taught journey is such an inspiration, and your words of wisdom to new artists and entrepreneurs really hits home. I think you've shown us a side of pottery that many people have never seen before and I hope we'll all spend a little more time appreciating the art form from now on. I know I will!
Please take a moment to visit Isabelle's website and Etsy shop.
All images by Isabelle Abramson.