Creative Profile: Lauren Sumner Pottery
When I headed over to Lauren's house, the first plants to greet me on her porch was her Philodendrons and Monstera plants. Lauren is known for her leaf dishes modeled after these plants, so it was so cool to see that she keeps these guys around for daily inspiration. We made our way up to her in-home studio. It was filled with natural light and shelf covered walls stacked with colorful dishes, mugs, bowls and the like. The room smelled of fresh clay, and she went to work, swiftly and gracefully. It was a delight to just watch and listen to how this whole thing got started.
How did you get started? How did you know you wanted to start this business?
I’ve been an artist all my life and have taken pottery classes on and off. I went back to school part-time to get my teaching licensure in art education, and needed a few pottery classes to fulfill a credit. I loved working with my hands and being creative, something that was missing in my graphic design job (that felt more like a boring desk job). When I had a few months where I was making more at my side pottery job than my full time job, I knew it was time to go full time.
What makes your pottery different? What about you guys stand out?
I think a combination of my original designs, bright colors, and unique texures and patterns make my pieces stand out.
What’s your favorite part of the pottery process? The Kiln? The Wheel? The paint?
I love experimenting and making new items, trying out new glaze combos. Carving designs into leather hard clay is also one of my favorite parts.
How did you make your first sales?
I started on Etsy in 2010, when Etsy was still relatively new and not many people had heard of it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I took a few (bad) photos of my pottery, made a listing for $.20 and somehow got some sales!
What is the hardest thing about being owning this small business in the RDU area?
The hardest thing is doing it all – marketing, photography, shipping, customer service, applying for shows – and still finding time to make products.
What drew you to your current designs? What inspires you?
My newest designs are my wall air plant holders and leaf necklaces. I wanted to make some objects that hang on the wall – to keep the breakable objects away from kids and pets, and I love combining it with easy-to-care-for air plants. My leaf bowls have been so popular, that I decided to make some mini ones that can be worn. I love the idea of people wearing my pottery around town.
Describe your office space and what your most productive time to work is.
I work in two community studios, where I take advantage of their pottery wheels, kilns, and large sections of glazes. I also have an office and small studio space for handbuilding in my house. I’m a night owl, and I get a lot of work done at night, after my son is in bed, it’s dark out, and I can concentrate on making pottery. Sometimes I get my best ideas when I’m in bed, and I’ll sketch them out in a little notebook so I don’t forget.
What is your favorite piece that you have made or are currently selling?
My favorite piece is always my newest piece. I love exploring new ideas and designs. My little Monstera leaf necklaces are so fun, because it’s something I can wear out and show off my work outside of the house.
What is your favorite part of working for yourself? What is your least favorite part?
My favorite part of working for myself is making my own schedule, and doing what works best for me that day. Working for myself also pushes me to work hard and learn new things. I can’t afford to be lazy when my business is new. (I also love that I can wear yoga pants to work!) My least favorite part is the stress involved, because it’s all riding on me. Most people don’t understand how hard I work and the late nights involved. I’m not just playing in clay all day.
What are some goals you have for your business?
Continue to increase awareness of my pottery brand and grow my ceramic jewelry line.
What piece of advice would you give to small entrepreneurs who are working a day job and a side creative business?
I did it for years! Just find some time to set aside a few nights a week or on weekends to work on your business. Find some other business friends to get and share advice with. And also take some time for yourself so you don’t get burned out.
What do you use most for marketing? What is your favorite social media platform?
Instagram is my favorite social media platform and my best source of traffic to my website. It’s so easy to post a photo and write a short text description, I post there multiple times a week.