Ceramic artist Donna Lashof presents her colorful collection. We spoke with her about designing, selling and what’s she learned along the way.
ABI: Tell us about your ceramic work and the techniques behind it.
DL: My work explores varied forms with a somewhat contemporary flair. Using white or bright colors with little other decoration highlights the unique shapes. The process I use involves creating a prototype from clay, wood, plaster and/or found objects, then making a plaster mold from the prototype. Liquid clay, called slip, is poured into the mold and the plaster absorbs some of the moisture, leaving a shell. Once the shell is firm I remove it from the mold and trim it. Each piece is fired, then decorated and glazed, then fired again. All of my glazes are food-safe and can be used in the dishwasher, oven and microwave.
I have done some sculptural work but have found that I enjoy knowing that my pieces are being used every day, so now my focus is on functional pieces. Although I still use wheel-throwing and hand-building, making molds and slip-casting allows me to better explore the varied forms that I enjoy making.
ABI: How do you sell your collection?
DL: I started selling through smaller local shows and Etsy about three years ago. I quickly evolved to include consignment and pop-up shops. This year I focused on redoing my website and moving into the wholesale world, thanks in part to an ABI workshop I took in January.
I’m looking to expand the wholesale portion of my business and have minimized my consignment. I attend about a dozen art shows each year. The energy and camaraderie from interacting with other artists is inspiring and the feedback from customers is invaluable.
ABI: What have you learned from your customers?
DL: I love to make pots and am always dreaming up new forms that I find interesting. Whenever I make a new form I test it out on my family to make sure it is functional and will work, but I’m not always thinking about multiple functions or uses!
One of the things I love about doing shows is that customers come up with ways to use my pieces that never occurred to me. A good example is my olive trays; when I first started making them a customer suggested that I make them a bit wider so they would be more versatile and could be used to serve crackers.
I implemented that suggestion and since have had customers tell me they have used them for crackers, as well as baked dips (they are microwave, oven and dishwasher safe). Others have told me they use one to store jewelry, to display teabags, or even above their computer keyboard to keep pens, paperclips and other desktop items organized.
My pieces are brightly colored and designed to work together. One of my favorite things at a show is to watch customers play with the colors of the teardrop bowls, arranging them over and over until they get a set of colors that is just right for them – I’ve seen some very interesting combinations! My objective is to make pieces that can bring joy to every day and it delights me when someone comes back to get an additional color or another piece.