Ceramic artist Wendy Durand presents her handbuilt work, and talks about the business side of craft.
ABI: You say you found your voice in handbuilding clay. How did that happen?
WD: The first time I saw a potter throw on the wheel, I was amazed and wished I could spend my life in that way. But, I went a more traditional route and had a wonderful career in executive management in the nonprofit world, primarily furthering issues important to women. In 2007, a friend gave me a bag of clay and said she’d take pottery lessons with me, as a birthday gift. Soon after, I quit my day- job and devoted myself to my dream of being a potter.
I spent 2 years on the wheel, but unfortunately ended up with some injuries that kept me out of work for a period of time. I missed working in clay so much, I decided to take a handbuilding course – something I was never interested in, but was physically capable of doing. Lo and behold, I found what allowed me the most creativity in clay and finally gave a voice to my work. I laugh when people tell me how quickly I’ve progressed in my work. I say, “ I’d been thinking about it for 30 years”.
ABI: How would you describe your body of work?
WD: I create hand built art out of clay. My primary technique is slab construction and my firing methods include soda, salt or gas reduction to high temperatures (^10 or higher). While my work can simply be displayed as an Objet d’Art, most pieces are functional as well. I love color; unusual exaggerated shapes and forms, and texture. In each piece I create, I strive to find elegance and refinement. Functionality to me is secondary to the pleasure of the form… but, I am pleased when my work has a purpose as well. I want people to want to touch my work and for my work to touch them.
ABI: What have your learned since you began to wholesale your work?
WD: I recently did my first wholesale show. It gave me entrée into one of the finest galleries in Asheville, NC and to a market of commercial interior design. I’ve learned that the “administrative” prep work is more extensive than I expected, but that sound business practices still make sense in the wholesale world: good communication, not taking more orders than you are sure you can fulfill, quality is more important than quantity, and risk taking is an important step in moving forward. One of the real benefits for artists is access to a wide variety of galleries to which you might otherwise not be able to reach.
ABI: What insights have you gained as a show producer?
WD: I have co-produced a juried regional ceramics art show “For the Love of Clay” since 2009 which attracts a large regional audience. I have learned how important photographs are in submitting your work to a jury, what the costs and hard work that go into the production of a show, but also the joy of putting on a fine show, filled with beautiful clay of every sort.