Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Drissell.
Hi Ashley, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I’m a teacher and a working artist. Sometimes my teaching and making identities merge, which I think is cool. My students see me working on throwing pots or decorating vessels, and we have great conversations about being a maker, marketing, pricing, professionalism, etc. My home studio is where I do most of my ceramic work. I share my space with my husband, two kids, laundry, and many toys. I’ve carved a little corner in the basement where I can safely keep my clay and equipment. But, part of being a working artist/mom means a lot of multi-tasking. My kids (6 & 8) like to “do clay” alongside me. They’ve been making pots on the wheel for years now. We even use them every day in our kitchen. There are many things to juggle, but I try my best to make it all work.
Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Not much about my journey as an artist, mom, and teacher has felt “smooth.” It’s all a lot of work. But work feeds my soul and hopefully produces good people who go out into the world and make things better. Finding balance is one of the most challenging aspects of doing all I do. When I’m not teaching, I’m thinking about teaching. When I’m not making, I’m thinking about making, and when I’m with my kids, I try to stay present (try being the operative word). During the lockdown period of the pandemic, I was doing all of these things simultaneously. Being at home while teaching, ensuring my kids were doing their remote learning, and working in my studio meant that all things were one, and I felt like I was in the circus spinning plates. I leaned into my artwork at that time. That is when I started making ceramic earrings. I needed something to do that was small, tedious, and required my full attention. I wanted to be enveloped by the process. It turns out it worked. And the earrings have been a big hit ever since. Every time I’ve signed on to a project, thrown myself into the process 100%, and let go of the outcome, I’ve come out in a better place. My earrings, alone, have financed a new wheel, kiln, groceries, and Christmas presents for nearly three years now. I’m so lucky to have found something that I love and also happens to help pay the bills.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’ve been making and selling pottery, sculptures, and jewelry for about 14 years. I sell in a few regional shops/galleries, including Union Studio in St. Louis, Edwardsville Art Center in Edwardsville, Illinois, and Columbia Art League, in Columbia, Missouri. I’m working with Gather Café and Hare and Bear Co Florist on commissions for their businesses and private commission work making ceramic house numbers. I love selling at in-person events like the St. Louis Mug Market annual mug sale and other events at Schlafly Bottleworks and Laumeier Sculpture Park, where I can talk to my customers face-to-face. Additionally, I have an Etsy shop where I sell items like jewelry and small pottery.
When the pandemic first hit in the spring of 2020, I spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of “home” (as we all did). Being at home always meant that clay was one of the few mental/emotional escapes I had. I proposed a little challenge to my artist friends. I asked them to lean into their medium and make something meaningful during the lockdown. I, in return, would create a small ceramic portrait of their house. After all, we were all in our homes trying to ride this thing out. I ended up doing 7 house portraits and traded work with friends. One unexpected outcome is that I felt connected (and sometimes re-connected) with people I could not physically be with. We had great conversations and made some good art in the process. I’m proud of this little moment in time because it helped me, and hopefully, it helped my friends.
Since 2020, I’ve made hundreds of tiny “houseplant houses” that keep houseplants company, ceramic house numbers for customers all over the US, and lots more ceramic house portraits. These, in addition to surprisingly lightweight ceramic earrings with intricate patterns, are what set me apart. Everything I make is touched about 1,000 times by my hands, sometimes late at night while my kids are asleep, sometimes while surrounded by teenagers talking through their relationships and weekends, and sometimes over facetime with my best friend in Los Angeles. I do this because it feeds me, both physically and emotionally. When I’m struggling with finding the answers, navigating the grief, or accepting the circumstances, I make my hands busy, so my mind can be quiet.
Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
Attention to detail. I’ve drunk enough cups of coffee to understand that a mug feels good in the hand when edges are soft, handles are just the right size for 2-3 fingers, the foot is smooth to the touch, and the lip has just the right angle for the liquid to break cleanly over the edge and into the mouth. There is a comfortable little place to rest the thumb if you enjoy wrapping your hand around the body of the mug while drinking. I wear my earrings because I like them, and this helps me learn what the most comfortable designs are. I choose patterns and colors that I want to wear. I like what I make because I’ve learned how to make things well over the years.
- Earrings range from $20- $35
- Pottery ranges from $20-$200
- Custom house numbers start at $45, and an additional $5 per number beyond the first number
- Website: etsy.com/shop/DrissellCeramics
- Instagram: @ashley.drissell.ceramics