Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Maker Series : Beardbangs Ceramics

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today I am so thrilled to introduce to you an amazing husband and wife team who make darling ceramic pieces for around the home. I love the pieces that Alicia creates with illustrations by her husband, Josiah. I really want to buy them all. I hope you all enjoy reading and learning about Beardbangs Ceramics.
A day in the Life: Beardbangs Ceramics

My name is Alicia Zwicewicz, and I’m the creator and owner of Beardbangs Ceramics. I make cutesy functional ceramics that are influenced by Scandinavian design, many of which feature animals. I try to make simple pieces that brighten everyday moments, and make routines special.

In university I focused mostly on painting but I became quickly obsessed with ceramics after taking a community class in pottery. I’ve been running Beardbangs since early 2014, after I graduated from university. I started out working at a friend’s home studio part-time, and designing the pieces with my husband, Josiah, who studied illustration and design. 
A normal work day for me now is from 1-8 pm. This is a new schedule for me and it’s a bit strange, so I am still getting used to it. I work in a communal space that I opened up this past January called Coop Poterie-MontrĂ©al, so I try to be there when other people are available (ie. outside of normal work hours). We have a variety of members who come in to work on their own personal projects and/or take classes. This is a dream come true for me! The combination of community and art has always been important to me, and this new studio really feels like it meets a need in MontrĂ©al for a place to work on ceramics/pottery without having to take a course at the same time; it’s the kind of thing that I was looking for when I graduated.
When I get to the studio each day, I’ll often start up the kiln to either fire my work or my co-op members’ work. The rest of the day is pretty open, and based on whatever needs to get done. I try to keep organized with lists of pieces I need to create for Etsy and wholesale clients, and I usually will start by cracking open a bag of clay and wedging out balls so that I can continuously throw new pieces for a few hours. I sell a lot of three-legged planters, so some days I’m just throwing the same form, one after another. When I’m satisfied with the number of pieces I’ve completed, I usually move on to trim some of the pieces I threw the previous day. Trimming the bottoms is one of my favourite parts because the clay is firmer and is shaved off in a lovely, satisfying swirl. After that’s done, I’ll attach handles and legs and let the pieces sit covered again until the next day.
The decorating happens on the third day. Everything is sponged down to make sure the surface is totally smooth. I use engobes (which is basically tinted, liquid clay) to paint on the shapes, often using wet newspaper to resist the colour in the places I want the natural clay to show through (all the white sections on my pieces). For the black and white pieces, I usually use a few different brushes and hand-paint each design (for example, on the cat mug with tail handle). Fine tools help me touch everything up, by allowing me to scrape away any unwanted engobe, and also to sometimes carve faces.
Once everything has been decorated everything it set out to dry and then a few days later I fire it in the kiln to about 1900°f. This is the bisque firing, just to get all the water out. After that, I dip everything in glaze, let that dry again and fire it to about 2200°f. Opening the kiln after the glaze firing is always the most fun and satisfying part, because everything is transformed! On the other hand, sometimes unexpected things can happen during the firing, so you can’t get too attached to anything. 
Now that the new studio is starting to function more smoothly, I’m excited to be getting caught up on my orders from the beginning of the year. I am working on training a new assistant, who will help me out with packaging and shipping, dipping pieces in glaze, mixing my glazes and engobes and wedging out clay. This will help me immensely. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to set up a little section in the studio of in-stock items for locals to check out, and send out my Etsy orders much faster!
I’d also like to get to work on some new designs. I love this part of the process. It’s like figuring out a puzzle, deciding what shapes to make to fit a certain kind of animal, how to make certain pieces on the wheel, and how to make a design more clever or sturdy. I also like that I get to work with my husband on this part, and it’s always fun to see what he’ll suggest when I bring up a new idea. I’m not sure what we will do next, but I’d love to try out some designs with birds, and one of these days I imagine I’ll finally break down and make a dog planter!

A huge thank you to Jill Agustin for all of the lovely studio photos! 

A huge thank you to Alicia for sharing with us what a typical day looks like to Beardbangs Ceramics. I love getting glimpses into peoples lives, and seeing her work space, her pieces in progress, and even of her in action, really inspire me a lot. Thank you so much, Alicia. 

This fox plant pot was the very first thing that I saw come out of Beardbangs Ceramics and so it is definitely the first thing I need to purchase. Followed by this planter, this hanging planter, this teapot, and this mug. Now, I need to as you - what is your favourite piece from her Etsy Store

If you would like to be a part of the Maker Series or if you know of someone who you think should be showing of their creations, please email me at knottedhome (at) hotmail (dot) com. The Maker Series  is a place of inspiration, encouragement, and support to those who want to craft, create, or live a homemade lifestyle. This series is all about creating a comfortable and inspirational place in which Makers can share their talents and inspire those who have ever dreamed of living a life supported by what they love to do. Creating. 

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