Last week I was home in Kansas City, Missouri, visiting family and friends, and I finally had the chance to meet one of my digital friends — Emily Reinhardt, The Object Enthusiast. I’ve known of Emily’s work since early on in her ceramics career and have been following her ever since. I adore her thoughtful designs that are all handmade in Kansas City.
If you don’t own a piece of hers, she has a lot of affordable options on her site. Read the interview to learn more about her and her ceramics business!
How did you get into ceramics and when did you decide to make it your business?
I took my first ceramics class in 2008, and truthfully it was just a prerequisite for my photography major. It was only a couple of weeks later and I had already switched my concentration to ceramics, and I haven’t stopped making things out of clay since then!
What has surprised you about being a business owner and in the ceramics industry?
2017 and 2018 brought me my first experience of burnout. I was convinced I wouldn’t experience this with a craft and a medium that I loved so much. There was something I found very noble about working hard every single day, and for almost 7 years, that was working. Suddenly, something switched in me and I started to find it harder and harder to get myself to the studio. I’m learning how to take breaks and make time for myself outside of work and ceramics, even when I love what I do.
Do you have a daily routine or certain rituals you do?
Walking my dog Ruby happens every single day, rain or shine. Going for a walk has always been a good way for me to clear my head, so it’s a great way to both start and end my day. I also love the small, everyday rituals like my first cup of coffee, lighting a candle, writing in my journal, tarot readings, time in my garden, and burning incense.
Do you have a “typical day” in the studio?
I usually try to start my day with emails and computer stuff. Getting my hands dirty and making stuff is the best part of the typical day, so I try to get all of the nitty gritty stuff done first. My employees make the studio a bustling and busy place each day, and no two days are exactly the same. I like that about the job!
What’s your favorite part of the design/creation/business process?
If we’re talking strictly ceramics, my favorite part of the process is probably glazing. There is a certain level of unknown with the glaze firing process and I always find it really exciting to try a few new things, but also leave it up to the kiln and the chemistry of the glazes. Surprises can be fun! I also really love the chance to connect with my customers. Selling my work at an event feels so much different than selling my stuff online. I get to hear about their lives, and what they want to do with each piece they buy. That connection is one of the best parts.
What hardships/obstacles have you had along the way?
I studied ceramics in college, and didn’t have much experience with business related courses while I was in school. So learning how to navigate running my own business has been challenging. But “learning by doing” is how I’ve always tried to approach most things, so there’s no reason not to give it a shot. You can always adjust and change it up when something doesn’t work. There are so many “right” ways to run a business, so eventually things will fall in place.
Besides feeling like a fish out of water in the business realm, the biggest obstacle for me has been working through burnout, anxiety, and depression. It’s so strange to have this career and passion that I love, but to also feel trapped and unsatisfied. I have so much respect and admiration for my fellow ceramic artists of the world. The work is hard, it’s physical, it requires long hours in the studio, and before I had the assistance of employees and interns, it was very solitary work. I felt very lonely and felt like I could never get enough done. That spiraled into constantly feeling overwhelmed and emotional and I noticed I started to resent the job and wanted it to disappear. I still don’t feel 100% content and happy, but I’m working really hard to balance my personal life outside of The Object Enthusiast with the job that this has turned into.
What have you found works for you as far as organizing your work and time?
I’m still trying to get the perfect schedule lined up! I am a morning person, so I like getting to work first thing. I’m still adjusting to having employees and the demand on my time that requires. I need to be available for questions and troubleshooting, and that has changed the way I get work done.
Highlight of your career so far?
It’s definitely the people I’ve met and the connections I’ve made! I know I would not be the same person without all of the genuine relationships I’ve built around my art and my business. I was interviewed for a magazine last year, the writer is now my best friend. I have found incredible friendships and relationships with my customers and with the people in my industry, and other artists of all mediums. I don’t think I would have these experiences if I had a different job.
Looking back, what would you do differently?
There’s a lot I want to do differently. I am a person who gets stuck thinking about the past, so it takes effort for me to stay in the present and focus on the road ahead. I want to be a better boss, a better artist, a better emailer, a better writer, a better friend, sister, daughter. I’m really just trying to make the right choices today and tomorrow and let myself off the hook for anything I’ve messed up in the past.
Is there something you wish everyone knew about being creating ceramics?
I wish people understood how much time this really takes. Even one cup. It needs to be thrown, trimmed, dried slowly, sometimes for up to a week. Then it goes through it’s first firing, taking 8-12 hours to fire, and the same amount of time to cool. Then it’s glazed, and fired again. Then I add the gold luster accents and it’s fired again. Also, did I mention my kiln holds up to 150 pieces? So before that one cup gets finished, I have to make a bunch of other stuff to fire and ride along this process with it. It is a long process from start to finish, and it’s overwhelming when demand is high and you can’t make things fast enough.
Best advice you’ve been given? Any advice that you’d give other people in your industry?
Ok, this first part is a JOKE, but one of my favorite things my college professor used to tell us. We’d say, “Yoshi, what’s your best advice for a young ceramic artist who wants to do this for the rest of their life?!” and his response was always, “marry rich!” I really wish he was still alive so I could show him that a single girl can make it happen on her own, but I still laugh when I think about his response. But my sincerest advice would be just to work hard. Make a ton of work and soon you’ll find your voice. Soon you’ll develop a body of work that is true to you. Truthfully, both sentiments here were given to me by my professor Yoshi Ikeda. By example, he showed me what a strong work ethic looked like, and in the ceramics world, that is powerful.
Any business books or podcasts you think other gals aspiring to be an entrepreneur in an artistic field should know about?
Right now I’m reading Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, by Debbie Millman. The book is set up in an interview style, where she speaks to a ton of leaders in business and branding. It’s very good! I also love the book Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, as well as Fried, by Joan Borysenko.
Photos by Meg Biram