Mayco: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Alana: Hello!! I am a 23-year-old ceramic artist in Wrightsville PA (a river town about an hour west of Philly)! I recently married my high school sweetheart in an amazing backyard wedding. We are soon on the route to house hunting! Right now I paint in the studio I set up in my attic at my mom’s house. I absolutely love where pottery is taking my life! When I graduated high school, in 2015, I decided I would go to Nursing School. My part time job, while going to college, was a Paint Your Own Pottery Studio in Downtown Lancaster, called The Pottery Works. I always loved art of any kind and I was immediately obsessed with this new way for me to create art. I loved painting; watercolor, acrylic, and oils in my art classes. As I started working at The Pottery Works, I fell in love with the idea of having my own small business one day. I decided to make a change in my career path and go to school for business. I started painting pottery from the PYOP studio and selling it on the side. Today I have had The Glazing Sun for almost 4 years! The pandemic really soared my Etsy shop into orbit with everyone online shopping and it has been so amazing taking The Glazing Sun full time!
What drew you towards working with ceramics?
I thought it was so cool to be able to put my art on something you could use! Instead of just hanging up a canvas with a painting on it, I could use a mug I painted every day. It gave me a new appreciation for my own art! The anticipation of waiting to see the transformation of the glaze before versus after firing makes me so excited! Your piece can look so boring before but BAM, it looks bright and colorful after firing.
The details and designs of your pieces are so bright and colorful – How would you define the style of your work and how did it develop?
I try to paint my pieces in a way that it will bring joy to someone just by looking at it! I think colors have an incredible effect on people, in a way that it can change your mood instantly. I love anything bright and colorful so it is no shock that everything I paint is just that. Earthy colors do not excite me! I never enjoyed painting anything very detailed on pottery; I lose interest very quickly when doing so. While working at The Pottery Works I was able to see a lot of pieces being painted, therefore I really studied what customers were trying with glazes and learned a lot from that. I started to notice what glazes went well together and how they reacted differently with some more than others. In a way painting pottery felt SO natural to me. I just started trying glaze combinations and had a lot of fun with it, nothing too serious. Crystal glazes are my go to – Mayco’s Jungle Gems are my absolute favorite and I love using them with the Elements glazes. I recently started incorporating transfer papers and they have really taken my pieces to the next level. I could totally paint the designs on the mugs by hand but I barely have time to eat lunch some days! I’m really happy and optimistic about how my work is developing and getting to share that with people all over. People write reviews on my Etsy talking about how just using their mug they purchased from me makes them so happy.
Can you briefly describe your production process?
So I start with my bisque piece, normally a mug – I mostly paint mugs. Sometimes I have a long stare down with the mug before realizing what I want to do with it and other times I go in with a plan! It depends if I am doing a specific order or if I am trying to create something new. I work better when I have a plan – I normally plan out what I have to paint that day along with preplanning the design. Once I figure out that out, I prep the mugs by painting the bottoms white. I normally paint multiple pieces at once as I wait between coats drying. Therefore, I can have quite a lot going on at one time. I am a very MESSY painter – it’s always all over me, from head to toe. When the mug is painted and it’s dry, I flip them over and stamp them! I brush clear glaze on them when needed and pop them in the kiln. Currently I do not have my own kiln; I fire my pieces at The Pottery Works. I drive about 35 minutes with all my pottery loaded up (very carefully) to be fired and when they are done I dremel the bottoms, then pack them back up to go home! Then send them out into the world. A kiln is the next step in my business, I know I could almost double production with one!
How do Mayco glazes fit into your work or work for you?
Mayco is crucial to my life (Haha) most of my glazes are Mayco! My favorite crystal glazes are their Jungle Gems: Some of my favorites are Poppy Fields, Citrus Splash, Fruity Freckles, Pink Pixie, Floral Fantasy and many, many more. Their Elements are amazing too; I sometimes use them along with the Jungle Gems. My favorite Elements glaze is Sea Green, I love any aqua or teal glaze. Mayco’s Stroke and Coat color selection is amazing, they coat super well, and the names are ADORABLE. I use them for my tie-dye mugs and for any detailed painting! I love that they have a huge selection and develop new colors regularly. Again, the NAMES, how can you resist a paint named Purple Haze, Pink-a-boo, or Hot Tamale – always brings a smile to my face :).
Can you tell us a little about your studio space? How important is this environment in the conceptualization in your work?
Currently my studio is in the attic at my momma’s house and I am so fortunate that it is available to me because I have no idea where I would run this business without it! I like that it feels like a separate place in the house, when I go up there it really feels like The Glazing Sun’s space. The environment is SO important to the conceptualization in my work – I used to just paint in my room or at the kitchen table and my production has totally changed when I moved into the attic. A creative work environment has to feel like a safe space to me and when I walk in there (as long as it isn’t messy) I feel so at peace when I sit down to paint. I have wall art, cute chairs to sit and take a break on, tapestries, and other fun touches to fuel my creativity everyday. I listen to podcasts while I paint – music is too distracting for me when I paint.
What are your staple products as a ceramic artist (glaze, tools, forms, etc)?
My staple products are bisque (can’t do anything without that), lots of glazes, transfer papers and brushes!
What have been the most influential and career changing experiences you have had? What about these experiences was so important?
The first influential experience on my career was in 2017, when I decided to take pottery painting from a hobby and test it out at a craft show. I live in a river town, so I am very close to a bridge and every year we have the Bridge Bust – a craft show that lines the entire bridge with vendors! It was so much fun, I got to see and hear the reactions of customers when walking into my stand. I did amazing that day, made a lot of money, and that is when I realized I had a REAL thing going for me. A more recent experience would be this year when I created my Rainbow Mug. It really took off on Instagram and soared my Etsy. It was the first mug I painted that I felt really looked like I used high fire glazes using low fire glazes!
What is your favorite piece to create?
I would have to say mugs! Everybody uses mugs; therefore they are definitely my best seller. There is so many different ways to paint a mug, the combinations are absolutely endless and I love that.
Do you have any advice for another aspiring artist that wants to work for themselves one day?
It is going to be hard, but you have to stick with it and believe in yourself! When I started my business about 4 years ago, I only sold to family, friends, and it was just a little side hustle. I honestly felt like it would just always be a hobby! I tried selling on Etsy and took a LONG time to be recognized. To give you a bit of inspiration, from 2017 – 2019 I only made like $300 total on Etsy – and now I can self sustain just on Etsy. My advice is do your BEST, learn how to use social media efficiently, work HARD but let things happen as they happen, notice trends, spend the money for advertising if you can and don’t let anything discourage you!!
Can you tell us about any future projects?
Hmmmm well I don’t want to give it away BUT I will say I am working on an accessory for something we use everyday! I am hoping to launch it in the New Year 😉
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I love to spend my weekends with my amazing group of friends and my husband, David. I have some cute pets: Molly, a lovey-dovey rescued beagle, Lola, a spoiled and fluffy Cavachon and my bunny Leo! I have a TON of plants and I constantly try to grow more with their clippings by propagation. I have a large, close family that we visit frequently and my momma is one of my best friends. Any chance I get to be outside enjoying nature, I take it! The Susquehanna River is a 5-minute walk from my house – it is great for kayaking and boating in the summer. I love life, I take any opportunity to try new things and go new places! I have traveled out of the country to Paris, France and Isla Mujeres, Mexico. I hope to travel to more states when things get back to normal – David and I traveled from PA to GA stopping along the way for our honeymoon and it was SO much fun. I love getting a break from work but to be honest I am always thinking about painting. It is hard for me to separate work and life because I do love it so much!