Potter Tara-Sinead is the one-woman show behind the Etsy shop Pitch Pine Pottery. She uses traditional techniques and materials to bring her nature-inspired visions to life. Her whimsical, organic creations bring beauty and ritual to everyday moments. Read on for a glimpse at her work space and inspiration! ~Nikki Leigh
“I took so many art history courses it would make your head spin. But I was lost. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I wandered into our art building’s basement, and found the ceramics studio. One class was all it took. I was hooked.”
Can you describe the path you took to become a potter? Tell us your story.
I started out as an Art Education major in college. I always knew I needed to make art, but I wasn’t sure about a career path. I took so many art history courses it would make your head spin. But I was lost. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I wandered into our art building’s basement, and found the ceramics studio. One class was all it took. I was hooked.
Throwing pots on the wheel was one of the hardest things I’ve ever learned. I was determined, and ended up being the sole survivor, the only student left in my advanced ceramics course before I graduated with a concentration in ceramics.
Everyone was skeptical about my major, including myself. I found a job at a local museum as a 17th century reproduction potter, and was there for two years. The eldest potter there has been making pots for 50 years. He took me under his wing while I struggled with production work and consistency. I owe most of my skills to him.
Pottery is an expensive hobby/job! Once I finally saved up for a wheel, my first studio was on the back deck on my studio apartment, facing the ocean. I fired my pots with friends. I quickly outgrew that space, and moved to a local farm. There just happened to be an old kiln in the shed next to our new house that I now call my own, and I set up my studio in a breezy room off our kitchen.
Describe the work space where the Pitch Pine Pottery magic happens. Looks, smells, sounds…
My studio is “the blue room”. Blue painted wooden floors, windows from the floor to the ceiling, built in shelves practically calling for a potter to move in. Dusty. No matter how many times a week I sweep and mop. I usually have a few candles burning while I work, windows open in the summer to let in the breeze from our backyard: a 350-acre organic farm. The blue room is right off of my kitchen, for easy snacking! I hate working in silence, so there is usually Pandora playing in the background, or a silly show on Netflix I can half pay attention to. My blind pup wanders around ‘til she can find me and sleep under my feet. The cat is usually trying to be on top of whatever I’m working on. His favorite is spinning on my pottery wheel!
Did you have a favorite creative outlet in childhood?
I was always making art. My mom saved paper mermaid dolls I would make that were double sided, stuffed with cotton balls, and stapled shut. I took all types of dance classes for a long time, and did a lot of charcoal drawings in high school.
Is there another art form, era, or art movement from which you draw inspiration for your own craft? What about it do you find inspiring?
I’m in love with all things Art Nouveau. The style is hauntingly futuristic, but classic. Alphonse Mucha is the king of all things Art Nouveau. I love how he combines the organic with the female form, and celestial designs.
“Clay is simply magical. To think, this organic material was once rock, ground down over millions of years, and then reformed in the hands of humans.”
What are your favorite materials, tools, or techniques to work with?
Clay is simply magical. To think, this organic material was once rock, ground down over millions of years, and then reformed in the hands of humans. It’s set with fire, and will last literally forever, only to be ground down again by the earth another million years later. All of my pots are currently wheel thrown, but I also make ceramic jewelry with molds, and slab clay. I also started melting sea glass from Cape Cod into small trinket bowls!
What sort of landscape inspires you most and why?
I couldn’t pick one! The ocean is a stones throw away from my home, always has been. And I will always have a connection to that. The vast wooded areas in New England, pine trees and mountains up north just feel like home to me. I feel so lucky to have all of this variety of nature around me.
What is the story behind your shop name, Pitch Pine Pottery?
Pitch Pine is a native tree species to New England, where my studio is located. The tree was actually just named the town tree of my hometown, Plymouth. It’s a fire pine; many of the seed pods will only open with heat from a fire. You must also fire the clay to create a new, usable structure. Fire is a necessity to both. Pitch Pine is also known for its resilience, and I find that gives me strength for my own work. None of it is easy; the process is long and can be very disappointing at times. But there is nothing else like it.
The general public seems to be becoming more interested in handcrafted wares, why do you think this movement is gaining steam in today’s world?
I think people are sick of buying items from Target, or Walmart, however cute and inexpensive they may be, only to find the same items in all of their friends’ homes. You also have no idea who made the product, or where your money is actually going. Buying handmade and local means you’re supporting your community, and likely someone’s family. You can find out exactly what is being used to create the product, and you can have that connection to the maker. In today’s society, despite all of the social media available, we are disconnected. I think it’s human nature to seek out that connection, especially to items you use everyday in your home.
Can you give a shout-out to another contemporary artist or maker we ought to know about?
Where do you sell your wares online and/or in person and do you have any upcoming events?
I’m currently on Etsy. The store always has items available, and I take custom and wholesale orders any time. I have items in State and Third in Columbus, Ohio, and soon I’ll have pots in a shop opening in Rhode Island.
You can find Pitch Pine Pottery on the internet at:
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