Another unique edition of the Work-pad series today! This one hits particularly close to home because while me and Meg crossed paths on occasion post-college graduation (yes, we went to college together; we also were co-bridesmaids, and Vintage Virginia wine festival buddies) we reconnected this year when we found ourselves pacing down a very similar, entrepreneurial path. She opened Red & Main earlier this year, and is quite the inspiration to me.
Pete and I had the pleasure of meeting Meg (and her hubs) out for dinner when we were in D.C. last month (Georgia Brown’s! YUM.), and after discussing our experiences, goals, and dreams, it wasn’t hard to get her to participate in this series; she is, after all, doing something very cool, very daring and independent, while in the process, making a workpad and a future for herself that custom fits her vision.
Let’s get it started in here!
1. First of all, tell me a little about yourself, Meg!
I’m a local artist in downtown Washington, DC, headquarters for my ceramics studio, Red & Main. Red & Main specializes in handmade critter sculptures, mythical beasts and the occasional functional bowl or vase. Really, I enjoy creating happy creatures that (I hope) have the ability to share that happiness with others.
“Headquarters” consists of our condo, which has more or less been taken over by the various tools and items I have for my pieces. My kiln lives in our guest room, along with staging shelves for my work in various stages of production and a collection of glazes and finishing items. I tend to work in the upstairs portion of our condo, so my raw clay tools (a good friend of mine gifted me a set for our gift exchange at Christmas), my canvas working mats, and my rolling pin live upstairs.
Staff for Red & Main includes me, Meg, the Owner; as well as my husband, Kyle, Director of Complex Kiln Management; our cat, Biscuit, Vice President of Quality Control; and our other cat, Gus, Assistant Under Secretary of Snacks and Lunchtime.
2. How did you hone your art talent and grow a love for ceramics?
My love of ceramics began in high school. My best friend was taking a ceramics course that she absolutely loved and I wanted in on it. I convinced my guidance counselor to let me into a class and it was love from that point on. I had a wonderful teacher (holler, Ms. Messina) who encouraged us to push ourselves and use techniques we weren’t 100% comfortable with. I realized fairly early that ceramics would always be an interest of mine and I sought out ways to incorporate it into my life. I took a number of ceramics courses in college and then pursued some continuing education courses at various studios in Washington, DC once I entered the real world.
3. You became a full-time artist after 5 years in politics. Had you been considering transitioning back to art for some time, or did you never fully give up on it while you were working elsewhere?
I think I’d always had this day dream that I could make a living creating ceramic art; it was what I fantasized about when I was having a bad day at the office.
Politics is something I am passionate about, but I think that until recently I was not able to understand the difference between “concepts I enjoy and like to follow” and “passions that I can envelop myself in, wake up every day and be happy doing forever”. When I entered the professional world, I was certain that my love of politics fell into the latter category. As time ticked by, it became abundantly clear to me that I was really very wrong.
I was unhappy at my day job and jaded by almost everything I read and saw. I decided to buy a kiln and some clay so that I could do ceramics as a hobby in my spare time. This was working well for a while, except I was still discontent at work. After a particularly horrendous day, my husband just said, “If you hate this so much, why don’t you leave? I support you one hundred percent”. We’d had conversations like this before, but this one resonated in a way that the previous ones hadn’t. I turned in my resignation at my job the next week.
4. Tell me a little bit about the inspirations (if any) that you surround yourself with while you work.
Some people consider themselves “dog people” and others are “cat people”- I think I’m an “animal person”. I love animals and my inspiration begins with thinking back on trips to zoos or online videos where I saw an animal I thought was really interesting. For my mythical beasts and monsters, I like to put them in little scenarios and think about what they might look like, like a yeti after just having had a snack.
5. What’s your creative process like?
For the life of me, I can’t create anything that looks truly realistic- all of my drawings, paintings and ceramic pieces come out with a cartoonish quality. I tried to fight this for a long time until I finally just decided to embrace it. Knowing this, I usually start with a set of ideas on a post-it note- items I’m hoping to create in a given day. Then, I grab a chunk of clay and get to molding, starting with the item that seems most appealing to me at the moment. If I have concerns that my animal does not look right, I’ll usually find a video of the animal online- see how it moves around, how it sleeps, the way its tail moves. That usually allows me to correct something that I see as wrong.
Editor’s interjection: OMG. DO I SEE A YETI PLATE IN THE LOWER LEFT?!
6. Do you have a favorite ceramic buddy so far?
I’m a fan of all my yetis. Each one is different, so I have a hard time picking just one.
Another Editor’s interjection: Yeti’s are my favorite too; those CAPS above indicated that I was shouting in Yeti-glee. Check out these ones from Red & Main’s etsy shop [some have sold, but feel free to put in a special request]:
7. Any “pursue your passion” and “make it happen” advice for the readers stuck in horrendous 9-5’s?
If you’re unhappy – leave! That’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten and certainly relevant to anyone hating their current working situation.
I think everyone deserves to do what they love to do.
If I look back on my 9-5 experience honestly, I was not productive for the last five years. I suffered a lot from procrastination and lack of motivation. If you’re in that environment long enough, you start to question pretty basic things – like your work ethic. I was genuinely concerned that I was a lazy person. After leaving my job and starting Red & Main, I knew that I wasn’t lazy. It’s amazing to me how excited I am to get working every day now where it used to be a struggle just to get out of bed before.
It’s my belief that if you’re not involved in something you love, that you will never be capable of giving it your full attention or your best efforts. I think everyone owes it to themselves to pursue what they love. Everyone has a talent and the vast majority of those talents are marketable in one way or another.
It’s absolutely terrifying to take the jump and a lot of people will likely not fully understand what you’re doing and why. Find those people that do understand and create a support network for yourself. Get advice from people you admire and trust.
Be open to the ideas of change and failure. My great uncle once said that unless you have a lot of money, you’ll never fail to the point where you can’t recover. Knowing that you have an emotional and professional support network, as well as a willingness to fail- that’s the basis for success, I think.
It’s Emily again! Thank you so much to Meg for sharing her insight and work; I hope you all like it as much as I do. Remember to check out the Red & Main etsy site, and give her company some love on facebook too!
And P.S.: Remember, you have until Midnight today (Thursday!) to enter the giveaway for a PINK Sentry Safe. Just comment on this post, or Tweet “Go win a @SentrySafe from @merrypad. Now. http://bit.ly/pinksentrysafe“