Meet ceramic artist, Megan Sarraf. Years ago, through scheduling mishaps, she ended up in a ceramics class. After getting her hands dirty on the wheel, Megan was hooked. Following an internship at Saratoga Clay Arts Center in New York, Megan sold all of her belongings, got in the car, and made her way to the Pacific Northwest.
“My only thoughts were; If I land somewhere between San Francisco and the Canadian border I would be alright. AND… If I run out of money before I find a place to live, I can just go back. Right?… It became the most romantic cross country adventure. I camped across the States for 4 weeks. Traveling the eastern coast south to South Carolina, with stops along the way. Then west to Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico. The scenic route north to Colorado, then Utah, Arizona and over to LA. I drove up the PCH for a ways, finally making it to Seattle. I had never been here before but as soon as I saw the skyline I just knew. Three days later, I had a job and a room in a house. And of course called my mom to let her know I was going to stay and in fact was not living out of my car anymore. Now I’ve been here a month-ish shy of 2 years. This past year has been the most exciting. I will be finally finishing my AA and applying to BFA programs. I was welcomed as a resident artist at Blue Cone Studios for 6 months and am now a resident artist at the Pugmill Society on the Equinox Studio’s campus. Also doing this crazy life thing while lucky and in love with my partner who is so crazy supportive it blows my mind some days.” -Megan of @meganashleyart
“Practice and practice and patience and practice and trying to keep one foot grounded in reality. Also, play. Play all the time. Not everything has to be a finished product. Most things won’t be.” -Sarraf
“I hope the feeling of joy that I have when I’m making the work translates into as much love and enjoyment for the person that ends up using the piece.” -Sarraf
“I’m really into bowls lately. I’ve been making some prototypes for large nesting mixing bowls. Quite the challenge but has definitely rewarded me with some interesting forms that I plan on continuing to pursue and refine.” -Sarraf of @meganashleyart
Meet woodworker Alexandra Climent. She operates out of her own shop in Brooklyn. Her passion for the extraordinary wood she found in the jungle lead her to teach herself the trade.
This is her story in her own words:
“In college I worked for a marine construction company as their account manager and secretary…I noticed that there was a certain type of wood that was in high demand for marine work…I started to research where this special wood came from. It turned out there was a reason why it wasn’t widely available; it was difficult to get because it came from a small country in South America, which I later found was very hard to communicate with.
I ended up going down to the jungle with the construction company fully supporting the idea of me finding the wood they needed and purchasing it directly from me. It was an intense struggle to find suppliers and there were many dangerous things that happened while in the jungle.
I started falling in love with the idea of bringing back the wood for myself and discovering it’s beauty in some way. I wanted to to do it sustainably, as I wanted the wood both to be visually beautiful, but also beautiful in the way that it had lived it’s full life. Locals loved the idea and got excited by helping figure out ways to do this.
Once I managed to get an order together for a full container back to the states, I realized I had something really special. I had no idea at the time how to woodwork and because of the density of the wood, I didn’t even know how to make cuts without breaking blades.
When the wood finally arrived, it would be months that turned into almost 2 years of me researching and driving around trying to find help to cut the wood I had worked so hard to find. I still had a full time job and would take my days off and drive all over to woodshops and mills asking if they could help me cut this wood. All of them said no.
I ended up having to do it myself and so far each aspect of this learning process of woodworking I have learned and taught to myself. I think a lot of people thought I would never be able to do it, but I never gave up. Now, after many years in the making, I’m able to finally make pieces that are very close to my heart that also showcase the beauty that I saw when I was down in jungle.” –Alexandra Climent
All of the products Alexandra Climent makes are set apart from other pieces constructed of wood. She sustainably sources her materials from the jungle, befriending locals and working with each regions’ governments along the way. The wood she harvests and brings back to her wood shop in Brooklyn is ancient, densely packed over years and years. Note the grain and hue in her finished pieces shown above. To see more of her work, visit her website: www.sustainablysliced.com/shop.
“My advice would be not to wait around to find the perfect class or the perfect moment to start woodworking. You just have to jump into it, even if it’s little by little. I was working for a retail company and would find time to practice on my days off, no one considered me a woodworker then, but I was because I was practicing and progressing…even if it was slowly. It doesn’t matter what you do, just find a little bit of time to start.” -Woodworker @alexandracliment
When people told Alexandra Climent that what she wanted to do was impossible, she just kept plugging away. Her determination and problem solving set her work apart. The ancient woods she brings back from the jungle are unlike anything most of us have ever seen. It’s so dense, saw blades can only make it through a few cuts before breaking against the age-old grain. The deep pigments, saturated into the rings over time, tell a rich story.
As she travels to the jungles of South America, her deepest hope is to share this rare beauty that nature bestowed in those particular regions. Her efforts to preserve and promote all that those forests have to offer are encouraging. As humans, we can appreciate and use what the earth gives us without harming our surroundings in the long run.
I am so excited to share this DIY with y’all. Polymer clay is so much fun and I can’t wait to pass it on. It’s fairly easy and it really allows you to let your creativity lose. You’ll need an assortment of polymer clay, earring posts, small metal loops, and clay tools. It is possible to improvise and create your own clay tools. I’ve found that toothpicks, chop sticks, and knives can come in handy.
Take a close look at the steps below (from left to right). They are a lose guideline for you to create your own earrings. Don’t be afraid to alter any of the stages. Remember to bake your clay at 275 °F for 15 minutes before you put on the hardware.
Once you’ve made a pair or two, start to experiment with color and size. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. It’s a blast! Here are some of the other designs that I’ve come up with.
You can even take your polymer jewelry making skills to a whole new level and give necklaces and beads a go. Take a look at what I came up with using the same techniques above.
I’ve always been a fan of bringing a bit of nature into my living spaces. There is a peacefulness about it. While hiking along Lake Michigan, I kept coming across these tiny stick fragments that I found interesting. After gathering quite a few, I felt inspired to make something with the little treasures. That’s when the idea for a succulent planter made of of sticks popped into my head.
This is a simple and inexpensive craft. There’s is something so right about a little plant poking out of its little home of sticks. It can get a bit messy too. I always make sure to wear the right work gear and freshen things up with Tide® Simply Clean and Fresh Laundry Detergent when I’m through.
what you need: drift wood, an old bottle, scissors, a hot glue gun, potting soil, rocks, a plant, and a plant mat
Amy Peterson and Diana Russel founded Rebel Nell with the desire to dig into their community. They work directly with local shelters and employ disadvantaged women in Detroit. While working at Rebel Nell, the women are strengthened with new skills and knowledge to help as they transition to an independent life.
The crew gets together and gathers chips of graffiti that have fallen off walls around the city. After taking the discarded bits through their top secret process, layers and layers of color and paint being to emerge in beautiful patterns. Then the pieces are turned into wearable art. You can shop the collection here.
Artistic skills aren’t the only thing being taught at Rebel Nell. There are also classes available on empowerment, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and a day to day support system. This self-sustaining social enterprise is a tight-knit group of women. It’s a family where creativity spurs on growth and friendships help establish a new way of life.
I love getting lost in crafts. I can disappear for days at a time. On this particular occasion, I ended up yarn bombing my own apartment. Follow along through these 4 different tutorials and see which one strikes your fancy.
Michigan florist, Holly Rutt, started making soaps as a hobby. Combining her love for nature and interest in healing plant extractions and essential oils, she and her husband created a line of body care products. After realizing how much steam her side gig was gaining, Holly decided to devote the majority of her time to The Little Flower Soap Co.
Soap making is a beautiful process. I’ve never gotten a chance to see it first hand until now, and there is something very pure about it. Goods always mean so much more when you realize the amount of work and thoughtfulness goes into their production. All of the items sold at The Little Flower Soap Co. are 100% American made and crafted with love.
I asked Holly what advice she had for others hoping to follow a similar path to her own.
“The maker movement is in full swing there has never been a better time to start your own small business. If you think your life would be better as your own boss in a creative field than get started and stick with it.” —Holly Rutt
In hind sight, Holly wishes she would have invested more of her profits back into the business early on instead of sticking that money in savings. If she could go back she would apportion a greater deal of her earnings into more equipment, web and graphic design, etc…
“Do not underestimate the importance of a clear business vision. Know what you want the business to become in 1 year and in 5 years. Write it down on paper and come back to it often. This way when business starts to grow rapidly you can stay at the helm and steer in a clear direction. If you don’t know where you want the business to go it will take on a life of its own and drag you behind it.” —Holly Rutt
It is incredibly inspiring to see such a young, capable woman grow a hobby into an ever expanding business. Find your passion and pursue it, it’s not something that magically forms overnight. It’s a labor of love that grows with each effort your put towards it.
After one semester of ceramics during my sophomore year of college, I learned a whole new respect for all handmade pottery. The sheer amount of time, skill, and love poured over each piece was something I’d never experienced before. From a mound of clay, wedged and formed by your own two hands into something with purpose; then on to days of waiting for your work to dry till you can then bisque fire, glaze, and fire again.
My amateur description depicts the simplest of processes, but imagine the in-depth and incredibly challenging methods you’d have down after 9 years of learning and perfecting the skills of the trade. Just ask Andrea Denniston. After she got a BFA in Ceramics at West Virginia University, she studied traditional Chinese porcelain and qinghua in China.
Andrea was able to soak up the culture and learn from the level of craftsmanship that surrounded her. It was in China that she fully appreciated that almost anything is possible in ceramics. Since then, she’s made it back to the US and is working towards a MFA in Ceramics at Syracuse University.
Andrea’s advice to any beginners in the field is to,
“Have fun, find your confidence, take some risks, travel as much as possible, and study under as many people as you can both in and out of an academic setting…take some business classes and immerse yourself in a community of like-minded makers. Be okay with having a second job for a while, but be willing to quit this second job when your time is better spent making and growing your business. As scary as it may seem at times, trust it is possible to support yourself through your work in clay!”