Christie Goodfellow is a Cincinnati-area potter. Originally from Pittsburgh, and having lived in Chicago, Tucson, and now Cincinnati; you get a sense of earthy wholeness that only comes from living in a multitude of environments. She has been exploring functional ceramics over the past fifteen years. She has been creating and selling work as CGCERAMICS since 2009 with the belief that handmade objects enrich our everyday lives and connect us to one another. The juxtaposition of clean, simple lines with the vulnerability of form and tactile surfaces reflects her admiration of Mid-Century Modern, Scandinavian, and Japanese design.
Christie works with mid-range and high-fire stoneware clay bodies and slips that have a warm, earthy palette. Her minimal finishes and straight-forward use of glazes enhance the form and function of each piece while referencing the processes and materials used. Each piece is intended for daily use and is fired to temperatures that make it durable and watertight.
F-D: How long have you been in this studio?
Christe Goodfellow: It’s been a little over five years. I started out with one little shelf, I bought a tiny kiln from a friend of mine; which I still use, but is now in the basement of the house.
F-D: When you moved in here, did you have an idea for how you wanted to lay it out or did it develop organically?
CG: It was pretty organic. One of the biggest reasons that I bought this house is because of this structure that was already here. With pottery it’s always ideal to have your studio separate from your living space because of all of the dust. We did have to make some improvements: we had to take out a drop ceiling and some carpet. But it’s been the perfect size for me for a while now. It has just evolved and grew as I needed it to. I have also recently placed my wheel up on cement blocks so that I could work while standing.
F-D: Were you having issues with your back?
CG: Yes, and now I’m having issues with my neck. It’s just a lot of repetitive movements, so it’s fairly common. I try to go to yoga three or four times a week. I don’t think I could keep making pottery if I didn’t attempt to equalize my body by practicing yoga.
F-D: Has the location of the studio (i.e the neighborhood, city, building etc) influenced your work in any way?
CG: Not having running water in here inadvertently affects how I use my time. I have to go get water from the house and then I get side tracked. I am going to be moving into a studio offsite where everything will be centralized: I'll have running water, the dogs will remain at home, AND I'll have a person [helping me]. Come to think of it, we might get in there and not know what to do with ourselves because we won't have any distractions!
F-D: Can you describe a typical day for yourself, inside the studio and out?
CG: I guess a typical day is. . . waking up after hitting snooze twelve times, taking the dogs for a walk, going to yoga, grabbing something to eat, checking email, and then I coming out here and just starting to work on whatever needs to get done that day. Then I’m kind of just in and out of here all day and into the evening.
F-D: How would you describe your functional aesthetic as a ceramicist?
CG: I’m a pretty big home-body. So, probably not coincidentally, my work has evolved around home goods: dinnerware and planters. . . that sort of thing. Food has always been a big comfort, so that’s why I’m drawn to dinnerware. I really like making something that someone is going to use. I love to let the clay body inform color, and I glaze minimally to let the clay body speak for itself. On the other hand, it’s been really wonderful to work with restaurants because I get to see someone else’s vision for what I make. For example, as I was working with Ryan [Santos], he said that he wanted color, and suggested a light pink and I was like, “Oh. . . I've never used pink!". I really like how it turned out, but I never would have challenged myself with color in that way. It’s really inspiring. It's wonderful to have the opportunity to develop new ideas and processes because of client requests.
F-D: What mediums do you work with, other than clay?
CG: I normally don't really work with any other mediums, except for the occasional charcoal sketch when I'm trying to work out a new form. I work mostly with stoneware. Stoneware is more durable than earthenware but less challenging to work with than porcelain, and it offers the most variety, as far as different colors and textures, based on the materials that make up the clay body.
F-D: Can you tell us about your process and how it has evolved?
CG: Everything is wheel thrown. There’s multiple steps within the throwing process: weighing, wedging, , throwing actual pieces, letting them set up, trimming. Not everyone trims everything, but I love trimming. Actually, it’s more of a love/hate relationship. Sometimes it takes me longer to trim than it takes for me to throw the actual piece. After making the piece, it has to dry out before it is bisque fired (which essentially changes it from dirt to stone). After the initial firing, the piece is glazed and then glaze fired. I started slip casting a couple years ago as a way to have a an assistant help produce work that maintains the design integrity of a handful of my forms. Though my work is fairly simple, I’m pretty meticulous about the subtle details of each piece.
Also, I feel like there are many other aspects that the business has now that I, personally, struggle with. Unless I’m actually at the wheel throwing, I don’t feel like I’m doing the work, or something.
F-D: Oh, like you’re not participating in the labor or something?
CG: Yeah! I’ll be thinking to myself, “Oh! I’m sending emails, I should be out there working. . . and making stuff.” I have to remind myself that it’s all important to round out the customer's experience. It’s a weird thing to move your hobby or passion into the realm of business. That component is something that has been really challenging to figure out. But then I’ll get out here and start throwing and I’ll feel better pretty quickly.
F-D: You made mention earlier of working in merchandising for Crate & Barrel; did that position influence how you run CGCeramics?
CG: Working in merchandising definitely helped, it facilitated my learning and awareness of having brand aesthetic. Witnessing how a business operates on a larger scale has been really helpful. I also managed a lot of things, which taught me how to delegate, without that it would be a lot harder for me to ask for help in the studio. Fast forward to now, I’m working at Mica 12/v part-time, and I get to see what Carolyn [Deininger] goes through when she is ordering and receiving a product. I haven't gotten into much wholesale yet, so seeing what that process looks like from that small business perspective is really informative.
On a tangental note, I competed in ArtWorks’s The Big Pitch and ironed out an actual business plan. I figured out what it financially looks like to run my business and I realized how I need to evolve to have a sustainable business.
F-D: Do you work with narratives, plot, or a general progressive ideas?
CG: Not really. I feel like my work’s functionality is pretty straightforward and my design ideas are often inspired by considering future use, nature, or design aesthetics that I am drawn to and feel an emotional connection with. Process, more than anything, ends up influencing each piece. When I begin making new designs I usually I just sketch stuff out , first on paper and then on the wheel, to get a sense of what I want it to look like. Repetition helps me fine-tune a form, for example, I’m not sure how many low bowls I've made at this point, but the last round that I made was the first time that I thought, “Ok! I know exactly how I’m making this, I know the order of which I’m using these tools to make this exact curve of this dish”. Sometimes it’s a challenge every time. I often find myself sitting at the wheel at the beginning and just saying to myself, “Ok. . . now center the bowl. . . now breathe. . .” It becomes very meditative. It requires a lot of focus, if my mind wanders I'll start to loose the shape.
F-D: Do you consider your work to be autobiographical at all; does personal history work its way into your making?
CG: I suppose personal history, in a way, informs my work. Food has always been so central to my family experience; so I feel like those fond memories inform why I make objects that involve food.
F-D: Without actually making food. . .
CG: Yea, while remaining in the background a bit. I don’t know. . . maybe in that way.
F-D: Do you cook a lot? Is that something you find joy in? Does it inform your making at all?
CG: I like to cook, but it's only to save time. I usually end up only cooking a couple times a week and then eating a lot of left overs. But no, the act of cooking doesn’t really influence me in the way that other people’s cooking can. Working with chefs that have a vision of what their food will look like in addition to taste like is more thoughtful than when I "plate" anything at home. . . although there is definitely something special about eating food from a handmade plate.
F-D: What influences outside the visual arts inspire and impact your approach to making work?
CG: I guess, as we were briefly discussing earlier, meditation is something that impacts my work. There is always this search for balance: when I make a piece, there is this shape that comes off of the wheel, and as I'm working I want to make sure that it’s centered and that the weight is balanced. That’s something I think about when I’m making. A sense of balance through a mediative process.
F-D: So what is in balance then, for you? I mean, if you’re referencing what I think you’re referencing, then when the weight is correct and when the form is correct, there is a quietness in your body, and there is a weight inside your core whenever you make something exactly as you want. . .
CG: Yes, exactly. For me, I feel like that happens in centering the clay. I feel like there is a new challenge every time I begin centering clay. So it becomes a process to try ‘quieting’ in that way. And in centering the clay I’m inherently having to center myself a bit, and having to focus on quieting down my brain so that I can focus. From there on it does seem a bit more quiet.
F-D: What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?
CG: I’m pretty space oriented. Even while looking at larger rentals for the new location, I noticed I was really paying attention to the feeling I got while in the space. For example, this studio is very cozy and has good light and all of these windows that open into the green space in the yard. I like that and I feel like my work picks up some of that warmth and intimacy. Light is really important, but I don’t know. Not all spaces are created equal. I don’t really know how to explain that further.
F-D: What about in a practical sense?
CG: In a practical sense, I just tetris it all in. This studio is so tiny that I try to just accommodate different areas within themselves, if that makes sense. All areas, the wheel being an exception, are multi purposeful.
F-D: Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture?
CG: I guess I would say yes. I’ve always preferred a cleaner aesthetic, and that is sort of popular right now. Ceramics are having a moment as well. There is a minimalist resurgence that’s happening right now that my work falls into nicely.
F-D: Which other artists might your work be in conversation with?
CG: From an art historical context I really revere Lucie Rie. her work has this beautiful, simple line that is sophisticated and lovely. . I feel like there are a handful of contemporary potters that my work could be considered in "conversation with", including: Notary Ceramics, East Fork Pottery, Humble Ceramics, and Jono Pandolphi.
F-D: Do you have a motto or creed that as an artist you live by?
CG: Perhaps I have an accidental one. I feel like it’s more of a way of life that I’m trying to maintain. Coming from a retail background, one that was so fast paced , I'm now striving to slow down and make connections with other people through what I am making. When I’m making an object I have a specific experience with it and then someone else takes possession and develops a totally different relationship with it, but it’s still sort of a magical shared experience. Slow down, pay attention to detail, share experience. . . perhaps that is my "motto". Sometimes I wonder if that’s what it feels like to be a parent; you have this child and then it goes out in the world and has other experiences with others and you never really know what those experiences contain. But you’re aware that they exist. Every time I go to Please, Pleasantry, or Brown Bear, I’ll sit and I can't help but think, “Oh! I made these, these were at my house at one point, and now all of these people are eating off of them! How crazy!” It’s just an interesting relationship, like I'm connecting with people without leaving my little space.
F-D: When asked; what do you tell people you do for a living?
CG: Oh, I tell people that I’m a potter. Then they’re like, “Oh, what’s that?” and I say “Oh, I make dishes!” [laughs].
F-D: What risks have you taken in your work, or for your work?
CG: I guess, this falls more into the ‘for it’ category. I quit my job where I had benefits, paid time off, insurance, and a reliable paycheck. Now I have to wonder, “Will I get orders after the ones that I have right now? I don’t know. Hopefully?!” So that was and is a big risk. Now that I'm moving into the larger studio, and hiring an assistant, I’m feeling that same feeling of ”OK. . . ! Here we go! I'm holding my breath and hopefully I come up from the deep end after the dive.” I’m about to move to this larger studio that I will be renting and I’m about to hire on an employee for four days a week— that’s kind of scary.
I just feel like it's time, so I’m just doing it. I feel like that’s how I handle a lot of my bigger decisions in life. You know, I can really toil over what I want to eat for lunch, but when it came to quitting comfortable full-time job, I jumped! Perhaps bigger decisions are more based in emotion and so it’s easier to ‘just go for it’.
F-D: Words of wisdom?
CG: I don’t know if I have words of wisdom. I guess, if something feels like something that you should be doing, then you should at least try and do it.
F-D: Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
CG: I'm currently working on dinnerware for a restaurant in Pittsburgh, I'm excited to have some of my work making it's way to my hometown! I am also looking forward to developing an official line of dinnerware once we get settled in the new space.
F-D: Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?
CG: I am not, I do plan to have a showroom area in my new studio and that's where we will ease into having bi-monthly events and weekly open studio hours. I am also planning to develop a more extensive webshop. Lots of new stuff!