Stella NC Works is run by Erin Sapre, who creates a variety of stoneware pottery and sculptures inspired by nature.
Welcome to the Artisans Co-op, Erin!
What’s the name of your business, if you use one? Why did you choose it? – What do you create/sell?
My business is called Stella NC Works. I live in Stella, and a lot of my work reflects “place.” I wanted to keep it generic so we could have sub-names of Stella Pottery and Stella Wood for my husband.
Do you currently have a shop or website up and running? Where can we find you?
Yep! It’s at www.stellancworks.com
How long have you been creating? What made you want to start your business/start selling your art?
I started learning to make pottery around 2003 when my husband deployed – at the time, there was a ceramics hobby shop on base. That shop didn’t last for long, so we built a kickwheel, and I started to learn from online throwing videos. I’m not that coordinated, honestly, so we soon bought an electric wheel, and eventually set up my entire shop. I started selling in 2017, and then in 2020 I closed my corporate small business and went full time with pottery. The reason I started selling was that there’s only so much pottery that will fit in my cupboards. 🙂 It was a nice hobby side gig, but I started to realize that I’d be much happier earning my living as a potter than the hustle I was balancing in the corporate world.
What part of creation do you enjoy the most? (The process, seeing the finished product, seeing people’s reactions to receiving the art/product, etc.)
That is a hard question. Probably opening the kiln! Making handles used to be drudgery, but now I spend a day throwing and the next day trimming and making handles, so it’s all part of the routine. Honestly, the surface decoration is interesting to me because there are so many methods and variables and possibilities.
What is your Number One piece of advice for fellow artisans (biggest lesson learned)?
Be confident and proud. You have a skill that most people don’t have, so do it well, and be proud that you had the courage to forego the steady “job” to realize your full potential in your craft.
What is your biggest inspiration?
The creatures – plant, animal, and human – that share my sphere. The values we share, the connections we make with each other.
Do you ever incorporate them into your pottery?
I do incorporate creatures! I use impressions, frisket resists, underglaze painting, and sculpture with lots of plants and animals, but I like ferns the most. My workshop straddles a swale in the back of our yard. When it rains, water flows under my workshop, but otherwise it’s just damp. The swale fills with ferns in the summer, like a river of ferns.
This is an example of impressions from a bracken fern. I make the impressions while the clay is still damp (called leatherhard). Once I’ve bisque fired the piece, I rub underglaze into the impressions, then cover with a clear glaze.
This was a netted chain fern that I scanned and made into friskets, which are stencils that act as a resist to the glaze. In other words, the glaze coats the whole piece except where that frisket is placed, and when you remove the frisket, there’s bare clay in the shape of the frisket.
I also paint creatures onto the things I make, both plants and animals.
Dogwood trees grow native in our woods.
We have two fox dens that are used every few years to raise a new litter.
And I create sculptural representations – both independent sculptures, and sculptural elements added to functional pieces.
I do a lot of things with white oak leaves because we live near the White Oak River.
We have native southern magnolias and umbrella magnolias in our woods, among others.
The turtle’s name is Fig. He’s an actual turtle who shows up every year. We named him Fig because the first time I saw him, I was carrying figs, so I gave him some and he munched down a bunch of them right away.
This is a combination of impressed luna moth wings (the body was already eaten when I found the wings), a handbuilt body, and underglaze-drawn antennae.
And this is a combination of a frisket and underglaze drawing.
I also take plaster casts of things like raccoon footprints, etc. I made a mold out of a racoon jaw I found in the woods, and a crab claw I found on the river beach. The clay pressed into a mold and added to a pottery piece is called a sprig. Here I made sprigs using my plaster molds.
Is there a specific niche or target audience you are trying to reach with your art?
Other makers! I think people who make things with their hands value things that are made by hands.
What do you hope to gain from joining the Artisans Co-op?
I have already found community, and I’m looking forward to a market for my goods that is worthy of my work – verified authentically handmade, inclusive, and artisan-focused.
Shop Erin’s beautifully handmade ceramics at: https://stellancworks.com
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