On Creating Community With Clay: Hannah Bronsnick of HB Ceramics

this spring, our theme is: synergy.

It’s time to invest in relationships, projects and people that will help us grow. It’s time to create a little synergy.

synergy (n.): the benefit that results when two or more agents work together to achieve something either one couldn't have achieved on its own.

It's the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In life, at work and in our communities, synergy is that space where the magic happens—where things fall into place, values align and our ideas find a home.

So, what does professional and personal synergy look like? How do we reject cultures of comparison and approach collaboration? How do we protect our own energy as we navigate opportunities, success and failures? This Spring, our programs will serve as a moment to hear from and amplify women and nonbinary leaders in our community who create synergy through their work.

As we prepare for craftHER Market Spring ‘19, we’re interviewing some of this market’s featured makers to learn more about their businesses and the ways in which they create synergy through their work. Read on for a peek into their process.

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about today’s featured maker:

Hi! I’m Hannah Bronsnick, a potter based in Austin, Texas and originally from Ithaca, New York. I started making pottery when I was 13, in the basement studio of my mom’s close friend, Margie. In my weekly lessons I received as much attention and mentorship as I needed to learn and grow. There, I found my tribe in a close-knit, friendly community with people of all ages uniting over a great craft. I’m grateful to have started learning how to make pottery in such a warm and supportive environment. Margie passed away in 2015 but she’s with me each time I sit down at the wheel to throw a pot.

I make pottery because I love the tactile process of making it, especially throwing. Pottery is transformation—what starts as a piece of clay becomes something both beautiful and useful. When I make pottery, I’m fully focused on that act. It’s deep work that allows me to shed outside thoughts and center myself.  Click here to learn more.

Tell us the background of your business: How did you get started? How big is your business (employees, storefront, etc)? And where do you sell your work? In-person, online, only at markets?

I started making pottery when I was 13 in the basement studio of my mom’s close friend. In my weekly lessons, I received as much attention and mentorship as I needed to learn and grow. It was a close-knit, friendly community with people of all ages uniting over a great craft.

I’m grateful to have started learning how to make pottery in such a warm and supportive environment. In 2007, after making a home in Austin, Texas, I continued my pottery practice with the great teachers and students at Clayways. In 2016, I bought my own wheel and set up a studio in my garage. I glaze and fire my work with the folks at Sunset Canyon Pottery. Pottery has been a passion of mine for 22 years and has slowly become a business as well. I currently sell my work at markets and online, and am looking for wholesale opportunities.

How do you approach collaboration within your work? When and where do you collaborate on making products?

Most of my collaboration centers around custom orders. If someone has an idea of what they want and it differs somewhat from my typical style, I’ll call on friends who have different skills than I do (painting, drawing, etc.) to help make the product. For example, I made a set of 140 tiny succulent planters for my friends’ wedding favors. They wanted a personalized touch, so one of them drew an image and we had it laser cut into a wood stamp by MakeATX and I applied the stamp to the bottom of each pot.

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How do you handle perceived failures within your work?

Potters are taught right off the bat that loss is a big part of the craft. It can happen at any stage of the process—a pot can be ruined while throwing, trimming, decorating, firing or transporting. The glazing and firing processes especially can be rather unpredictable. I try my best not to get attached to any particular piece and instead focus on the process of creating, although I do this with varying degrees of success. For me the goal of reducing loss in my work challenges me to be present and deliberate in each of my actions and movements, a practice that helps me not only as a potter, but also as a person.

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Tell us about the production process required to make a single product.

I start with a ball of clay weighing a certain amount and wedge the clay to remove any air bubbles. I use a potter’s wheel to form the ball into a vessel, following several steps including centering, drilling, opening, pulling up the walls and shaping. When the piece has had time to partially dry I do steps such as attaching a handle and decorating (adding texture, carving, or a process called sgraffito). I then let the piece dry completely, smooth any rough edges with a scouring pad and carefully transport it from my home studio to Sunset Canyon Pottery to be fired first in a bisque firing in an electric kiln, then glazed and finally fired a second time in a gas kiln. The whole process takes several weeks from start to finish.

What is a good leader to you?

I think a good leader is someone who is able to create space for other voices to be heard. Being a good leader requires being a good listener, being empathetic and being genuine.

What do you wish you knew before starting your own business?

I’ve come to realize that I really work best when I have external accountability and this presents a challenge in running my own business because there aren’t other people to hold me accountable.

Would you like to meet Hannah in-person? Come out to craftHER Market on April 14, 2019 at Fair Market and stop by her booth. Click here to learn more.