Union University Art Department

Studio Updates

Studio updates.

ALUMNI STORIES - SIERRA ESTES

AS FEATURED IN RECENT VOYAGE HOUSTON - http://voyagehouston.com/interview/meet-sierra-estes-estes-ceramics-north-houston/

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sierra Estes.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I don’t know exactly when my interest in “art” began, but I would often receive drawing and painting kits for birthdays as a kid. I loved getting covered in paint, chalk, and dirt while exploring the places around me. Both of my parents have always been very creative, my father would make furniture from found pieces of wood, my mother always had a creative project underway, whether painting, collage-ing, resist-dying, etc. I spent most of my childhood in the desert island Aruba and the Andes mountains in Colombia, and my affinity for the world around me blossomed in those spaces. Whether animals or plants, I loved the natural world.

After moving back to the US, I started taking 3D art classes in college and immediately felt a deep sense of connection and satisfaction in working with my hands and chose ceramics as my focus. Clay felt familiar and deeply intimate to me, pulling me back into the natural world through the touch of my hands. I didn’t have much of an interest in many of my other art classes, I couldn’t help myself from spending as many hours in the clay studio making mugs and bowls and any other functional form I could think of. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be a potter from then on, however, I needed to make that work.

I was able to continue to hone my craft and start plans to build a business in the year after graduating with my BA. As my then fiance and I looked for cities to move to after we married, we settled on Houston after 1 visit and arrived from West Tennessee in August of 2016. In the year and a half that we’ve lived here, I have had the great privilege of connecting with people who have helped me build my business and encouraged me along the way.

I’m still working part-time as a potter, filling my hours filling restaurant commissions, keeping my Etsy shop stocked, and prepping work for markets. I am enjoying this season of dreaming for my business because I want to build a sustainable career for myself and that doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve only been working with clay for 5 years, and I am well aware that I will never stop learning, and I definitely won’t have it figured out anytime soon. That reminder helps me be patient with myself and my craft when it doesn’t feel like my business is successful.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been a short road so far, so I definitely don’t have a long list of obstacles that I’ve overcome. I’ve been lucky enough to have had support from family and friends along the way, which makes it all much easier. My biggest obstacles have been overcoming my own doubts about my work.

Valuing my work and having confidence in it has been a struggle because I want my work to be affordable and attainable by most, but I am also trying to pay rent. Knowing how much to charge for functional work is a hard thing to come to and I am constantly doubting myself.

Estes Ceramics – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I make functional ceramics for the home and for restaurants. I am constantly churning through batches of mugs and cups and playing around with work for the kitchen, dining room, and other parts of the home. Handmade pieces can bring a moment of sincerity and connection to our daily routines of cooking, eating and drinking. Overall, most people may not think twice about the objects that they use throughout their days, and I love thinking about the moment someone chooses to pick up a cherished handmade object instead of a disposable mass-produced item, a moment that requires thoughtfulness and care.

I am so excited that handmade goods have been making their way back into the spotlight, and that I get to play a part of that. My favorite functional piece to make is a mug, and my most popular piece is a mug I call the “Mountain Mug,” because its carved in a way to resemble mountain ranges. It helps me bring together my love of nature through function, design, and texture. The other half of my functional work is restaurant commissions. I start doing wholesale orders with my old studio mate, Ellen Cline when I moved here and I’ve loved it.

Collaborating with chefs to create a unique line of pieces that will be a part of an exquisite meal is exciting. We’ve been able to work with Justin Yu to create the line of pieces that is a part of the new T-Rex (formerly Oxheart) dining room. Having our work in one of Houston’s best restaurants is crazy to me. We love the playful design and are especially proud of that work.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I aspire to be fully employed by my craft, to have opportunities to stretch my practice and grow as a maker. I plan on using my business as a means to allow me to travel and experience things that will enhance my relationship to clay and the earth, whether through workshops, residencies, or even grad school. I think “success” as an idea is one that I want to hold coupled with thoughtful practice.

My success is not just something that I can achieve after years of hard work, but something that I can strive for and achieve on a daily basis when my business allows me to make a real connection with another person or gives me an opportunity to live more fully through creative exploration.

Contact Info:

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Melinda Posey