Ellie Pots Inc.
Lawrence, KS, USA
Field: Crystalline Pottery
Every day, after her morning coffee, Ellary Ann Blair makes her way to her studio, where she is able to let her creativity run wild. “My time is my own, I can do what I want, and I can experiment and invent all on my own,” she says. As the owner of Ellie Pots Inc., Ms. Blair has made a career out of her lifelong passion, something most people only fantasize about. She has always wanted to start her own business, and with nearly 50 years of experience, she has made this a reality.
With such fervor for the arts, specifically pottery, it comes as a surprise that Ms. Blair didn’t start out in the field initially. She began her career in the nursery business, running five greenhouses. A plant propagator for 30 years, she would grow her own plants, cutting from every bush in order to grow new plants. After three decades, she retired from the nursery business, having accumulated 85 greenhouses. She playfully describes becoming the owner of a pottery studio as having “traded working in one kind of mud for another.” For nearly a decade, Ms. Blair has been creating hand-crafted pottery, using different types of crystalline glazes. In 2002, she supplemented her God-given talent for art by earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design from The University of Kansas.
Ms. Blair is a member of The American Ceramic Society, The Potters Guild, and a local artists and potters guild. Recognized as an Upcoming New Artist by the Lattice Structures Symposium in 2005, she is working toward having her first solo exhibition at the Lawrence Art Center in Lawrence, Kan. She would like to be remembered by her peers as an energetic woman who loved to have her hands in the mud, and looking ahead, she hopes to increase the recognition she receives for her work.
Conversation with Ellary Ann Blair
Worldwide Publishing: On what topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Ellary Ann Blair: Crystalline pottery of all shapes and sizes. I create my own pottery, fire it, clean it, glaze it, clean it again and then it is ready for sale or a gallery showing. It must be perfect; otherwise it will not leave my studio for showing. I use innovative and different forms of crystalline pottery. I am also an acclaimed artist in the genres of watercolor, oil and pastels.
What characteristics help to separate you from your competitors?
My uniqueness — I am extremely driven to succeed and achieve perfection. I am diverse in my ability to be creative either in pottery or painting.
What motivates you?
Getting up in the morning and knowing that I have the opportunity to work in my studio.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field?
I’ve learned to never take anything for granted. I also think that you get out of your work what you put into it. I strive for perfection and am always working toward it.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
My short-term goal is to sell my pottery and paintings and my long-term goal is to keep myself healthy and able to continue doing what I like to do, which is being creative.
How do you plan to achieve these goals?
I plan to advertise and brand myself through many different opportunities.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
Not being able to sell my work. It costs a lot to [have] yourself branded and being able to have the money to pursue this has been a real struggle.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
It’s our economy because people are so tight with their money and are so worried that they will not have enough money to live on that they are not spending it on luxuries.
What are some questions that an individual interested in your services can ask to ensure a more productive relationship?
How do you create your pottery? What are your techniques? What different genres do you use? How do you think of what you want to create? Do you take custom orders?
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession? If yes, how did you end up working in your current field?
I was a landscaper for 30 years and I always had my hands in the dirt. When I retired from landscaping, I went from one form of “mud” to another form. My hands are still in the dirt.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
Seeing the finished product when it comes out of the kiln — it is like opening a present. If you get at least 50 percent to turn out the way you want, it is like a Christmas every time.
What is your favorite or least favorite work-related task to do and why?
My least favorite aspect is wedging clay, which is something you have to do before you throw it. You cut it off the brick, slam it down on the wedge table to loosen it up a little bit and wedging it is like kneading bread. The purpose of this is to knead out any air bubbles in your clay. This is very hard for me to do.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
You have to have a strong determination and desire to do it or you will burn out very quickly. Most crystal potters only have three or four glazes. You need to make sure that you have a variety of glazes to work with. Don’t be afraid to experiment blending glazes, colors, shapes, etc.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
Patty Warashina, a porcelain ceramic artist. She is the person who talked me into going back into ceramics. I met her at a conference sponsored by Hallmark and I was blown away by what she did.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
Sales have diminished over time due to the economy. One must be more creative and proactive in branding themselves and getting themselves out to the masses.
How do you see these changes affecting the future of your industry?
Until the economy improves and people start spending money, it will be a real challenge for artists of all kinds, not just [those in] ceramics. I hope we start to see a change soon.