We had the good fortune of connecting with Grace Tessein and Dennis Ritter and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Grace Tessein and, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
We started Sugar Jaws Pottery in 2016 as a summer side project that grew into a collaborative business. We both have practices in ceramic sculpture and the pottery gave us another creative outlet in the medium. It became a way for us to make some income which mostly gets fed back into our art making expenses. We called it Sugar Jaws Pottery after our rescue dog, Sugar Jaws. We did that jokingly claiming we could try to write off our dog’s vet bills since he was the mascot; that didn’t work, but the name stuck. Sharing the process has allowed us to rely on each other’s critical eye, take advantage of our individual strengths, and to share in the work. Early on we began using animal imagery to draw people in. Humans often have a special relationship with particular animals; a chance encounter with a wild creature, a beloved pet, or a common pest that pulls at our hearts can make a pot special to an individual. The florals/patterns are often sourced from victorian era fabric, illustration, and print.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
We both went to undergrad at Tyler School of Art and worked at The Clay Studio (a community arts non-profit) in Philadelphia, PA. Both of us went on to graduate school in other states. We were lucky to have an amazing ceramics community in that city and in our graduate programs, which spurred our passion for the medium, showed us how to do the art hustle, and gave us a large support group. We both work full time jobs and are active in our personal studio practices, so finding the time to make pottery is the most challenging part. At times we’ve said yes to more than we can handle so learning our production limitations and knowing when to say no has been a good lesson.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Mikey Walsh- She really encouraged us to make the pottery, supported us, helped us find gallery opportunities, and is an awesome teacher, mentor, and friend.