We had the good fortune of connecting with Joanna Hennigan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joanna, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My pottery business started after a time of transition. I had become a mother for the first time, and our little family had moved to Arizona from Massachusetts. I hadn’t touched clay since college 3 years prior and I was missing it deeply. I didn’t have the money to buy the equipment or childcare so I felt pretty stuck for those years. I decided to take a leap and put out an Indiegogo campaign to fund what I called a ‘self-guided residency’ which included a membership to the Tucson Clay Co-op. My friends and family supported the campaign by choosing perks that I would fulfill within 6 months time – mugs, little bowls, or a thank you card. The campaign funded a 6 month membership and supplies. It was a beautiful time of learning and experimentation. After I made the pieces to send to my backers, I started making pottery to sell and I used Instagram for free marketing. I started with just the goal of supporting my unquenchable need to make pottery, but it has grown slowly and steadily over the past 2.5 years into where I am today – working out of my garage studio full-time, selling my work on my website and locally in Tucson. I’m excited to keep growing and hope to have my own studio and storefront in the future.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I consider my pottery a gift both to and from my hands. Ever since I fell in love with making ceramics in college, the love of clay has become a part of me. The hands-on process of creating in the studio is a time of connecting with myself and I choose to make functional work because I love the connection from my hands to someone else’s hands.
Most of my current work is inspired by the Sonoran Desert. When I first started painting Saguaros on mugs it felt inauthentic because I did not feel at home in the desert. As I kept developing the designs it actually became a catalyst for a sense of belonging to this surreal and stunning place. I take drives in the desert to sketch Saguaros shapes, and I love making my Sky Island collection because of how refreshing I find my visits to Mt. Lemmon especially.
Building a business out of something I love can create some tension, it’s not always easy and sometimes I’m keenly aware that I could love it less the more pressure I put on myself as I build this business. But that’s one of the risks I’m willing to take to continue to do the thing I love. I care so much about making beautiful things and I am honored when other people find my pottery to be beautiful enough to use in their own homes or as gifts to the people they love.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It is so fun to play tour guide in Tucson, a week with me would include a lot of time driving in the desert, exploring hiking spots, and eating tons of tasty food! Here are some of my favorite spots:
The Desert Museum is always on my list to bring visitors.
Gates pass for watching the sunset
Saguaro East for a hike and beautiful drive
A Drive south to Empire Ranch in Sonoita
Mt Lemmon for a hike, picnic and stop by the General Store for some fudge
Seis Kitchen where the nachos are my favorite in Tucson.
Cafe Desta for absolutely delicious Ethiopian food!
Turmerico for local vegan options.
Miss Saigon for a great big bowl of Pho.
The Barnyard where the Crispy Cauliflower should always be part of the meal!
Dedicated for gluten free baked goods.
Presta, Exo and Raging Sage are my favorite spots to sit a while.
Goodness Fresh for a smoothie or breakfast bowl.
Westbound at the MSA Annex – the on tap cocktails are wonderful!
Batch for Whiskey and Doughnuts
Revel wine bar
And finally a week with me would include a stop into Bookmans because I can’t seem to go a week without it.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband deserves a huge shoutout. He is supportive, encouraging and always tells me to go for it – no matter what it is. There have been so many times when self doubt would have taken me down over the past few years but in those moments when I don’t believe in myself, his confidence in me reminds me what I am capable of. He proves his support by helping me build shelves and tables, cleaning the house when I have my hands in clay at all hours, or pushing me to take a plunge that I am holding back from. I am so thankful to have him as a partner in life.
Makayla Lara Photography