Emily Tippett's pottery-making journey
EMILY TIPPETT, owner of More Than Clay pottery studio, loves to enhance the little moments in people’s daily lives –while having a good cup of coffee in the morning or laughing over ice cream with the whole family at night– through pieces of her handcrafted pottery.
Like many high school graduates, Tippett was not sure what she would do next in life. Her parents and her brothers encouraged her to pursue pottery, something she loved while attending John T. Hoggard High School in Wilmington. Tippett so excelled at ceramics classes that her teacher HOPE HUNT asked Tippett to help teach other students. The high school even added a fifth level of ceramics classes to the curriculum just for Tippett. After high school graduation, Tippett attended Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) where she obtained a degree in art.
“Pottery became my safe place. I got to pour into other people,” she recalls.
Tippett’s pottery studio, which will be open three years this October, is located in her backyard. She describes her small studio as unconventional with two kilns and two pottery wheels. Shelves display finished pieces which can be seen on Instagram and Facebook and are sold by appointment.
Tippett credits her success to many supportive people who inspired her journey, even when she herself questioned the career choice. “It’s been cool to see people rally behind me when I tried to figure out how to start my pottery business. They helped me see what I didn’t see, that pottery brought me joy. And they were confident in me,” she says. Tippett counts on close friends for advice. “We popcorn off of each other,” she adds. “And I still call and text technical questions to instructor GEOFF CALABRESE at CFCC.”
Tippett draws her inspiration from the Lord, referencing Isaiah 64:8: “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” She describes her style as simple, mid-modern, not a lot of color, mostly speckled white. All of her pottery is thrown on a pottery wheel, rarely using hand-building. Tippet spends three days weekly in her studio from dawn to dusk while working part-time at her church and as a nanny.
Tippett’s signature pieces are stand-up circle vases she fills with flowers made using a unique pottery technique. “I love the finished products. They are amazing. A circle represents a covenant, so I often gift a circle vase as a wedding present,” she says.
More Than Clay recently started offering a wedding registry where brides can register for custom table place settings, including dinner and salad plates, cereal bowls, and mugs. “Many young couples don’t want fine china, but still desire something really nice for at-home dining. It’s cool to be part of someone’s special day in this way,” she says.
Tippett admits it hasn’t always been easy and the business side has been challenging. “Find your passion and let people rally behind you. The process allows you to grow in ways that you didn’t expect to grow. I treasure the moments when someone randomly approaches me and comments on my work. That makes the long hours worth it,” she says.
Pottery can be unpredictable, especially glaze firing. “I have expectations of how a piece will turn out. And then it doesn’t.” She tells all new potters, “Don’t think too hard about it. Don’t expect perfect. And don’t give up.”
Tippett will be showing her pottery at the American Craft Walk on Saturday, September 17, 2022, along Front Street in downtown Wilmington.
To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to dariaphoto.com
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