Studio Visit: Gopi Shah Ceramics

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During our time in Austin we had the chance to visit Gopi Shah’s studio and get to know the California native who has quickly become a large part of the ceramic scene. From her popular hand dishes to her collaboration on Sister Coffee’s cheeky (or I should say, booby) tumblers, if you live in Austin, chances are you’ve seen Gopi’s work. We loved getting the opportunity to learn more about Gopi’s inspirations, process, and big dreams last month:
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Ceramics in generally has a really long process since there are so many steps that go into each piece. I buy my clay from Armadillo Clay, which is a local clay shop a few blocks away from me. I like using local clay, which will change the way my pottery looks whenever I move. Each bag of clay comes in a 25 pound bag. I usually have something I have in mind that I want to make with each bag of clay. For example, if I make the zodiac lanterns, I will cut up this 25 pound bag of clay into small cubes that are 0.75 pounds of clay each and smack them down into balls. Once all the balls are ready, I get situated on the wheel and begin throwing. A clay ball has many steps to becoming a piece – I center the piece of clay, create a quarter-sized indentation in the middle that my thumbs push down on to make the center of the piece, pull out the bottom, raise the sides, trim the bottom, push or pull on the sides to create a shape, smooth the top rim, and cut the piece off the wheel.
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Then I do it all over again until all the balls of clay have become pieces. Once the pieces have dried a bit, I can flip them over and trim the bottom so that it is smooth and stamp my logo on the piece. For the zodiac lanterns, I take each one, draw the constellation on the side, and hand punch the holes to the pattern of the stars. I then wait for them to dry a bit more and smooth out the holes with a sponge. In this stage, the clay is called greenware since it is still wet. Once the water has evaporated out, I can bisque fire it, where I take it up to around 1970 degrees Fahrenheit. Bisque ware is porous enough to absorb glaze, but is not brittle. Glazing requires knowledge of chemistry and compounds. I have experimented with different glazes and have a few I created on my own from various chemicals. I glaze each piece by either dipping them in the glaze or brushing a glaze directly onto the surface. There are so many ways to decorate pottery – scratching the surface into a pattern, brushing, sponging, using underglazes. Glaze cannot be on the bottom of your pots because the piece will stick to your kiln shelf once it is fired, so I have to sponge the bottom of each piece. I then load the kiln again with glazed pieces. I load a shelf in, put three stilts in the corners, put the glaze pieces between the stilts, and then put a shelf on top of the stilts until the kiln is full. I then fire this to around 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the glaze to melt onto the surface of the ceramic and become the beautiful colors everyone is accustomed to seeing on ceramic pieces. Usually this is when a piece would be done. However, with the zodiac lanterns, I use gold luster, which is an overglaze. I unload the kiln and brush on gold luster to each piece over the glaze. I then reload the kiln and fire it to around 1300 degrees Fahrenheit where it gets that beautiful gold sheen. See? I told you there are a lot of steps in ceramics…
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I started working with ceramics in high school. I had a great teacher who let students explore the constraints of clay, which allowed me to learn a ton. He was very influential in shaping my approach to ceramics and helped me learn a lot about various processes of clay. I actually still keep in touch with him to this day! 
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In 2014, I started my business but was very scared to not have a steady income. Up until then, I had worked 9-5’s that had 401Ks and health insurance. So, I ended up creating a 9-5 for myself with a bunch of part time jobs instead, which inevitably pushed my business to the back burner. In 2015, I gathered enough courage to really do ceramics full time. I thought I owed it to myself to try doing what I love full time. It’s been amazing so far. I am very appreciative that I am in a position where I can dedicate all hours to making my business a success. I’d encourage anyone in my position to really go for it, as it does require a ton of time!006-Gopi Shah Studio-RCF2015-2671016-Gopi Shah Studio-RCF2015-2692
Inspiration comes from a ton of different things. In California, I was really inspired by the beach since we lived in Santa Monica and did a lot of forms with barnacles and ocean foam texture. In Austin, my inspiration has come more from textiles and prints, which is shown on some of my newer work. It’s really exciting to travel and get inspired by different things. I keep a small journal where I end up drawing ideas when I get them. I remember I was on the bus one day and saw a bunch of wood with red, yellow, white, and blue ends and came up with a pitcher and cup set that I wanted to make. A lot of my forms also come from ceramics I want in my house, and then I end up making a few more to see how they are received. One of my favorite things I have made is my berry bowl or colander. It is really practical and the perfect size for washing berries.
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The hardest thing for me was believing in myself. Before I started my business, I worked at an environmental non-profit. When I met someone new, I labeled myself as an environmentalist before a ceramicist. It was hard to tell people that I was an “artist” because I didn’t feel like one. When I moved to Austin, I figured it was easier to start a new life where people did not know who I was and I could have the freedom to create this new persona. Slowly it started getting easier to say that I am a ceramicist. There are still so many days that I question what I am doing with my life. And then I remember I’m living my dream and become driven to make this dream a success.022-Gopi Shah Studio-RCF2015-2710
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 Also, I think it is best to make things that make you happy instead of making things that may be trendy. I made a bunch of different ceramic wares and have been experimenting with different forms to see what people like. Things I have made that I love are generally what sell more, probably because customers can see the love you have put into a certain item over another. 020-Gopi Shah Studio-RCF2015-2702
 Gopi has been a delight to have at our Fairs in Austin, and we cannot wait to see her evolving work continue to pop up in shops all around the country! Take a look at all the photos from this visit on our Flickr and check out Gopi Shah Ceramics, you won’t regret it.
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Austin Fair Photos and Video!

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Our Austin Fair last month was by far our favorite event in that city to date! The new venue, the delicious food, the talented makers, and the Texas energy ya’ll brought made the weekend so much fun! If you want to relive the good times, or if you weren’t able to make it this time around, take a look at our Austin album on Flickr!

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Along that same vein, we were thrilled to see the first 2015 fair short film created by our awesome sponsor, ZIIBRA. The team at ZIIBRA will be capturing all of our flagship fairs this year and it was such a delight to see Austin in moving images.

2015 Renegade Craft Fair Austin from Renegade Craft Fair on Vimeo.

Thank You, Austin

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Wow, oh, wow, Austin! What an amazing weekend we spent together! Despite the full spectrum of weather, it was great seeing old friends, meeting new faces, and loving all the handmade wares and good vibes our Makers brought to the Austin Fair this year! Over 140 extraordinarily talented independent Makers showcased their work at Fair Market to Austinites, Texans and travelers from beyond. We got to start our day with delicious iced horchata coffee from Sister Coffee, sample addictive and tasty free cookies from Coterie Market! We couldn’t resist the range of one-of-a-kind handmade products on display from ceramics and wooden furniture to delightful hand-dyed and stitched clothing. We topped each day off with Marco’s Tacos, a handsome hot dog from Frank, and of course, some refreshing cocktails. Did anyone else find it impossible to have just one prickly pear margarita?

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photo from @pastranastudio

We saw a lot of smiles in the open air Magnolia Photo Booth! Fun fact: Those hand painted animal props featured some of the RCF Staff’s very own pets! You can view your photo booth strips from Saturday and Sunday right here.

One of our favorite post-fair activities is combing through the #RenegadeAustin collection of photos. We loved witnessing Makers and shoppers alike, posting about their favorite products, booths and experiences! Here’s some of our favorite moments below:

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Row 1: @saritatheresa | @kayteejs | @onalimbcreative Row 2: @lulunono | @clairesommersbuck |@mrs.lawsongoods | Row 3: @amberelea | @shorttailshop | @akulakreative

We always try to top each Fair, and it couldn’t be possible without your feedback! We value your opinions seriously, and always want to improve our Fairs to be the best events you attend each year. If you attended our Austin Fair, please fill out our Attendee Survey or Vendor Survey! It only takes a few minutes, we swear!

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Want to relive the good times? You can get a recap on Instagram and Twitter using #RenegadeCraftFair and #RenegadeAustin to view RCF-related Instagram pictures and tweets!

Stay tuned for news and updates regarding our 2015 Spring/Summer Tour. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Pinterest to stay in-the-know on our Makers and all things Renegade Craft!

Big Thanks Austin, Fair Market, Our Sponsors, and Our Friends:

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Kick Off Your Weekend at Renegade Craft Fair Austin!

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Our Austin Fair kicks off this weekend! This free handmade extravaganza will feature a collection of some truly awesome independent Makers, plus food, booze, treats, music and more! Check out our rundown below:

140+ MAKERS
We’ve got something for everyone at this Spring Fair! Find gifts for loved ones, plus it’s the perfect time to freshen up your home and wardrobe for Spring.
Check out the full ROSTER to catch a glimpse!
FOOD + TREATS
If your stomach starts growlin’ or you want to cool off, grab a drink and sample some of Austin’s finest fare from these lovely foodies:
Frank
Marco’s Tacos
Sister Coffee

SPECIAL FEATURES

We’ve got you covered for an awesome weekend with an array of things to do from DIY workshops, to custom poems, and gift basket raffles. Take a break in our nifty lounge area, or strike a pose in our free photo booth to commemorate your visit. Just take a look for yourself!

Slavonk & Hortus Terraria
Untouched Poetry
Coterie Market
Loot Vintage Rentals
Magnolia Photo Booth

MUSIC + ENTERTAINMENT

We’ve got some musical talents on-hand this weekend to soundtrack your experience at the Fair. Enjoy some handpicked tunes indoors, or head outside in the late afternoon for some live music:

2015-ATX-Spring-Roster copyROW 1: KRISTEN SAKSA JUEN | SNOW FLOWER PAPER CO | PASTRANA STUDIO | ROW 2: HATTON HENRY | WILD AIR & CO. | FOXWARES CERAMICS | ROW 3: TONI POINT | JANIKA JEWELRY | THE GOOD HIPPIE
Want more handmade in your life? Learn more about Makers behind their craft in our
Maker Spotlights and re-pin your favorite Makers from our Pinterest board.
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Getting There: The Renegade Craft Fair will be held at Fair Market at 1100 East 5th St. Austin, Texas 78702. Visitors are encouraged walk, bike, or take public transportation to the Fair. Route directions to the Fair here.For those visiting Austin, take a look at our handy Eats + Treats Map to help you explore this awesome city. Feel free to add in some of your favorite haunts, too!

Uber is sponsoring rides for our Austin Fair. New users can get up to $20 off their first Uber ride using the code RCF2015. To sign up, download the app or head to uber.com/go/RCF2015unnamed

Want to spread the word? Join our Facebook event and invite your friends. Grab our e-flyer and pass it around. Add #RenegadeCraftFair and #RenegadeAustin to your RCF-related Instagram pictures and tweets! We love seeing what our followers and makers are up to!

For more information about this event, please visit the Renegade Craft Fair website or browse the Makers on Pinterest.

 

Maker Spotlight: Ele Story

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Happy Friday! We’re here to dole out some adorableness and feature Ele Story! This whimsical clothing line will be at our Austin Fair this weekend!
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Judy Jou is the woman behind Ele Story. With a passion to design cute and sweet things, she could not wait to design clothes for her daughter.  Judy love dresses and thinks kids are little versions of adults and they should be dressed well.  For Judy, designing for children means more freedom and fun, because it allows her to mix bold prints together in a wonderful way. FallJacket_Snow_HighTeaWeb
 The name “Ele Story” was inspired by a song in Chinese Judy’s mother sang to her as a child, about a little elephant who is encouraged to be proud of her long nose because it is what makes her who she is.  The clothing line celebrates the uniqueness of every child as they grow up and discover who they are. Pinafore_RiseAShine_web
As a former costume designer, Judy does a lot of research before putting anything to paper.  Judy spends the bulk of her time taking in images that she finds and then spend time doodling and drawing out silhouettes. Both the fabric and Judy’s inspiration informs how she decides to move forward with a piece. Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.59.52 PM
At the end of production, Judy takes time stepping back and viewing the collection as a whole, making sure cohesion and fluidity is felt, similar to dressing characters on the stage. SwingJacket_Rain_Web

We’re so thrilled to have Ele Story at our Austin Fair this weekend. Check the entire collection online and stay up to date on Facebook and Instagram. See ya’ll tomorrow!