Christie Goodfellow and Beth Graves Are Two Very Different Kinds of Sculptors.
The similarities and differences between Christie and Beth’s work creates an interesting give and take between the two of them. Still, they share enough in common to exchange techniques and tips, but the work that ultimately results is so different as to comprise two completely different enterprises.
Christie Goodfellow is a potter, and the owner of CGCERAMICS. She specializes in custom, wheel-thrown pottery that’s clean, modern, and elegant. Christie often works on commission, but the work is entirely hers. From start to finish, wet “slip” to kiln-dried finished piece, Christie is in charge of the entire process. Beth Graves is a custom toy sculptor. She generally starts with someone else’s idea, usually in the form of a two-dimensional drawing, and hand sculpts a three-dimensional object from that drawing. Her wax clay figures are then sent away (generally to Japan) where they’re turned first into a mold, and then replicated in relatively short production runs of soft plastic toys called “Sofubi.” Her creations are also known as “Sof-Vi,” a shortened version of the “soft vinyl” or PVC the toys are made of.
Independent Ventures in the Gig Economy
We met Christie and Beth on a Friday afternoon at Landlocked Social House, a wonderful third-wave coffee and craft beer joint in Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills neighborhood. We played with Beth’s figures on the table in front of us, while we talked about what it takes to fashion a career out of such independent endeavors. Both Beth and Christie battle with the standard struggles of the “gig economy,” and their conversations are often about how they navigate the challenges of client work in their solo ventures. Both have built their businesses mostly on word of mouth. Beth’s work consistently comes from either repeat customers, or referrals from previous customers. While Christie has put in countless hours at pottery fairs and farmer’s markets, her work increasingly comes from larger orders for high end restaurants where here clean, elegant dinnerware fits with an artful, spare presentation of the food.
We talked at length about the process each of them go through to create their work. Beth’s clients sometimes send her detailed, annotated sketches with multiple angles and views, and specific instruction for each line or detail. Just as often they send her a pencil sketch with a few short notes, and her imagination fills in the detail.
Beth Graves – From Sketch to Finished Toy
Beth Graves’s “Oni-Kid” – from original sketch to finished product
“Cat With Dagger” – from original sketch to finished product (with her daughter Lenora)
Beth described Christie’s work as “taking the weight out of the clay.” It’s an apt description, especially if you’ve ever seen a potter at work at the wheel. The process of pulling a lump of clay into a delicate but stable shape is a performance in itself. Christie’s work is, as we’ve said, lovely and delicate. It’s no wonder restaurants are choosing to use her dinnerware to show off their food.
Christie Goodfellow – CGCERAMICS – Wheel-Thrown Pottery
CGCERAMICS Dinnerware and mugs – Photos by Gina Weathersby Photography
Artistic Work – So Much More Than Art
It was great to hear from two talented artists, and good friends, about how they approach their work. It makes sense that it’s just as much about the business as it is about the craft. When we think about artistic pursuits, or careers, it’s often easy to forget that people like Beth and Christie must not only be talented at their craft, but they have to be CEO, marketing department, finance, and more. The independence that comes with a sole venture often means a great deal of loneliness too.
Thanks again to Christie and Beth for sharing their work, and their journey, with us. And thanks to Landlocked Social House for hosting us. Please do visit the links above, and support not only Christie and Beth’s work, but the work of all the independent artists and craftsmen (and women) you know. Hopefully this glimpse into two very talented people’s work helps us all understand just a little better what it takes to make a career out of ‘making.’
Christie Goodfellow and Beth Graves on The Distiller