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Into the Fire

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Potter Samantha Heligman, owner of Settle Ceramics, shares the inspiration behind her craft.

By Lauren Jones, Photos courtesy of Samantha Heligman

The studio is speckled with clay. Paint colors the floor and pots lay out to dry in the open air. Sun pours in through the doorway and humidity sticks to every surface. It’s an unusually muggy afternoon in November, and Samantha Heligman, owner of Settle Ceramics, is standing near a menagerie of terracotta dinnerware, trimming the edges off an unfinished mug.

Heligman developed a passion for pottery 10 years ago while finishing degrees in painting and photography at Savannah College of Art and Design. Today, she spends her days at the Moon Collective, a collaborative arts space in East Austin, creating her unique line of kitchenware.  

“I think about items that I would like to have in my kitchen,” Heligman says of the inspiration behind her collection. “That is how I came up with my salt jar and my tiny pinch jars.”

Since launching Settle Ceramics, Heligman’s work has continued to grow in popularity, and she has become known for her blue-and-white-dotted cups and plates, colors she has always gravitated toward.

“I look at pieces I did six or seven years ago and it’s cool to see how my process and what I like has evolved over the years,” Heligman says.

In her line of work, long days are unavoidable, but Heligman is happy to share her studio space with four other ceramicists, whom she believes help make her a better artist.

“We all work together and critique one another’s work,” Heligman says. “It’s nice to have people to bounce ideas off of and share with. It’s better to get feedback from your friends rather than from your clients.”

When Heligman begins a new project, she starts with a clay prototype, a life-sized version, to get a better dea of what she likes aesthetically.

“Say I’m working on a casserole dish,” Heligman says. “I’ll start with a prototype and see how it transforms from there. I do sketch on occasion, but oblong shapes, such as spheres and circles, can be difficult to get right.”

She then places each piece into the fire to set the clay and the color. From start to finish, each item in her line can take anywhere from a day to a week to complete, depending on the order size. Heligman just sent off her largest order to date, 200 tea bowls, for local tea company CatSpring Yaupon, an order that took her three weeks to complete.

“One day, I threw and trimmed 90 cups,” Heligman says.

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Heligman is about to face her busiest season yet, and she is excited for all that lies ahead. She just popped up at the Renegade Craft Fair at Fair Market, and will show her work at local farmers markets and boutiques throughout the city in the next month.

For those looking for holiday gifts, Heligman’s pieces are reasonably priced, ranging from $12 to $125, and are great gifts for those looking to add a sophisticated touch to the home and for everyday use.

 

Learn more about Samantha Heligman and Settle Ceramics at settleceramics.com.

 

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