From Alissa Mittl: Having an internship in your primary medium is extremely beneficial, especially when that medium is ceramics. There is truly a limitless amount of information one can learn about clay, glazes, and firing techniques from the most important you-must-do-this-or-else facts to incredibly minute details. I have been working in ceramics since I was sixteen, yet I often still feel completely clueless when it comes to certain aspects of the medium. Working with Julie has been an immense learning experience both in terms of perfecting techniques and understanding how to successfully run a small business.
I have always been one to ask a massive amount of questions so working one-on-one with a mentor is perfect for my learning style. I am able to observe, and participate, with every step of the creative process as well as ask questions at any moment. This opportunity has helped me to quickly and thoroughly learn new techniques, one of my main goals, such as applying low-fire ceramic decals. Julie uses both hand-drawn and commercial decals on much of her work, providing a perfect opportunity for me to become more familiar with their application and properties.
In addition to helping Julie with decorating her work, I have worked creating both new and old forms with her. In preparation for the holidays, she has decided to make Christmas tree ornaments in various shapes and sizes. I have been aiding her in choosing glaze and terra sigillata colors, decal designs, and deciding ideal clay thickness.
In addition to the ornaments, I have been working with Julie on expediting the production of her best-selling Nesting Bird Bowl sets. These terra-cotta sets include three bowls, arranged from smallest to largest, dipped in white glaze and decorated with three different hand-drawn bird decals. After being featured in the September issue of Fine Cooking Magazine, Julie’s Bird Bowl sales quadrupled. Therefore, I have spent much of my time wedging and weighing clay for their production.
One challenge I have faced in my internship is keeping track of and attaining my own goals. An important goal I set was increasing my own website traffic by thirty percent or more. I have learned some ways of achieving this from Julie, such as professional photography of work and blog updates, but have not implemented these tactics. I also would like to become more engaged with the Tallahassee ceramics community, a goal which I believe I have made progress on.
I decided to pursue this internship because I would ultimately like own my own ceramics business selling both sculptural and utilitarian objects. I know this will be an incredible challenge, both financially and mentally, which is why working with Julie has been so educational. I am also hoping to pursue an MFA degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder within the next five years. I believe accomplishing this degree will further my ceramic prowess and aid in my ultimate goal of becoming a professional ceramicist.