Alicia Zwicewicz and Josiah Henderson are the owners-designers-and-makers behind Beardbangs Ceramics – a handmade ceramics shop based in Montreal, Canada. This husband and wife team began making ceramic goodies in 2014, which has now become a successful business and full-time work for Alicia.
I came across this three-legged apple sugar dish on Etsy, and I had to check out the entire shop right away. I was enamored and absolutely taken over all their stuff, and just had to feature them here on the blog. It’s true – their whimsical pottery do put a smile on your face, and are just a joy to look at! Thankfully, Alicia responded to my invitation, and both she and Josiah were gracious enough to do this interview. Read on as they talk about what they love about their craft and even give us a peak at the creative process.
What’s the story behind the shop name?
Alicia: One time I think we were in front of a mirror and Jo came up behind me and hugged me. He has a really big beard, and it went over the top of my head and made me look like I had really weird fluffy bangs– beard bangs. We’d been trying to come up with a name for our Etsy shop, which was initially going to be much less focused than just ceramics (we were going to sell illustrations, prints, and other kinds of objects too), and we thought Beardbangs would be perfect for the kind of vibe we were going for.
What are your top 3 favorite picks from your shop?
Josiah: I really love the black cat espresso cups and mugs, with the tail coming up the handle. I’m also very much looking forward to a plate Alicia is presently working on, with two snuggling cats on it, which design I’m very proud of.
Alicia: Yes, I really like the pieces that combine some aspect of the object’s usefulness with the design- the legs of the planters as the legs of an animal, the tail of the cat as the handle of the cup. I love the yellow sun design that we do too.
Can you share with us the process of creating these items?
We start out with some sketches. Jo and I often will work on this aspect together. Jo’s background is in illustration, and I think a big part of the graphic style comes from this. For something that I need to figure out how to construct (for example, one of the things I did this with recently was the happy house sugar pot), I usually come up with some more sketches about how the different parts will look and fit together, and what colours might look good together.
The rest happens at the ceramics studio, where I throw the pieces on the wheel, wait for them to dry out a bit, trim the bottoms, and decorate them with engobes and underglazes. The firings take another week or so- the first one is just to get all the moisture out of the clay, and the second one is to melt the glaze and vitrify the piece. Both times the kiln goes up to around 2000°f, and takes about 24 hrs to cool down enough to actually open the kiln up again.
What do you love most about what you do?
Josiah: Unlike Alicia, Beardbangs is not my primary, full-time work; but it is so much fun and a real privilege for me to get to work on designs with and for her, and then to see them realised on her pottery. On the rare occasion that something goes wrong (a small crack or bubble on a piece) it is always a treat for us, because it means we get to keep that piece around the house and actually use it!
Alicia: In terms of the process, I think my favourite part of this work is coming up with new designs and figuring out how to construct them– that keeps the work interesting for me. In general, though, what keeps me going to probably just the connections with people.
In some ways, the growing popularity of buying online means that there is a real anonymity between the maker and the person who buys the product. But I think that growing reality is partially what draws people to buying handmade products where you can email the artist and ask them questions, or ask them to customize the product they’re purchasing.
I love it when someone asks to put a birthday/thank you note in with their order. It’s a strange kind of intimacy, in a way, getting to be the middle person between this gift-giving between family members or friends. I find that fun.
Is there anything you dislike about it?
Alicia: Because I’m working in the ceramics studio alone all day, I get pretty lonely. We’re hoping to open up a more public studio/storefront soon, which will hopefully mend that problem! Until then, I listen to lots of radio shows and audio books to keep my mind occupied.
What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges has actually been learning how to ship ceramics without having them break all the time! That was a very frustrating lesson to learn. Now, we wrap everything in three different kinds of bubble wrap. We’ve developed a pretty good system.
Where do you find inspiration?
Josiah: Our cartoon-y style probably owes a lot to my love of comics; in particular, the Beardbangs look reminds me of work like James Kochalka‘s, which uses a lot of flat, colourful forms and bold line to often quite cutesy effect. When we first met, Alicia and I were had quite different visual styles, so it has been interesting to be inspired and informed by each other as we’ve developed a consistent style for Beardbangs.
Your message to customers and friends:
Josiah: Thanks so much for supporting us!
Thank you so much Alicia and Josiah for being part of the Shop Spotlight series!