Handcrafted entrepreneurship is on the rise, and it’s leading the way towards a new economy. This “new economy” doesn’t exist inside a mall or in a crowded generic store, but rather under a humble tent at a random farmers market. It’s at these markets you’ll find an endless cornucopia of handcrafted gastronomic delicacies, resurrected antiques, or one of a kind items, like those crafted by Blackbird Studios.
Blackbird Studios is just one glowing representation of our many west coast handcrafted entrepreneurs. You can find Blackbird studios nestled on beautiful Gabriola Island; one of the many breathtaking Islands in British Columbia. Artist extraordinaire and owner Paige Coull creates her one of a kind pottery, made to fit perfectly in the palm of your hand with expert workmanship and thought. Each piece is unique, and offers a distinct Canadiana look to the design.
We were excited to catch up with Paige, and chat about her creative process and the passion behind Blackbird Studios.
When did you become inspired to follow your creative passion?
As a child I knew I wanted to be an artist; it just made sense to me. I never questioned my direction in life, although it did take me 20 years or so to find my medium. I was flailing about in the arts community dabbling in fine arts, photography, glass blowing, print media, even book binding… it wasn’t until a teacher of mine pointed out that every new skill I learned I’d bring back to the ceramics department and try it with clay. It dawned on me that I was making pin hole cameras out of clay sculptures and melting glass in my work, something i still do today. The versatility of clay blew me away and I’ve never looked back. I’ve continued my exploration using all sorts of media combined with clay, and I’m still excited by every new idea and process. The biggest hurdle I’ve had to face is how to create a cohesive line and focus my wandering eye.
Blackbird has a distinct look and feel. How has your design evolved over time?
Many people know Blackbird Studios’ work as approachable and sweet white ware with screen prints, colour blocking, and my glazed bottoms. I also hide little personal touches in all my pieces that are discovered by the owner, not necessarily the viewer. The mix of glazed and unglazed portions, glass fused in thumb prints, hand-drawn patterns, and a seductive bottom makes you want to curl up and eat noodles on the couch. All of my pieces are intended for everyday use; they last forever in the dishwasher, the plates have an oversized lip for eating in informal settings, and my wine glasses have grooves so they’re comfortable to hold through long dinner parties or walking the beach. My line has developed – as most do – through personal discovery and exploration, and a passion that makes me think carefully how others use and investigate the pieces. I do create small lines of moody matte blues and red clays that give me layers of surface development, but it’s definitely the understated simplicity of my white ware that stays the strongest.
The Biggest challenge was not just finding the thing I loved the most in life, but figuring out how to take that LOVE and build a sustainable business around it
At what point did you think “I’m going to be an entrepreneur and do what I love”?
Pretty early on! I started my first business back when I was about 12 years old. I named it Painfully Coull and sold crafts and magnets at the farmers market and even at a few stores in Ottawa. I actually made pretty decent money from my art from the beginning. I’ve started so many small companies I think I must have been born with the entrepreneurial spirit. From running my own commercial painting company for 15 years, to starting an organic baby food line called My Main Squeeze, my mind is always turning toward new ideas. Ceramics has always been the big fish though – the biggest challenge, and the most personal venture. The biggest challenge was not just finding the thing I loved most in life, but figuring out how to take that love and build a sustainable business around it. We’re all scared of taking that leap; maybe we worry that we’ll tire of it, or it’ll become work, or maybe we doubt that others will see it the way we do. But if you can overcome that fear and do it, it’s definitely worth it.
As our family grows, we continue to evolve and find this “balance”
How do you balance being a business owner and a busy mother of two?
I’m not sure if I’ve found the “balance” yet. As a working mother of infant twins, I work very hard at all hours – as do most working parents – and try to keep my family as organized as possible. I have an extremely supportive partner who encourages me and also forces me to stop and enjoy the small moments that can so easily pass us by. We find a balance together. The kids play in the studio and I work when they sleep. We decided long ago that we wouldn’t so much as stop everything and make life revolve around our kids, but that we’d work to really integrate the family into a solid unit. As our family grows, we continue to evolve and find this “balance”.
I wish for everyone to spend their days doing something they love
What advice would you give to others that want to follow their creative passion?
I wish for everyone to spend their days doing something that they love. Life will pass you by if you are simply working to live. I’d suggest doing some research and creating a small brand for yourself before you quit your job, or start a buffer fund for the first few years when you are getting your business off the ground. It takes the stress down a few degrees. Then come out with a bang. You can start slowly and dabble for a while to test the market, but you’ll never know until you jump right in. Open that store, farm stand, online boutique; start that clothing line, reno company, photography business. Research, plan, jump… and repeat if necessary.
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