“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”
― Bob Ross
Emily Reinhardt made me fall in love with the art of pottery. Known as The Object Enthusiast, she creates pieces that are whimsical while remaining classic and time honored. Her work has been sold in stores across the nation and her list of stockists includes Anthropologie. I had the great privilege of interviewing her and learning more about her work, process, and what led her to choose to become a ceramic artist. Her story is inspiring and I’m so honored to be sharing it with you all today!
I grew up in Kansas City (on the Kansas side) and live in Omaha, Nebraska right now. I graduated from Kansas State University in 2010 with a degree in Fine Arts, concentrating on ceramics. My work is carried in dozens of boutiques and shops across the country and can be purchased from my website, theobjectenthusiast.com.
How did you decide to become a potter?
I decided to study ceramics in college after quickly learning I was not cut out to be an educator. I had been on the art education track for a few weeks in my second year and knew pretty quickly it wasn’t for me. I was taking Ceramics 1 that semester to fulfill my 3D course requirement and I just fell in love. I had an excellent instructor who helped foster that love of clay and she really boosted my confidence and encouraged me to stick with it. I was instantly sure that that was what I wanted to study for the rest of my time in school, and so I made the switch. I opened an online shop in 2011 purely as a way to get rid of some of the pots I had made in school, but learned that I really enjoyed selling my work.
Who are your greatest influences?
Yoshi Ikeda was my professor at Kansas State and he had the unique ability to see something in someone before they really knew it was there. He must have known I was called to do what I’m doing before I did, because he made sure to work me extra hard. Yoshi had a tough love approach to teaching and was often times pretty quiet. He retired the year after I graduated, and ended up gifting me his kiln and his wheel. He told me he would only give them to me, because I worked hard and he knew I would keep working hard. I couldn’t let him down, and I think about him on a daily basis. He past away last December, but his legacy carries on in my practice and so many of his other students’ practice.
I love your brand’s name. How did you choose “the object enthusiast”?
I’ve always been a careful collector, and have so many objects in my home that mean a lot to me. As a kid I was always bugging my older sister to give me her stuff, I was obsessed and would go into her room and say, “is there anything you don’t want? Like, anything. I’ll just take it if you don’t want it.” So to get rid of me, she would try to find something to give me. I just have a tendency to collect little things, so the name came to me when I was trying to name my blog.
What is your goal as you make a piece? Can you describe your process?
My work happens pretty organically. Very rarely do I sit down to plan and sketch out my ideas. Instead I usually wing it and see what happens as I go. I usually have to make a few editions of some things before the idea that was in my head can become a real object. I know I need to get better about sketching and planning some things out, but it’s always more fun for me to just dive in and start making things. Usually I prefer to just get my hands dirty and dive right in!
What is your favorite part of making a piece?
I really love working with wet clay and I’d have to say my favorite stage of working on these pieces is when I’m first starting out. Whether its forming a large, slab-built platter or sitting down at the wheel to throw pots, the first stage is always my favorite. After that, my favorite stage is the last one, when I get to add the gold details! Most of the time those gold details are planned out way ahead of time, but sometimes it takes a little while for me to figure out the way I’d like to highlight the pieces. And that’s where it can get fun! Not to mention, opening the kiln load full of 22k gold pieces is enough to make anyone’s heart skip a beat. It’s a beautiful sight!
How do you get into the creative mindset?
It comes at different times, that’s for sure, but I’m getting better at recognizing those days when I’m feeling extra creative. I try really hard to pay attention to when I’m feeling inspired and be sure to run with that feeling in the studio, instead of slowing myself down with computer work or building invoices. Great things can come out of an inspired mindset, so I try really hard to listen and notice when I’m feeling it.
What is your favorite aspect of the pottery medium?
My favorite aspect also happens to be my least favorite aspect…ceramics is such a tricky medium because it has a mind of its own. You can open a kiln full of work that you thought would do one thing, but all of the sudden you see it has done something totally different. While that can be heartbreaking if you get an entire load of work that didn’t turn out beautifully, it can also have a way of surprising you with the results in a positive way. I’ve had so many happy accidents, I can’t even count them all.
I love your use of texture and angles. Many pottery objects are rounded. Can you expound on how you developed your unique style?
I’ve never been very good at drawing (perhaps it’s why I don’t sketch out work before I make it!) so often times I rely on shapes and forms that I actually know how to draw. Triangles are one of those simple shapes that I’m drawn to, that I can actually emulate in my work. It’s why my lines are usually imperfect and a little wobbly, and no two polka dots are exactly the same. I like that about my work, but I get caught “blaming” it on my unsteady hands and my inability to draw.
What is your ideal Saturday?
I love slow mornings with a bottomless pot of coffee, so that would have to be the first thing. I’m usually the type of person who catches myself in the studio every single day, but on the off chance I’ve taken this Saturday off, I’d love to be enjoying the day outside with friends, family and my dog Ruby. This summer I learned that I really enjoy gardening, and going camping, so some kind of outdoor activity is what I’m usually hoping for!
***The beautiful images in this article were taken by Kaley of Kaley from Kansas