• Dreamers + Doers: The Object Enthusiast

    Dreamers + Doers highlights emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and up-and-coming ones to watch. Whether it’s starting a new business, creating something beautiful, or just daring to do things differently, we stand behind those taking steps toward something new.

    Emily Reinhardt, aka The Object Enthusiast, is a ceramic artist who blends her love of clay and sentiments into "heirlooms for the modern traditionalists." We speak to her about who pushed her to become an artist and how she made the leap into her career as a ceramicist.
    Photos by Kaley Cornett

    Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
    I am the artist and designer behind the ceramics line, The Object Enthusiast. I live in Kansas City, Missouri and work out of my garage-turned-studio. I’m inspired by the objects people choose to live with, and hope that my work becomes something that sits among the other treasured items in people’s homes.

    Were you always interested in ceramics or was it only something that you started paying attention to in college?
    I didn’t discover ceramics until college. It was a required 3D course but by the second week of class, I had already begun the process of changing my major. I didn’t start out knowing I’d want to make and sell functional pottery as I was initially interested in sculpture and installation work, but since graduating, I’ve concentrated almost entirely on functional pieces for the home.

    Can you tell us a little bit about your mentor and his role in your art/career?
    Yoshiro Ikeda was one of my professors at Kansas State University, and one of the reasons I’ve pursued a career in ceramics. He had a tough-love approach to teaching, which was exactly what I needed at that age. Yoshi must have seen something in me earlier than I did, because he showed an interest in my work from the start. He retired a few years after I graduated and left me his kiln and wheel, allowing me to continue making work past graduation. He said, “Emily, you work hard. I would only give this stuff to you.” It’s been my motivation ever since, and there is no way I’d be doing what I do today if not for his belief in me and his generosity.

    How have your pieces changed over the years? How have they stayed the same?
    Besides changing my interest and my focus from sculptural work to functional work, the pots I make have definitely evolved. The kiln that Yoshi gave me was pretty small, which restricted the types of pieces I made. Additionally, I’m continually trying to learn new throwing techniques since I spent much of my time hand-building in college. I watch a lot of YouTube videos and do my best to make time for residency programs and workshops every year. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be done learning about my craft, and that keeps me motivated as I look ahead. It’s exciting to think about what I’ll know in 1 more year, or 5 years.

    What are some favorite pieces to make, either because of process or the completed piece?
    I’ve recently grown fond of making mugs, in part because it took a lot of discipline and practice for me to produce something that I was proud of. One of the instructors at my school told me that a good mug handle is like a good handshake. If it’s good, you won’t think anything of it, but if it’s bad, you’ll notice it right away; it’s uncomfortable. My first mug handle was pretty bad so I avoided making them for years. Recently, I needed the stimulation of a new challenge, so I finally committed to learning how to make a proper mug. I spent three weeks at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Maine surrounded by dozens of potters who taught me a lot about making mugs. I’m getting a lot better!

    How did you decide to become a full-time ceramic artist?
    It all kind of happened on accident. While I was in school, no one told me that what I do today was possible, so it wasn’t a career that I actively pursued. I started selling my work online because I was tired of moving it from house to house. I found great satisfaction in the act of shipping my work around the country. Then I started seeing my work leave the country, just as shops and other big buyers began purchasing more and more of my work. In 2013 I was able to quit my job to turn The Object Enthusiast into what it is today. And now I can’t imagine doing anything else!

    You have a ton of followers online! Do you feel like having a strong social presence has impacted your brand at all?
    My social media presence is a really powerful tool, and something that I’m continually humbled by. My platform has enabled me to connect with both customers and peers while it’s also the medium through which most stockists find me. It’s amazing to know that this little thing I started has interested so many other people – it’s far beyond what I could have hoped for when I started.

    Have any opportunities arisen for you through Instagram (or the internet in general) that might not have happened otherwise?
    I’ve met so many friends and peers through Instagram that I likely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Getting to connect with other potters and ceramicists in different parts of the world and becoming friends, even it if is only online, has made the world feel so much smaller, and I love that. And more often than you’d expect, I’ve actually been able to meet them in real life!

    Do you have any other artist or creative friends that you met through the internet that you’d like to shout out?
    Tuesday Bassen and I connected in real life about a year ago, and in that short period of time we were able to collaborate on a line of work called Girlfriend Ceramics which we showed together in Chicago! I really admire that girl.

    What’s your advice for young artists out there who are just starting out?
    Don’t stop making work. You may hate the first things you make, and your early work might embarrass you, but it’s all part of the growing process. If you make a lot of work, like a lot of work, it will get better. And it can be incredibly gratifying to see the way in which some people really connect with your work.

    What are the perks of working out of Kansas City?
    Right now I work out of my studio-turned-garage so I get a lot done by eliminating the commute. I grew up in the area, but just moved back at the end of 2015 after nearly 10 years away from the city. It’s nice to discover everything that’s changed while still having the familiarity of home and a strong community around me.

    Finally, what’s one of your goals for 2016?
    I plan to dive into tableware this year. I have so many talented friends who are chefs and bakers who cook beautiful, delicious food. I make functional pieces because I enjoy the direct interplay with people’s lives. I’m excited to make plates and platters inspired by these friends.

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