Oh Instagram! You have been a match maker since the day we signed up – bringing us into new designer’s lives one heart felt double tap at a time. Nothing beats that feeling of scrolling past someone’s work for the first time – the excitement, the curiosity, the sudden need to locate their online shop!
Seeing Fulton & Co pop up on our feed a few months back was no different – in fact there might have even been an audible gasp upon first sight. Terracotta rimmed plates with white and blue hand panted details unlike we’ve ever seen! They were so fresh and alive… Sure enough Sarah and her studio are just as vibrant and charming as the ceramics she’s creating. We are crushing big time!
There’s a lot of thought going into each piece that comes out of the Fulton & Co studio – and there’s a reason that they need to be hand washed and are not microwave safe. In a word…Sarah wants you to slow down. To take time at the table seriously with loved ones. This is a beautiful sentiment that we couldn’t agree more with and these ceramics definitely make the moment feel special.
We take a moment to chat with Sarah to learn how a career in music therapy lead to starting a ceramic business and that non-stop believing along with Gypsy Jazz music is the secret ingredient to keeping the work day moving in the right direction.
Who: Sarah Fulton, Fulton & Co
Where: Downtown Los Angeles Arts District
We love that your work is inspired by and for a slower, more thoughtful lifestyle at the table. Tell us a little about how you’ve honed in on a specific creative style and how these pieces translate into this lifestyle.
Thank you, so much! It is the reason I am creating my business. To inspire people to the table, to take the time to connect more often with the ones they love. The ceramic pieces I create are simply a byproduct of that vision. I think my creative style communicates this in that each piece is made by hand, which takes time. And my pieces are all quietly imperfect. I combine both wheel throwing and hand building techniques that produce just the right balance of imperfection, which speaks to me. It is this imperfection that reminds me of our humanity. I have traveled a lot over the years and have been inspired by the ethnic motifs and patterns I have seen in textiles and architecture, and this definitely informs the decorative aspects of my work. So combining imperfect form with hand painted and carved patterning provides a comforting combination that I believe beckons people to the table.
You have a background in music therapy, tell us a little how those experiences translate into your creative work.
Yes, I have my bachelor and master degrees in music therapy and it is a huge part of who I am. In fact, I started my ceramic business because of it. Throughout the years I have made ceramics on the side, but I never imagined I would turn my love of clay into a business. But after grad school I moved to Africa for a 2 year music therapy position at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. While there I developed a music therapy research project in one of the women’s’ prisons and at a rural school. I fell in love with the project and decided that research done in Africa was how I wanted to move forward with my music therapy career. I came back to the States with the desire to go back a few times a year, to continue working on the project a little at a time. I continued developing my clay skills with a membership to a local ceramic studio. I mostly made jewelry at that time, and people started asking if they could purchase my pieces. With this a business naturally began. I created my ceramic business with the long term goal of being able to support my ongoing music therapy research in Kenya. So, I worked out of home studios for the first 4 years, with a small kiln perfect for jewelry making, and then moved to a larger studio space last October in downtown LA. It’s been a dream because it has allowed me to create what I love the most – tableware.
How I stay motivated in the studio changes from day to day, according to my feelings. I just check in with how I am feeling and then act accordingly. Some days I need silence and a lot of days specific kinds of music. Lately it’s been the Gypsy Jazz music of Dorado Schmitt. I find it so hauntingly cheerful. I also love listening to lectures, documentaries, or books on tape about inspiring people and topics. I am a big bio/autobio fan, especially about women who have done great things. My latest listen was the documentary on Frida Khalo. I am so inspired by how she embodied her art on so many levels. I used to have a good stash of chocolate around the studio to snack on all day. But now I bring a nice variety of raw veggies that go immediately into a pretty bowl. I have discovered that I am more motivated to eat vegetables when they are displayed beautifully!
Your surroundings seem to be very important to you while working. What are the three key things you look for to create the ultimate productive studio environment?
It is true. I believe working in an organized and beautiful environment is conducive for creating beauty. I feel a calmness and a creative flow that gets stifled otherwise. Some artists are able to block out their surroundings while creating, but I am not able to do that so well. So the three key things I need for ultimate productivity in the studio are order, beauty and music.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned launching your own creative business? What advice would you give to other makers looking to take the leap as a full time career?
Oh man, that’s such a loaded question! Ha! The learning curve has been incredibly steep in getting this business going. The bottom line is you just have to jump. The biggest thing that helps me is that I think from the end with everything I want to create by specifically imagining my desired end result. I spend very little time trying to brainstorm all of the in-between ‘hows’, because things rarely take shape the way I think they will anyway. And I find that thinking and analyzing things to death can really be more of a stalling mechanism. Thinking from the end somehow gives me that burst of strength and courage to take the jumps. Once you jump, it puts the wheels in motion and allows for amazing, unexpected things to happen. I always say that the most challenging part of my business isn’t the designing, making or selling, it is the non-stop believing that is required. Overcoming my doubts, fears and insecurities, and the temptation to give up is my biggest challenge. But I have a strong spiritual practice which is instrumental in keeping me grounded, centered and able to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
What’s next? Any dream collaborations or new techniques that you’d like to work on this year?
Oh yes! Since inspiring people to the table is part of my vision, I am in the process of creating 6 special FULTON & CO. gatherings over the course of 12 months. Each gathering will involve a different kind of authentic ethnic food, prepared by women who learned how to cook it from their mothers and grandmothers. I am making special tableware sets for each dinner that reflect the culture of the food that will be served. The first dinner was at the end of May and Persian food was cooked by my friend from Tehran, Iran. The next one will be Mexican, cooked by my friend from Veracruz, Mexico. To document the gatherings, I am creating a book that will be a cookbook of the recipes from all of the gatherings, a culinary history of the women who will be cooking, and a visual catalog of FULTON & CO. ceramics.