When Amber West was in college the thing she enjoyed the most, the subject that filled her with joy and wonder was always art, and within that world she quickly discovered that sculpting was what she loved most. Like many people taking art classes in college she found herself by losing herself in her art in the best possible way. But like many artists, when put in a rigid structured environment and asked to create, she felt lost and boxed in. Her personality didn't seem to jive with a traditional art education and she felt overwhelmed and misunderstood. After finishing her art school degree and struggling for a while with what to do with it, she instead chose to pursue what she felt like was a more practical career-track education. In the same way that Natasha elected to get a degree as an art educator instead of a studio artist, Amber was steered away from art. The world can make you feel like an art degree is a waste of time, a lifetime sentence of poverty and unhappiness. So she set aside art for the time being, but she always remembered that feeling of rightness and joy when she sculpted clay and hoped one day she'd somehow find her way back to it.
Fast forward over a decade later after a life-changing move from Ontario to Nova Scotia, Amber was sent our ad for a studio assistant job that we had posted in Instagram. We knew from the first day of her working interview that she was something special. Amber is now heading into her second year anniversary with us and we have always felt so grateful to have her on our team. She brings so many incredible skills into our studio and has a joy and infectious sense of humor that makes her such a lovely person to have around.
Natasha does much of the product development and design for Sugarhouse and had been contemplating adding some more classic figurative work into the studio line. She immediately thought of Amber as she had mentioned before how much she loved sculpting in art school, especially the human body. Natasha and Amber are often bouncing ideas off of each other for new pieces and one day Natasha suggested that Amber create some one of a kind sculptures that we could then slipcast and put into production. They discussed the types of bodies they wanted to see represented more and then Amber set to work creating a series of ladies that she and Natasha felt represented the under-represented women in society, with full tummies and breasts, little back rolls, dimples and all the quirks of a real woman's body. After a few weeks of sculpting, tweaking, and endless conversations about the purpose of the pieces, the Amber West Lady Vessels were born.
Each of our three original pieces were hand sculpted by Amber from start to finish and then molds were made so each piece could be replicated and affordably sold. Amber starts each of her work days by cracking each lady out of their molds and then adds her finishing touches to each slipcast piece. Carving additional folds, dimples, and sculpting each piece to perfection before they're dried and fired.
Natasha and I want Sugarhouse Ceramic Co. to be a business that fosters creativity, collaboration, and opportunity for artists. Amber is an employee of our business, but she is also a professional artist and she has dreams of growing her own pottery business. In many ways we see Sugarhouse as a sort of incubator for artists like Amber. We are grateful for her many talents and what they bring to our business, but we also want to support her in any way she needs as she works towards building her own financial future with her art.
So when you buy an Amber West Lady Vessel, or really any piece from Sugarhouse realize that you are supporting the dreams of a small group of artists. Not just in theory but in practice, you pay our bills and put food on our tables. With each purchase you're helping continue to make our art school kid dreams come true, we spend our days creating things with our hands and that is such an immense blessing to us. Amber receives a royalty from the purchase of each Lady Vessel and your continued purchases help maintain her working a job as a full-time artist, a job she never expected to find and we never expected to be able to offer.
I've never really thought of myself as a visual artist, although I live out my day-to-day career working in an art studio, my artistic expression lies primarily elsewhere in building relationships, writing, music and service. At Sugarhouse I am a maker, and production manager, a business partner and boss, and play a role as a support for my wife and her artistic expression. Making sure we have enough pieces coming through the studio to pay our bills and employees so she can spend time creating limited edition pieces that bring new interest and develop new products for our line. But the vitality of the world is found in the artists and the more we consciously choose to support them, the more vibrant and beautiful our world becomes, at least that’s my view.
What a beautiful piece. I loved reading about the collaboration between artists and really helping artists to grow and thrive in their business and development. I was immediately drawn to these Amber West Lady Vessels specifically BECAUSE the figures look like ordinary women. They look like me. You know how they say that people look for themselves in art (whether it’s a song, painting, film or sculpture), I think everyone is looking for something to relate to, to see themselves reflected. That’s what I see when I look at these sculptures. Well done!
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful: the writing, the vision, the collaboration.