From start to finish, all of Catie Miller hand makes all of her products.
But where did you learn that “business” information that you needed?
I scoured the internet for a lot of free stuff, listened to podcasts, and also took classes. I still take classes now to figure things out, and I try to be pretty intentional about it. I think that sometimes things can seem really effortless, but when things seem effortless, it’s because there’s a lot of hidden effort that you don’t see.
What are some of the most important things you’ve learned along the way?
Just continuing to work and not being too inflexible in your learning. For the last year, I’ve been opposed to doing reels on Instagram. This sounds so stupid. But a majority of my business is promoting on social media, and after the new year, I realized that it seems like reels are how people are getting seen now. You have to play the game that is set up.
Everything has a really graphic feel to it. I’ve always really loved that cartoon quality. Over the years, I’ve figured out a way to create that quality in a more sophisticated way.
I don’t like to use black lines a lot because coloring books use black lines. I use a lot of green or blue lines instead.
Really, it’s about continuing to build on a collection of images. I have a library of images that I kind of pull from. And then, when I’m really stuck, I try to tweak some of those. Eventually, when you tweak those enough, it turns into something really new.
Do you ever come out of left field and just try something completely different?
Yes, there are lots of things I do that aren’t well received.
I make these worms right now and it’s because my two toddler boys love bugs and they love worms. After it rains, we go outside and pick up worms and collect them in buckets. And people either really hate them or love them.
I like to weave those stories into my work. It keeps things fresh and fun for me.
How do you make your products?
There are a lot of different processes for the making of the clay piece, from throwing on the wheel to hand-building to my most recent exploration in slip casting. Once the piece is formed, I decorate them with my illustrations while they’re in the greenware stage using colored slips. Then, the designs get fired onto the pieces using a kiln to transform them into bisqueware. The final step is they get glazed and fired once again to make them food safe and functional.
Are all of the dishes in your house handmade?
All of our dishes are handmade, but they’re not all made by me. We have a huge collection of ceramics from trading with other artists and buying from other artists. I’ve collected enough that all of our dishes are handmade which throws people off.
Where are you looking to take the business from here?
I’m always looking to make things a bit more efficient. But, part of the reason people like the work that I make is because I make it myself. It has this handmade quality to it. At the same time, there are limits to how much one person can do. I’m also really interested in doing things that make Fargo Moorhead cooler. So, right now, I’m working with the city of Moorhead to sculpt a giant fiberglass beaver that is going to be painted one bring color and put in a park so kids can potentially climb on it.
To find her products, visit etsy.com/shop/ catiemillerceramics