Gretchen in her downtown Raleigh studio. Photo credit: Juli Leonard
Gretchen in her downtown Raleigh studio. Photo credit: Juli Leonard

Hello, I am Gretchen Quinn. I’m a full-time potter living and working in Raleigh, NC. and I have two mugs in The Cup, The Mug 2019 show at Main Street Arts. I make functional pottery with a clean, modern feel. The inspiration for my work comes mainly from what I want to have and use in my own home. I’m definitely under the spell of well-made crafts and much of what I make spins out from my love of Danish Modern and Shaker designs where simplicity, utility and honesty are among the guiding principles in their work.

Finished work for sale at the studio.
Finished work for sale at the studio.

My pieces are all handmade out of a beautiful dark brown stoneware clay and glazed in glossy white. I decorate my pots with a variety of hand-carved patterns or 22K gold luster. In the decoration process I never use pre-made patterns, templates or textures. To me, it’s the freehand markings that makes my pots feel fresh and modern and what tells the user that every piece is handmade.

My favorite part of the process.
My favorite part of the process.

Six years ago, I moved from working in a community studio to a private space. In the community studio I had a wide range of clay bodies and glaze colors available, so I always felt compelled to use them all. When I became responsible for ordering my own clay and making my glaze I decided to narrow my focus to one clay body and one glazed for a year. While I initially did this for practicality, this shift in materials is really what gave birth of my current Mix & Match collection and all these years later I’m still focused on one clay and one glaze. I love how the Mix & Match aspect of my work makes customers active participants in building their collections. Some customers will choose to stay with just one pattern, others will select a few, while some just go for it all!

A recent custom dinner plate order.
A recent custom dinner plate order.

My serious study of ceramics started at Providence College, where I received a BA in sculpture and made most of my work in clay. After graduation, I worked as a graphic designer and made pots on the side. I never stepped away from clay, but I didn’t see an avenue to make it my full-time profession. It took a cross country move from Seattle to Raleigh for me to finally take the leap into clay full-time. I’m now over 6 years in and have seen a steady, organic growth in the quality of my work and in my business. In addition to my studio work I teach ceramics at the North Carolina State University Crafts Center. The combination of teaching and making work for my business has been a huge point of growth. It forced me to slow down and think through my technique and reflect on the elements that go into making a good pot.

Mix & Match lamps.
Mix & Match lamps.

My studio is a space that I share with three other female potters. We run our businesses independently and make very different work, but we are all equally committed to our love for working in clay. Being able to share our kiln firings and buy our clay together in bulk allows us to speed the making process and to save on our material expenses. It makes for an interesting dynamic as we are all from different backgrounds and generations, but together we freely share our vast clay skills and push each other forward in our work and our businesses.

At work in my studio. Photo credit: Juli Leonard
At work in my studio.
Photo credit: Juli Leonard

I am truly thrilled that I get to work with clay every day. There is just something magical about turning a humble lump of clay into a beautiful, functional product. See more of my work at www.gretchenquinn.com and follow me on Instagram @gretchen.quinn


Gretchen Quinn is one of 44 artists included in the 4th annual The Cup, The Mug exhibition on the second floor at Main Street Arts, a national juried exhibition of drinking vessels. The Cup, The Mug runs through December 14, 2019.

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