I was interviewed by CanvasRebel magazine, whose mission is to create a space for artists, creatives and entrepreneurs to be able to learn from their peers through the magic and power of storytelling. Check out the interview below:
Gopi, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Have you been able to earn a full-time living from your creative work? If so, can you walk us through your journey and how you made it happen? Was it like that from day one? If not, what were some of the major steps and milestones and do you think you could have sped up the process somehow knowing what you know now?
I am able to earn a full-time living from my ceramics work. It was a long journey that I started nearly 10 years ago when I decided to pursue a career in it. In my early 20s, I was too risk-adverse to be financially unstable, so I saved money by living at home and working a traditional 9-5 job. Once I felt comfortable investing in my artistic pursuits, I started my business part time, while working under a ceramic mentor and taking temporary jobs. It was a slow beginning, while I built up my name and my business, but after partnering with other small businesses, I finally felt like I had enough money coming in that I could go full-time.
Gopi, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My name is Gopi. I am a native-Angeleno who currently lives in Long Beach. I started working with clay while in high-school and continued taking courses in college and post-college at local community colleges and art schools. I loved working with clay in high school and had an amazing and inspirational teacher who taught us various disciplines and techniques with clay and glass.
After college, I worked in environmental and public health non-profits while taking courses at a local community college. My partner and I decided to move from LA to Austin for his career, and while there, he encouraged me to pursue my dream working with clay. I found a mentor in Austin who taught me how to become a professional potter and not just do pottery in an academic setting. After that, I started my business slowly and organically until it has grown into what it is today.
Gopi Shah Ceramics is a South Asian, woman-owned pottery studio that has been featured in Curbed and The Jungalow, displayed at the Craft Contemporary, and sold in West Elm and Anthropologie. My business has also been featured in international commercials for Quickbooks and FedEx. I create handcrafted, functional stoneware pieces that can be used every day.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative in your experience?
The most rewarding aspect of being an artist is my customer base. The reason I work so hard and what brings me the most joy is when I receive compliments from customers or when I have a client place a reorder or tell a friend about my business. It’s an overwhelming gratitude knowing that people appreciate my craft.
Have you ever had to pivot?
The onset of COVID-19 was a huge pivot point for me as well as many of the small businesses I worked with. I was wholesaling with shops and boutiques before they had to shut down for the pandemic and many of my friends who own small businesses had to close for good. It was a scary time for everyone, but I was very grateful that so many people were so generous with their money during this time and tried to support artists and creatives. I pivoted my business from working more with wholesale orders to doing more direct to consumer orders. This was also a time that instead of making items once they were ordered, I switched to doing more shop updates and having product in stock so that people could purchase and get their order within the week.