Since starting her business just last year, Britt Gerhard’s work has caught the attention of the design community with her stunningly simple yet widely versatile collection of wheel-thrown vases. Her signature Skala collection has made appearances in noteworthy publications like Architectural Digest and has become a beloved staple for Bay Area floral designers.
If I had to imagine what Britt's studio space looked like based on her product aesthetic, I think my vision would have been quite close to reality. Warm, minimal, and whitewashed with an abundance of natural light—I selfishly breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my job here will be easy.
Britt and I chat as I snap photos and both share our background stories. One thing I always find refreshing (and surprising) when chatting with small business owners and makers like Britt, is how consistently humbled they are by their success. In this day and age, doing the thing that brings you the most joy and making a living tend to be thought of as mutually exclusive concepts. But for those who have figured out how to marry the two concepts—it can be an entirely surprising, humbling and exciting experience. And Britt’s gratitude is a refreshing and inspiring representation of just that.
We had the chance to chat with Britt about her experience working with ceramics and starting her business—read on for more!
Your pieces are so beautifully simple and serene. What inspires your aesthetic?
That’s so kind! I strive to create pieces that evoke the hallmarks of Scandinavian design: warm functionality, clean lines, and understated elegance. I’m also often inspired by classic forms. For example, my Skala vases were initially inspired by a galvanized milk can. It's an interesting design challenge to recreate something in a way that fits my brand values.
Ceramicist hasn't always been your job title--give us a little of your back story and what pulled you towards this line of work.
I am on my third career! My B.A. is in political science and government. After college I worked for for a district attorney, a congresswoman, a mayor, and in political consulting. It was a great experience that opened my eyes to public relations, campaign development, and branding. Expanding on that knowledge, I then transitioned into visual and user experience design. Because I was spending so much time designing on the computer, I decided to revisit pottery, a hobby I’d had as a child. The second I sat down at the pottery wheel, I felt like I was home.
What are the three most valuable pieces of information you've learned since starting your business?
Be patient. Pottery is so different than the world of instant results we live in. In ceramics, there aren’t any instant undos. It is a slow and evolving process. It took me an entire year of practicing only one shape to make the Skala vases in a way that I was happy with.
Be brave. Putting yourself out there is hard! It’s been a very rewarding but sometimes terrifying journey thus far. Taking the leap, and committing to doing something you’re passionate about, takes courage!
Work smart. There are a lot of hats to wear when you run your own business. It’s important to realize when it’s time to prioritize to-do’s and bring on help with you need it.
What are some difficult aspects of working in ceramics that "outsiders" don't always see?
Working in clay is like wrangling with the elements. There are a lot of uncertainties and variables. Because mud, water, and fire can be unpredictable, there are many successes and many disappointments. I had to learn early on to enjoy the process because I’m never certain a piece will survive while making it.
What do you most appreciate about the work that you do?
Using my hands to make a product is an amazingly grounding process. I love creating things that people can use in their lives.
How do you spend your time when you're not in your studio?
I’m getting married in June so I’ve been spending a lot of time prepping for the big day. I also love swimming, yoga, and cycling.