Notary Ceramics

At Home at the Wheel

Zigzag Black

The growing body of work formed by Sarah VanRaden under the moniker Notary Ceramics is indeed of note. Minimal yet warm, inviting and delicate, Sarah’s collection embodies the quiet elegance and homey, intimate practice of its maker. From traditional techniques spring a myriad of uniquely simple designs, cast and clad in layers of human imagination. They proudly reflect a refreshing honesty, glazed in the imperfect whimsy and fragility of an authentic life.

As a mother of two, working from a cozy adjoined garage studio, Sarah’s life and work are never far apart. Meeting her and her daughters as they skipped and hugged, surrounded by clay and the slight aroma of incense gave a glimpse into what define her work: the warmth of home, the beautiful surprises hidden in motherhood, and a deep grace that charms and soothes.

What is your professional background?

I got my BA in Anthropology but upon graduating worked for a year in multiple floral shops. I later landed a job as a buyer at an upscale women’s boutique. One of my customers at the boutique was a magazine editor and suggested I get into the world of photo styling. Her words let to a ten year career as a freelancer focusing on mainly fashion styling.

What inspired you to begin making pottery? What or who brought you back around?

I took a semester of ceramics in college and was horrible at it. I had a teacher who was less than supportive. Trying to find a balance between work and being home with my children was a struggle and I felt like I needed a creative outlet. My husband gifted me evening ceramics classes at a local art school and I slowly began to fall in love with the calming nature of ceramics. After experiencing a pretty severe health crisis in 2015 I decided to quit my job as a stylist and began focusing on learning more about ceramics. I saved up and bought an old wheel and kiln on Craigslist and spent all of my available time practicing throwing. I grew up in a creatively supportive family with a mother who is an artist and an uncle who is a professional potter. His background gave me the confidence to try and make this a career.

How do you describe your style and approach to your work?

I’m drawn to things that are minimal and simple, yet warm and inviting. I try to make ceramics that appeal to all different aesthetics. My approach is to avoid looking at other people’s work so that I can remain inspired by other art forms, nature, fashion and overall functionality.

You describe your love of pottery is rooted in “the imperfection, the wobbles, the wonkyness.” What do you love about imperfection?

The lack of pressure that it seems to require. I also love that handmade things are imperfect in nature. The wonkyness and variations add to the sense that it was made by a person, not a machine.

You run your business from an attached basement/garage. What is the most rewarding part of your process and running a business from home?

That I get to hear my children’s footsteps on the floor above me and that I feel connected to my home and family. Pottery involves a lot of steps. The ability to access my studio at any time of day takes the stress out of timing each step right. There’s nothing better than cracking open a warm kiln in your pajamas.

How did you arrive at your color palates and forms?

My husband is an amazing cook and I love making dishes that make his food look good. It’s important that the pieces look earthy and simple, yet compliment a meal and not detract from it. Seasonally I like to introduce a couple of new pieces to my line. This past summer there was a berry strainer inspired by the strawberries growing in my garden. This winter I will be introducing a garlic roasting dish.

Finally, how did you arrive at the name Notary?

To Notarize is to authenticate an original. This seemed like a really good description for a potter and an artist who is constantly creating original, one of a kind pieces.