Interview with Sarah Kandell-Gritzmaker of Slate Studio Supply

My interviewee today is a bead maker I have long admired: Sarah Kandell Gritzmaker of Slate Studio Supply.  When I first came across the world of art beads, her pieces were amongst that special handful that really caught my eye and whispered, ‘Own me!’. Now that I make ceramic beads myself, I am still full of admiration, particularly for her glazes, which she has made and developed herself, and the wonderful finish she achieves. On top of her super beads, she also makes some pretty fabulous jewellery and amazing sculptures. Read on to find out more…. and for a sneaky discount code!

I gather you started working with clay quite some time ago. Can you
tell us a bit more about how this came about?

My clay history is long and
winding, but here’s the condensed version…I was lucky enough to be introduced
to clay at an early age through my high school’s art program. It’s doubtful
that I showed much natural aptitude for working with clay at first, but I loved
the process of physically making something and then transforming it in the
kiln.  That enthusiasm was enough to
propel me into continuing with clay into college, where I spent almost three
years as a science major before deciding to focus solely on art. Eventually, I
ended up in a graduate program in ceramics, and I finished my master’s degree
in 2014.
What led you to start making beads?

In college, I
went to a bead show on a whim, and it was there that the bead addiction began!
I also saw Marsha Neal’s ceramic pendants at that show, and little light popped
on in my head that I could actually make beads out of clay. I was just
finishing a series of largish ceramic sculptures (four feet tall or so), and it
was such a nice change to work on a smaller, more intimate scale after that
project. I became a little obsessed with making beads…and still am!

You make fabulous beads but I don’t think I’ve seen many of your own
jewelry designs. Do you often make jewelry yourself?

I actually started out making beads to use in my own
jewelry designs, but I’ve shifted to making mostly components. Personally, I
find it more exciting and rewarding to be involved in a teeny part of someone
else’s creative jewelry process.  I’m
also quite slow at making jewelry, which didn’t help in the production area. I
still love to design, but mostly just for personal enjoyment, to give as gifts,
or for occasional publications.

You mix up a lot of your own glazes, something I’d love to
try doing myself. Can you tell us more about that- without giving away any
secrets obviously!

I do make the majority of my glazes from scratch. I’m
not sure it’s the most practical endeavor, to be honest, but keep in mind that
I’m still kind of a chemistry nerd. It is a great excuse to run experiments,
and I do so love a surprise! I’ve done a ridiculous amount of testing to see
what different glazes will act like, which has really helped me understand how
the materials in a glaze work together to create different effects.
 For those of
you who may be unfamiliar with making glazes from scratch, you might think of
glaze mixing/testing like making a cake. For instance, you can take a basic
vanilla cake recipe and create a million variations by adding different kinds
of fruit, or chocolate, or whatever. Along the way, you will get to know what
works or doesn’t work for that particular cake recipe. And if something is
wrong with your cake (or glaze), you know exactly what is in it, so you can
tweak the ingredients to fix or change it to your liking.
One big difference between baking a cake and glaze
making, however, is that many of the dry materials for making glazes (and in
commercially bought glazes) can be hazardous if handled improperly. It’s really
important to work in a well-ventilated area, with a respirator, and with gloves,
especially when you’re mixing powdered materials. If you are going to make
glazes, a great place to start would be at a college, university, or studio
where they usually have a great variety of the materials you’ll need as well as
systems in place for safety and disposal of waste. That being said, making your
own glazes is a lot of fun and can allow you to discover and create your own
unique finishes. Plus you get to play mad scientist!
Do you make anything else with clay, other than beads?
I do! I make sculptures and exhibit nationally. A while back, I did
a whole series of work that was inspired by the structures of bead weaving! My
current work also reflects that love of modular components and repetition. The
beads and sculpture inform each other, and I flip back and forth between the
two, with a dash of pottery thrown in here and there.
What is your workspace like?

My husband and I moved and started new jobs this summer, so it’s
still getting settled. I usually form the beads at home and hide them under the
chairs! Then I take them to the studio to do all the messy stuff: clean up,
firing, glazing, etc.  All my glazes live
in the basement of our apartment building until I need them (and feel brave
enough to deal with the enormous spiders down there!) I typically have multiple
projects going on at one time and make a big mess.
Are there any ceramists or bead makers that you’ve found
particularly influential or that you particularly admire?

The ceramic bead-making community is a generous and friendly one,
and I count myself very blessed indeed to be a part of it. I became involved
early on with the wonderful group of makers that founded the Ceramic Art Bead
Market (www.facebook.com/groups/CeramicArtBeadMarket), and they have been a
great source of support, inspiration, and information in all regards.
My great friend Cassandra at Beads to Live By was the first one to encourage me to get my work out into the
world, and more specifically into her fabulous bead store! I’m so grateful for
her support and entrepreneurial example through the years. Marsha NealMinutella has also graciously answered many of my beginner business questions,
and she and Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Studio have
been a great examples of making beads professionally.
What plans do you have for the future? Where will you take your
beads next?

I would love to get more beads out into the world! I’m exploring
options right now, including doing more trunk shows at bead stores and becoming
a vendor at some of the larger bead shows. I love to interact with people face
to face at the shows, talk beads, and see what they are drawn to creating with.
I also just got my website up and running- woohoo! www.slatestudiossupply.com will be
the main venue for my newest work, which features organic, fossil-inspired
textures in a wide range of glazes and colors. 
I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think!

After making beads for several years now, I finally feel like the
beads I’m making are starting to be in my own voice. I came across a baggie the
other day of some of the first beads I created, and thought it was too strange
that what I’m currently making is actually very similiar in style to those
first attempts – it just took me several years and a few thousand beads to
circle back around. I’m excited to continue on this journey and see where it
takes me.
Thank you, Sarah, for your generosity with your expertise and time!

And to add to this, Sarah has kindly set up a discount code so you can go and snap up some of these beauties with a 20% discount! Visit either her website or her Etsy shop and use the discount code ABSLOVE20. The code is active now and valid through 24th October.

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7 Comment

  1. Gale
    October 17, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    I've used a lot of Sarah's beads in my jewelry, and it was fun to learn more about her and her work. Off to check out her new site!

  2. Julie Wong Sontag
    October 17, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Ooh, a great interview! Such lovely, inspiring work! I love that mad scientist element 🙂 xo Julie

  3. Soul Silver
    October 17, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Gorgeous work and a lovely interview 🙂

  4. Terri
    October 17, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Gorgeous work! What a wonderful interview!

  5. Kristen
    October 18, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I love your beads but your sculptures are amazing! They grabbed my attention right away. The white rings emerging from the black brick is incredible, I love it!

  6. Lynn
    October 18, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    I love Sarah's components and the necklace I made with one of her rustic starfish is one of my favorites—the starfish is so wonderful! Great interview and article. Just love her creations!

  7. Slate Studios
    October 19, 2015 at 2:58 am

    Thanks to all of you for reading and sharing your thoughts and kind words! I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to do the interview 🙂 xo

Comments are closed.