I have always been told that great things can be found at the end of long dirt roads, and potter Sarah Van Raden is no exception. Nestled just outside the city centre of Portland, she shares her home with her husband, two sweet girls and a fresh batch of baby chicks.
Sarah is the hands and heart behind Notary Ceramics. A photo stylist for years, she recently returned to potting, spending every opportunity in her studio until the wheel felt like home and the pieces that came from it felt like love.
She tells me she has found her passion and it is truly evident everywhere you look. From the little clay handprints on her studio wall, to the vase holding fresh cuttings from the yard, home and work are woven together.
I have always been a very tactile person. In college I took several art classes, including one semester of ceramics. I loved the feeling of making things with clay but I had no confidence in my abilities to throw. Instead I immersed myself in other art forms. I loved sewing and created a small collection of clothing, and wound up eventually working as a buyer for a high end boutique. This led to a decade long career as a commercial photo stylist. Last year I had a pretty major health scare that forced me to stop styling and encouraged me to focus my energy on my family and finding what truly made me happy. I began taking an evening class at a local art school in beginner pottery. I quickly fell back in love with it. I especially loved working on the wheel as it was centering, grounding, and most importantly, very relaxing. What I longed for more than anything was to create in the comfort of my own home. I bought a small kiln and wheel off Craigslist and spent every spare moment creating things. I put all of my energy into creating this little ceramic business. I have had Notary Ceramics for about a year now and my expectations for this business have blown me away. I couldn't be happier with the stockists and regular customers that I have the pleasure of working with. I am truly living my own dream.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration comes to me from so many places. I'm particularly drawn to organic shapes in clean simple silhouettes. Nature is probably my largest influencer, but I also love to look at fashion, home decor, and design.
What do you like most about where you live?
I live on a relatively quiet dirt road in the city of Portland. I love that it feels like the country life that I grew up in, yet I am only 15 minutes from downtown. The community that I live in is small, friendly and unpretentious. The perfect place to raise our two girls.
What are the benefits and challenges of working from home?
Working at home has been an incredible gift for me. Before when I was working as a photo stylist, my hours were long and I was often away from my kids for days at a time. I felt a lot of guilt about not being in their daily life. Now I get to work out of our basement, which is less than glamorous, however it affords me the freedom to be available to them even when they are being watched by a sitter. This also comes with its own challenges. It is sometimes hard to focus, there are many interruptions throughout my day, and I find that I do miss interactions with coworkers and other adults. Luckily my daughters don't let many hours go by without a quick visit, smooch, or a delivery of a little gift.
How do you find balance?
I find balance by being in my home, constantly around my family. I love that after I tuck the girls in at night I can slip down into my studio for a quick hour to wrap things up. And I try hard to make time for my husband and I without our daughters and without work. I think it's very important to maintain the magic of our relationship in the midst of our daily chaos.
Can you speak about a meaningful collaboration you have been a part of?
My dear friends Carla and Rebecca at Alder and Co. in Portland, OR have been incredibly supportive of me and my business from day one. They were selling my candlesticks when they leaned a little too far to the left and when my bowls couldn't possibly stack. They have been an amazing inspiration to me and have encouraged my business to grow. They are soon to be opening a second location in upstate New York and I am proud to say that I will be creating an exclusive collaboration for them and the opening of their new store.
I am also very inspired by you girls at HOLD. You beautifully blend the lifestyle that I want to lead with the products that I want to fill my home with. I'm so grateful to be creating things for you to sell on your lovely little island.
If not pottery, then what?
Honestly I can't imagine my life without pottery at this time. I feel like I've just finally found my niche and I have no interest in abandoning it anytime soon. That said, I could definitely foresee incorporating ceramics into an avenue where I get to work with children.
What is your favourite vegetable?
My favourite vegetables are brussel sprouts. I love how big they grow in my garden, how beautifully they pick and how my daughters will gobble them up with nothing but a little butter and salt sprinkled on them.
We are delighted to have Sarah's immaculately crafted pieces available at HOLD. and even more so to be working with someone with such a similarly focused heart behind it.