Autobiography by Joel Cherrico
My name is Joel Cherrico and I'm a potter. At 18 years old, for some odd reason, I decided that I wanted to figure out how to make a living as a potter. After years working towards mastery of my craft, my hope is to inspire all humanity to think deeply about art, humanity and our place in the Universe over a cup of coffee.
This is my autobiography, written in mostly chronological order, with a whole bunch missing.
Pottery all started for me in high school. I graduated from Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, US in 2006, winning the class award for "Outstanding Achievement in Art."
I moved to Minnesota, studied at The College of St. Benedict/St. John's University and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Art (Distinction) magna cum laude. Freshman year, the St. John's Pottery inspired me to study Art at CSB/SJU after spending one year in high school making pottery with the book, "Body of Clay, Soul of Fire" across from my pottery wheel.
During college, I studied pottery, sculpture, installation, kiln design and entrepreneurship. After switching from Biology/Pre-Medicine to Art freshman year, I decided that I wanted to figure out how to create a career as a full-time potter.
My goal was to treat as much of my college experience as possible as a four year pottery apprenticeship. Two years working two unpaid internships at JD Jorgenson Pottery taught me first hand about the hard work and dedication involved in building a pottery studio. JD's work ethic and dedication to natural materials inspired me to explore an earthen aesthetic, while working on a large scale, like building kilns as big as cars.
Inside the 5ft. x 6ft. x 16ft. long kiln interior, loading pots, and then firing with wood up to 2400 degrees F, 2007
Working in the college Ceramics Studio all four years gave me more experience with technical aspects of ceramics, while supervising and teaching other students. Samuel Johnson was the key mentor who guided me during this job.
Three months working in the St. John's Woodshop also gave me woodworking experience, facility and wood to build pottery shelving for an exhibition I created in a student gallery.
During the end of my third year in college, I switched from pottery production to abstract sculpture. This led to the start of my senior thesis and Mindscape: Abstract Art Installation with over 1,000 Ceramic Sculptures.
After exploring abstract sculpture and installation, I felt compelled to return to pottery with new aesthetic interests. A few thousand dollars worth of pottery sales outside of my class schedule was a big motivator. I also wanted to create artwork that people could eat and drink from everyday, with a goal of making pottery that embodied the "awe factor" of Mindscape.
Pottery production dominated the second half of my senior thesis, working closely with my ceramics professor Samuel Johnson.
My honors thesis committee also included numerous critiques and a thesis defense with Sam, Art professor Rachel Melis, and Artist in Resident Richard Bresnahan. As I returned to pottery production, I also began taking business and entrepreneurship classes under professor Paul Marsnik to answer the next question looming over my head: is there any possible way I'll be able to make a living as a potter after college graduation?
I started by the bus stop, selling pots for about $10 each and made over $5,000 in a few years, giving me research to support a potential business idea.
After graduating, I was awarded a Post-Baccalaureate Artist Residency from CSB/SJU. This provided facility to mass produce pottery, while using sales of my artwork to launch a small business venture. The McNeely Entrepreneurship Center at St. Johns University awarded me an $8,000 small business loan to help start the venture.
Since 2010, I have made artwork full-time in a small studio in St. Joseph, MN. I showcase my artwork locally at the Local Blend coffee shop in town, where community members eat and drink from my pottery everyday. We developed an innovative business model to enrich the restaurant with my handmade pottery, while providing an interactive art experience. This venue has been an early cornerstone of my career, which you can read about in this interview with the American Craft Council.
In 2014, the American Craft Council and I worked to create a website blog series called, "A Potter's Journey." This story reveals insights about how I developed a plan to become a full-time potter and small business owner:
After writing the eighth ACC blog post, I decided to change the direction of my business from mostly local sales to mostly global pottery sales and shipping pottery worldwide. My goal was to use my newest body of artwork, which I decided to call, Cosmic Mugs," to help pottery enter the mainstream media. One of our first, notable steps was getting them published in Ceramics TECHNICAL magazine.
In 2015, Cosmic Mugs raised $34,099 on Kickstarter and were shipped to 16 countries. This project helped validate the idea that Cosmic Mugs could be truly innovative, revolutionary pieces of functional artwork. It also allowed me to spend time on deep practice to attempt and achieve the pottery Guinness World Records™ title for 'most pots thrown in one how by an individual.' You can watch me achieve this epic feat here:
You can also watch this Live interview and pottery demonstration with Guinness World Records in the Cherrico Pottery office: "Spinning And Winning: Joel Cherrico - Most Pots Thrown In One ..."
While I am no longer the Guinness World Records title holder, the project helped introduce my art to hundreds of thousands of new fans.
Cosmic Mugs eventually evolved into Moon Mugs...
And I built a whole extra body of artwork in all kinds of various pottery styles.
I also began expanding my art away from mugs, making a new type of Cosmic Wall Platter. Numerous platters have sold and two are owned by two different celebrities, and we are working towards exhibiting them in New York City art galleries.
We also expanded our ideas into designing a Factory Made Cosmic Mug, to make the art available to more people in higher quantities: creating up to 10,000 mugs in a single month, which takes me 2 years to make by hand. These mugs are made in the one place in the world that has been perfecting the art of mass producing pottery for over 1,000 years: a city called Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, China. Have you ever wondered why "Fine China" is what we we call porcelain pottery?
I thought this project might help 1M+ people drink from an affordable Cosmic Mug. I testing this project by sourcing 1,000 mugs, and they all sold. But for tons of reasons, I ended the project.
While continuing to grow Cherrico Pottery, I married the love of my life, Sienna Dubbeldee-Kuhn Cherrico, who now also works full-time at Cherrico Pottery too.
Sienna is our Business Secretary and helps a small team of workers photograph, pack and ship pottery all over the world.
Sienna is also a skilled artist and makes paper by hand, while creating a variety of 2-Dimensional art. You can learn more about her art in this blog post:
The Art of Making PaperTK...
We also traveled to NYC to visit the world's most eminent galleries and spend time with Neil deGrasse Tyson. You can learn more on this guest blog post they invited us to write for their website, StarTalkRadio.com
February 2020, Sienna and I purchased a home and studio in rural Minnesota, near Minneapolis/St. Paul. Our property has a 3,000 sq. ft. building for our pottery studio and office, where we can handcraft, pack and ship about 500 pots monthly for decades.
We also traveled to Malibu, CA to visit Steven Pressfield, who we collaborate with on our website mugsandbooks.com.
If you want to support my career and our goals of revolutionizing how art impacts society, please consider buying a piece of pottery.
You can also join a community of Cherrico Pottery Patrons, who support the art, Life Facebook videos and get exclusive benefits.
Patreon is the best way for you to learn about how and why we make Cherrico Pottery, and how you can start your own pottery journey.
Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about my artwork and career.
- Joel Cherrico