-By Dawn Alexander
When you picture a homemade potter you probably imagine an old hippie woman in her garage at a potting wheel surrounded by gardening supplies and various half finished crafts with incense smoke in the air getting ready for the next local fair. You’re least likely to imagine my friend Matt, a young guy in his 30s who skateboards and drums in a badass punk rock band, Velcron. No, Matt Heauser isn’t a stereo type of pottery in fact, I learned that the stereo type of pottery is quickly changing as pottery becomes more popular with younger, “hip” people, and Matt leads the way with his amazing work and years of commitment to the craft.
He started messing around on the wheel when he was 4 years old. His great grandmother started in the pottery business in 1953. His grandmother then passed down this love of pottery to his mother and then naturally onto him. Though his grandmother was the one to give him his first lesson he really didn’t find a passion for it until his summer breaks in college in Seattle. This is when he started to make it his steady course of income.
“It’s been my main source of income since I graduated college…I’ve never been able to get fully into something else” -Matt Haeuser
During his early years in Seattle he started with small projects like magnets and ornaments where he could master using glaze. Glaze, I learned is how you add the color. It’s a mix of chemicals, clay and metals and depending on the temperature that the piece is fired in the glaze reacts and changes color so some prediction is required in advance to the final product when it comes to design. “So you might have something that looks pink”, Matt explains, “but when you dip it but turns into something that looks green”.
By 2004 as he got better at “throwing” as he puts it, which is a phrase that refers to making pieces on the wheel. He decided he could either sell these items or get a low paying 9-5 gig. He took the obvious choice and decided to make a living off of his creativity. He had an advantage since his family owns and operates Orcas Island Pottery. This gave him a place to sell his creations easily so he never had to worry much about the sales end. The issue was that the shop was in Orcas Island and Matt was still living in Seattle at this time. Luckily his brother was also in Seattle so he was able to use his brothers’ garage studio. He used something called a bisqueware,It’s when the pot is fired in a Kiln the first time and is turned into stone. He would then take an hour and a half drive and a ferry ride to Orcas with what he had turned to stone and finish the glaze process when he arrived.
In 2009 he moved to LA, a lot more than just a short drive and a ferry to Orcas. Like most of us he struggled with the “How am I gonna make a living here” dilemma. He had friends, fellow Orcas Island transplants, the band, his drums but now there was the challenge to continue to make and sell his work which was becoming more and more of a passion for him. He was able to find a space to create his pieces and still traveled to Orcas about 3 times a year. “I would stuff my Honda full of pottery box after box, full of stuff.”, says Matt.
Mugs were his specialty for a long time. They are always in demand. It’s that perfect gift for the boss or co-worker. In my cabinet I have about 3 favorite mugs that I prefer to drink my coffee out of so I understand the attachments to a favorite mug. “People love mugs”, Matt says. He’s probably made over 10,000 mugs to date. Most days he makes standard shaped mugs but some days he’ll feel more creative and make about 100 different mugs all unique.
Eventually Matt wanted to sell locally. LA offers so many merchant and art festivals, markets and boutiques so he tried a few shops but the demands for 50% of all sales wasn’t too profitable. He settled on selling at some farmers markets and some of his items are currently displayed and for sale at Good Dirt LA, where he also teaches. Good Dirt is a hip spot to learn pottery, unlike smaller towns where the pottery is more geared to the older crowds, young people in LA seem to be drawn to getting their hands in the clay. “There are a lot of younger people that come in (to Good Dirt)” Matt explains, “I think its more to get back (to being) connected to the earth and do something with your hands because of a lot of people work in tech or graphic design and they love doing something where they can see the final product and it’s real”
His creativity is growing past bowls and standard mugs. He’s experimenting with various sculpture. He’ll just throw a piece and modify and sculpt it after, going with the feeling and adding to it. Currently he’s been making detailed tiki mugs and creative octopus designs on mugs and sculptures.
Matt will be leaving LA real soon so join one of his classes at Good Dirt LA asap. You can order or commission work from him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or the links below. Get your POT on!
Matt Haeuser on INSTAGRAM