Author: Jacob Took
Photography: Schaun Champion
It doesn’t take much to build out a ceramics studio — a wheel, plenty of shelf space, a kiln, and a steady pair of hands.
But as Whitney sought to scale up Personal Best Ceramics, she wanted to leave the shared studio she’d frequented for years to find a space where she could spread out and work on her own terms. That led her to move into a 5,000-square-foot studio in Greenmount East, where she set up shop earlier this year with a wheel, workbenches and three refurbished kilns.
“I learned a lot at the shared studio,” Whitney says. “It really helped me prepare for having my own space.”
She traces her experience with pottery back to the early days in her middle school art classes making pinch-pots for family members. Studying painting at Maryland Institute College of Art, she took additional ceramics classes, but she had thoughts about the industry gatekeepers and their ideas about who could take up the craft and how it should be done. It wasn’t until 2015, years after graduating, that she once again found herself drawn to pottery.
“People want modern, functional forms and cool shit,” she said. “I decided to take a crack at it.”
What started off as a side hustle grew into something much bigger as she brought her products to trade shows and built her network. When the pandemic hit, Whitney reevaluated and realized that she was ready to step into entrepreneurship full-time. She had access to equipment and classes through the shared studio, but worried about taking up too much space and wasting time moving materials to and from her home. So she started looking for other options.
She credits Made In Baltimore’s Home-Run Accelerator program with helping her find her current space, as well as connecting her with opportunities for grant funding to make it affordable. The move has allowed her to grow, and she wants to use the space to make pottery more accessible to creators who face challenges to getting established in the industry.
“The opportunities and the resources it opens up are so valuable,” she says about Made In Baltimore. “They’re very hands-on with support.”
The Home-Run Accelerator also helped her secure paid interns from MICA to help her scale up production while spreading her love and knowledge of the craft. Still, she identifies bringing on employees as a barrier to growth, saying she doesn’t want to exploit anyone.
“You can’t just not pay people when business is down,” she says. “I’m not sure about adding employees unless I’m doing well enough that I know they will be taken care of.”
To learn more visit: personalbestceramics.com