Artisan Spotlight - Black Oak Art
I love the story behind Black Oak Art. Jonathan started his business on the side after he graduated from Baylor University. No matter how much he loved throwing pottery, he never imagined it would turn into a full time business. But with the support of his family, he went for it and chased his dream unapologetically. Working with Jonathan and the rest of the artisans at Black Oak Art is such a privilege, and I’m proud that Magnolia is able to partner with this local business and bring their hand-thrown creations to our customers worldwide.
What is the story of your business?
Well, I graduated in 2000 from Baylor University with a studio art degree where I mostly did ceramics. Shortly after that, I started making things in my apartment and then later on set up my garage, plugged in a small kiln and began working. It was as simple as that. I started making all kinds of things and then just selling them around town. I was teaching at the time, so I just viewed it as a hobby that I enjoyed doing. I started making mugs because they were easy to make, not too cumbersome and easy to store, which was key since I didn’t have any space. Things took a turn when I made some mugs from our friend, Jill Barrett, who, at the time, owned a coffee shop called Common Grounds. That’s when I realized how much people loved personalized products. Shortly after, we heard from Joanna. She asked us to start making mugs as thank you gifts for families whose homes they were remodeling. When she opened her shop, I wasn’t even doing mugs anymore, but I agreed to bring her about 50 mugs a week.
Where do you find inspiration for creating new designs?
We have our own style, but we also try to adopt the style of the business we are working with too. So, with every project, we do a design consultation to help merge what the customer wants with our brand as a business. Sometimes while we are working, we will think of an idea and run with it until we develop something new. Our goal is to make it functional, but also aesthetically pleasing for the customer.
How did you first get involved with the trade of crafting pottery?
It’s actually a funny story because I kind of became interested in pottery on accident. My senior year of high school, I chose ceramics as an elective because I thought it would be a fun and easy A. It turns out that I loved it. I would come in before and after school, and I was always bugging the teacher to open up the studio. At Baylor, I looked for a way to fit in some ceramics classes in between my history and Spanish courses, so finally I just told myself I would go for it and declared my major in studio art.
How long does it take you to create one mug?
Well, now we are able to produce batches that are much more efficient with our time, but if someone ordered one custom mug, it would be at least a week. There are several processes with pottery, so for this particular project, I would start by crafting the cylinder. Then I’d let it dry for 24 hours, finish the bottom, add the handle, and have it sit out and air dry again for a couple of days before putting it in the kiln, which takes another couple of days.
How has your partnership with Magnolia grown?
It’s been fun to watch Magnolia grow, because we were there from the beginning. I remember days where I would personally drop off our ceramics to Joanna who would be working behind the counter of the little shop. We didn’t even have paperwork to document anything back then! It was always just as casual as “Okay, I’ll get a check to you soon.”
What advantage would you say your products have over mass manufactured products you would find in a department store?
It’s important to us that we enrich people’s daily lives with the products we’re creating. We want to provide affordable, quality handmade goods. What we have found is that you can get good, quality products from overseas, or that are mass produced, but they’re missing an X factor. We almost call it a soul. There’s something about a handmade piece, whether it’s just because of the differences in each one, the way it feels in your hand, or the attention to how it was made, that speaks of the people that made it. So, I think there’s something unique that not only keeps the functionality of holding your morning coffee, but also enriches the whole experience. We hear it from our customers, “Your pieces are the ones that we reach for when we open up our cabinet,” and that’s our goal. We want to take what we make beyond just the function and turn it into an experience. It’s almost as if every piece has a story behind it.