Alleghany Meadows is a studio potter in Carbondale, CO. He received his BA from Pitzer College, Claremont, CA, and his MFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Alleghany apprenticed with Takashi Nakazato, Kratsu, Japan, received a Watson Foundation Fellowship for Field Study of potters in Nepal, and was an artist-in-residence at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. Alleghany has presented lectures, workshops, including Penland, Alfred, Southern Methodist University, Anderson Ranch, Archie Bray Foundation, Arrowmont and Haystack. He exhibits nationally and is the founder of Artstream, a nomadic gallery, co-founder of Harvey/Meadows Gallery, Aspen, and co-founder of Studio for Arts and Works (SAW), Carbondale, CO.
As a studio potter, gallery owner, and family man is there any advice you would offer others interested in pursuing the path of a ‘maker’?
It takes a lot of work. Some of the keys for putting it together are to make the strongest work possible. Not to sacrifice aesthetics or ideals for quantity. The strength of the work will advertise better than anything else. Don’t spend much money. Do everything as inexpensively as possible so that economic pressures don’t influence aesthetics, but keep quality of work and presentation at the highest. Don’t sleep. Figure out retail sales of your work for the bulk of sales. Work with galleries and jury shows for publicity and exposure and some sales, but it is really hard to make a living as a potter selling through galleries alone. Build a mailing list of everyone who buys a piece or wants to be on the list. Nowadays, do it all electronically. Let them know of events, studio sales, national shows, etc. Basically, create a following and a community which is engaged in your work and your growth. Remain loyal to that group. They will support for everything from a wedding gift to a large commission. If you are inclined, open a gallery, or a high quality showroom at your studio, and show the best work you can. It is an immense amount of work to run a gallery, but our field is seriously lacking in good places to show and sell work. Galleries are a very important interface with the public, and educate people. As for family, find a partner who is incredibly patient.
What were some of your professional goals out of school, and how have you achieved them?
Out of school, my main goal was to make a living as a potter, making the work I wanted to make, and living where I wanted to live. The first winter out, I was a tech at the Carbondale Clay Center in Colorado. I quickly realized that such a job was not for me. I only had enough time to do one thing really well, and I chose to put pots first. Working there did give me great connections and friendships in the community which has helped to establish a local audience and enabled me to be a part of the community. To fulfill the goal, I have tried everything from making dishes for a local restaurant, donating to local and national fundraisers, teaching workshops, doing home sales/trunk shows across the country, organizing the aspen farmers market to allow crafts and selling my work there every Saturday all summer since 2002, starting Artstream and touring it as a gallery, starting a land-based gallery, etc, etc. There really is no one path, and I keep trying new things. Some of the projects have stuck and proven successful, and others were fun but way too much work for the return. Like, running an espresso booth at a local arts and crafts fair where we made cups and sold them with drinks. Three days of full overdose on espresso. One of the biggest things I have learned is that the most successful and rewarding projects have been ones that include other people rather than purely promoting myself. Artstream is the best example of this. First, it wouldn’t have been possible without tons of help. I can use it locally by myself, but on the road takes at least three people to set up and sell. At NCECA Kansas City, the debut, there were six of us. If it had been my own showroom, it would have been mildly successful, but it was a group of exciting young potters, and word spread everywhere about the show, the trailer, the group and, it was much more fun than trying to promote my own work exclusively. Our field has a funny way of weeding out the overly slick self promoters. Traditional advertising models for cars, stereos, clothes, just don’t work for individual ceramic artists.
How do you divide your time between all the things in life that need your attention and still have time to be in the studio?
It is about priorities, and knowing there will be times of the year where studio cannot come first. I assume this is similar to teaching full time. Lately, during the summer, I am so busy with farmers market and the gallery that making my own work is really hard. I stock up in spring, and make some during summer, but I know that creative time is limited and I am ok with that. I also work really well with deadlines. My family is very patient. Having a business partner in the gallery who is also an artist helps, because we cover each other when the other has a deadline or is teaching a workshop. In studio, I used to be a late night person, but recently it has been early, 4am, until the family wakes up. Then, a few hours with them, then back to studio. I am a person that always has a ton more I want to do than there is time.
What prompted your interest in starting Harvey Meadows Gallery with your partner Sam Harvey?
We both had talked about it for a while, the ripeness of the market in Aspen, the lack of ceramic art being represented, the educated market because of Anderson Ranch and other venues for ceramics. But, we were not financially able to take the plunge or the risk. It’s a scary thing to take on. The Artstream and farmers market were going great. Sam and I work together on the market. One day a woman approached and asked if we were interested in a space outside of town, in a more recent development of Aspen Highlands. We said no, but she persisted and got us to come and look. We liked the space. She made an offer for rent that was reasonable, and a month later we opened with a group show that included Andrea Gill, Ayumi Horie, Val Cushing, Peter Bandenberge and about 20 other friends who had faith in us. When she made the offer which was affordable, I struggled, knowing that it would take away lots of my own making time. I had to answer the question of, “in ten years, would I look back and regret if I didn’t try the gallery?” I didn’t want to have regrets. We really didn’t know what we were getting into. The main interest I have in the gallery is to promote the field, show work we greatly admire, and educate people about our passion. We continue to be fortunate enough to show great work by a range of young to very established artists. There is a rush to setting up shows, getting everything ready, and having it actually done by the 5pm openings.
Has owning and operating a gallery given you experience that effects how you work?
I greatly appreciate my time in the studio, and I also now understand the immense amount of work that goes into running a gallery. The gallery experience does not affect how I work except for taking away a bunch of time that otherwise would have gone into making and showing my work. I have not shown nearly as much since starting my gallery. I have also figured out how to sell most of what I make at the local farmers market, so I am selling it at retail, and don’t have to pack and ship. In the gallery, Sam and I are actually having our own show for the first time in a few months.
What are some of the ways you stay connected with your peers and the larger ceramic art community?
By showing their work in the gallery I get to communicate with many people and stay connected. I also teach workshops and either team-teach or get to interact with peers through that. Anderson Ranch brings a consistent rotating faculty and I engage with them. I live 30 minutes away, and the gallery is not far from the arts center. We chose Carbondale because of the proximity to the Ranch. I had been an artist in residence there before grad school. We wanted to live in a rural and beautiful place, have a local market for my work, and have some of the benefits of an urban center. Aspen bring much of the cultural things we would get from a major city. NCECA is another great place to stay connected and experience new artists and work.
Talk a little about the ArtStream Gallery, and its role as an exhibition space.
Artstream was remolded to feel like a kitchen environment. The counters are table top height and the wood floor, cabinets and paint are like that of a warm, sunny kitchen. I wanted it to be engaging to the viewer, familiar, inviting, but not overly designed or stuffy. While it is a gallery, it is more of a “pottery dispensing machine” as Dan Anderson said, “Like a ‘pez’ dispenser for pottery candy”. It is really a place to see and buy work. Everything is pretty packed in and almost calling out for the viewer to take it home. It is a great place to buy pots, but not a great place to view them as individual objects. The Harvey/Meadows gallery fulfills that, with open space between each piece, pedestals, lighting, etc. that allow each piece to be seen with all of the respect of sculpture. Artstream is more like going into someone’s kitchen and being allowed to buy the dishes and pots. Also, often, the potters showing in Artstream are present, so the viewer gets to meet the maker. That is really rare thing in the greater of American culture.
What advice would you offer artist finishing school and preparing for a professional career in Ceramic Arts?
Don’t sleep. Its way overrated. Hob Gill said once to me, “It’s not how much you make but how much you spend.” He had a teacher of his tell him the same thing. There is something that rings true. A lot of what I said in earlier answers relates to this question. A few more things would be to always do things with the highest quality. It’s all in the details. Work for balance of local, regional and national shows/projects. A local studio sale can pay bills, but a national exhibition can bring far reaching exposure. They are all connected. I am a person who believes when the pie is bigger there is more to eat for everyone. Work with others and be inclusive rather than competitive. Make the best work you possibly can. Ask the hard questions and search for answers in your work. Apply for tons of juries shows and know that they will bring exposure, but not income.