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American Made Series: What’s New at Mudshark Studios

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It was a pleasure meeting Brett Binford and Chris Lyon, founders of the ceramics cooperative Mudshark Studios in Portland, OR, at our American Made events last fall. Brett and Chris (pictured below, from left) received our 2012 Crafts award on behalf of Mudshark and have continued to inspire us since. They’ve already achieved a business goal mentioned in our November issue – opening a gallery space to showcase works by local Portland potters – and we can’t wait to see what’s next. Here, we catch up with the creative duo.

It was a treat for us to get to know you both at our American Made events last October. What did the experience mean to you?

Boy, the experience was so surreal for us. We’ve worked so hard for six years – and with little to no paycheck – the recognition from the event revitalized our vision! It reinforced our belief that we are doing the right thing by growing a company that supports local artists and offers an alternative to having ceramics produced overseas.

And Mudshark really has grown since your November MSL feature! What advice can you give entrepreneurs or artisans who are just starting out?

Be prepared to work long hours without weekends off. Have a sound business plan and set realistic goals for your business. Build a strong foundation in the beginning that includes policies, procedures and protocols for how you want your business to run. Talk to other similar business owners about what mistakes they have made and what they did that was successful.

Don’t do it for the money. Do what you love, do it well, treat others well, and the success will come in time – but find people that know about business. We recommend working with mentors who have grown a small business. Also, surround yourself with other small business owners; they know what you’re going through, and you can all learn from each other.

What’s new at Mudshark?

We just launched our gallery, Eutectic Gallery, with our grand opening last month. We’re hosting an amazing artist, Kelly Garrett Rathbone, through April. The reception for the gallery and her artwork were very well received by local collectors, artists, press, colleagues and the public. The gallery will have rotating shows and openings every first Friday. The Gallery also hosts a small retail space showcasing some of our employees’ artwork along with some of our great local clay artists’ handmade works. The gallery will offer a “voice” for ceramic artists and an opportunity for local clay artists to get more exposure, hopefully leading to sales for their art.

We’re also working on new version of the tipcup. It’s a teacup with a built-in steeping system. The unique design has won a 2011 Red Dot award. The current version is manufactured out of plastic and manufactured overseas; we’re working closely with the tipcup team to manufacture a ceramic version. Every component of this ceramic teacup will be manufactured in Portland. Tipcup’s plan is to market this cup worldwide as a high-end, American-made teacup.

What about the collaboration process do you enjoy?
Collaborating with tipcup has given me the opportunity to meet other makers in different mediums. We’ve been working with stainless steel fabricators and silicone manufacturers all located in the Portland area. We’re bringing together multiple makers in a variety of mediums to produce one product entirely in Portland

What artisans do you look to for inspiration?

We at the Portland Growler Company are very excited to be collaborating with Walnut Studiolo. Walnut Studiolo produces some of the finest leather items and are a very innovative and inspiring couple to brainstorm with.

Tell us your American Made story at americanmade@marthastewart.com, and check back for our next Honoree update. Join the American Made conversation on Instagram by following @americanmademsl! 

Kelsey Mirando is an Editorial Assistant in Books and Special Projects at Martha Stewart. She’s endlessly inspired by art, travel, and life in the Big Apple. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kmirando.

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