My name is Joel Cherrico and I graduated from Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, US in 2006. I moved to Minnesota, studied at The College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Art. The St. John’s Pottery inspired me to study Art at CSB/SJU after spending one year in high school making pottery with the book, “Body of Clay, Soul of Fire” across from my pottery wheel.
During college, I studied pottery, sculpture, installation, kiln design and entrepreneurship. After switching from Biology/Pre-Medicine to Art freshman year, I decided that I wanted to figure out how to create a career as a full-time potter. My goal was to treat as much of my college experience as possible as a four year pottery apprenticeship. Two years working two unpaid internships at JD Jorgenson Pottery taught me first hand about the hard work and dedication involved in building a pottery studio. JD’s work ethic and dedication to natural materials inspired me to explore an earthen aesthetic, while working on a large scale.
Working in the college Ceramics Studio all four years gave me more experience with technical aspects of ceramics, while supervising and teaching other students. Samuel Johnson was the key mentor who guided me during this job. Three months working in the St. John’s Woodshop also gave me woodworking experience, facility and wood to build pottery shelving that I still use today. During the end of my third year in college, I switched from pottery production to abstract sculpture. This led to the start of my senior thesis and Mindscape.
After exploring abstract sculpture and installation, I felt compelled to return to pottery with new aesthetic interests. I think this was because I wanted to create artwork that people could eat and drink from everyday, with a goal of making pottery that embodied the “awe factor” of Mindscape. Pottery production dominated the second half of my senior thesis, working closely with my ceramics professor Samuel Johnson. My honors thesis committee also included numerous critiques and a thesis defense with Sam, Art professor Rachel Melis, and Artist in Resident Richard Bresnahan. As I returned to pottery production, I also began taking business and entrepreneurship classes under professor Paul Marsnik to answer the next question looming over my head: how can I make a living from sales of my artwork?
After graduating, I was awarded a Post-Baccalaureate Artist Residency from CSB/SJU. This provided facility to mass produce pottery, while using sales of my artwork to launch a small business venture. The McNeely Entrepreneurship Center at St. Johns University awarded me an $8,000 small business loan to help start the venture.
Since 2010, I have made artwork full-time in a small studio in St. Joseph, MN. I showcase my artwork locally at the Local Blend coffee shop in town, where community members eat and drink from my pottery everyday. We developed an innovative business model to enrich the restaurant with my handmade pottery, while providing an interactive art experience. This venue has been an early cornerstone of my career, which you can read about in this interview with the American Craft Council.
In 2014, the American Craft Council and I worked to create a website blog series called, “A Potter’s Journey.” This story reveals insights about how I developed a plan to become a full-time potter and small business owner. After writing the eight and final blog post, I decided to change the direction of my business from mostly local sales to mostly global pottery sales and shipping pottery worldwide. My goal was to use my newest body of artwork, which I decided to call, “Cosmic Mugs,” to help pottery enter the mainstream media.
In 2015, Cosmic Mugs raised $34,099 on Kickstarter and were shipped to 16 countries. This project helped validate the idea that Cosmic Mugs could be truly innovative, revolutionary pieces of functional artwork. The project gave our business a boost towards funding for a permanent pottery studio that we plan to build in the near future. I am continually researching locations, facility and equipment that would be most appropriate, with a dream of building a studio capable of 100% solar fired pottery using an innovative system of solar panels, Tesla Powerwall batteries and electric kilns.
In the meantime, a team of continually rotating student interns and I continually pump out new pottery, while using new technology to revolutionize how art impacts society. We built new online stores: cosmicmugs.com and store.cherricopottery.com. I make every piece of artwork for sale in both stores and student interns help with photography, packing and shipping, customer service, marketing and operations.
March 7th, 2016 I also set the new Guinness World Records™ record for ‘most pots thrown in one how by an individual,’ beating the old record by 9 pots. This is one of the many, upcoming projects that we plan to continually launch while aspiring towards the coming decades of pottery making.
If you want to support my career and our goals of revolutionizing how art impacts society, please consider buying a piece of pottery from one of our two online stores:
Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about my artwork and career.
– Joel Cherrico