“A BA of architecture doesn’t really prepare you for art. It trains you to think in a rigid way – structure, proportion, lines,” said Emma Gonzalez-Laders, a LEED-certified architect. Architecture was a natural fit for Gonzalez-Laders, who, growing up, was pegged as the reliable one of her six siblings.
So when she clipped an ad for a pottery class at a local studio, it stayed on her fridge for a long time – months, a year. Then, in 1998, she called Judith Duboff, an art therapist and teacher.
Gonzalez-Laders started off throwing bowls. “I had to loosen up, to get creative. Budget, building codes, zoning codes, structure – in pottery none of that matters. You have to have a sense of structure so your stuff doesn’t collapse, but nobody dies and you don’t get sued if something goes wrong.”
She moved to cylinders, then vases, working on going taller without going wider. Then came handles and lids, which are tricky because not only do they have to fit, but they can’t fall off, either.
Fifteen years later, Gonzalez-Laders has become a potter in her own right. She won’t let this visitor see her basement, but we hear it’s outfitted with a kiln, a slab roller and a pottery wheel. Instead, we meet at Amity Arts Workshop in Florida, where she learned. Gonzalez-Laders’ work on display here includes a French butter dish that keeps butter fresh without refrigeration; a sushi platter with one edge trimmed and one edge raw; and a pair of tea bowls that have thumb and finger indentations in lieu of handles.
“I was trying for a more comfortable mug where my fingers and thumb can naturally settle,” she said.
The sushi plate is one of her thinnest pieces. “Pottery by nature is heavier than most materials, but you try to get it lighter without compromising structure,” she said. “When you get to work that thin, there’s a risk factor. We always say, if you want a set of six, you have to make eight.”
Gonzalez-Laders is working on replacing “every single store-bought, factory-made item in my kitchen. I think I’m about halfway.” Will her hand-made crockery be matching? Nope. “Only factory-made pieces are the same. And that’s good, it’s how they stand out.”