Amid the pandemic and COVID lockdown, Annie and Paul worked together to launch a thriving pottery business.
I met the couple at the Chicago Market for Makers in the summer of 2022. The first thing you notice about this couple is how cheerful they are. The joy they feel in their work shines through.
Annie and Paul, co-founders of Rise and Shine Ceramics
Annie first fell in love with “throwing” (the term used by potters to describe their craft) while she was in college. Paul had bought her a 1950 potter’s wheel as a graduation present.
At the start of the pandemic, she split her time between teaching school and throwing on the wheel. Like many teachers, Annie quickly learned that teaching over Zoom was not ideal. Eventually, she decided to leave her position to start a business selling her pottery.
On her first day of self-employment, she spent the whole day throwing, and she knew right away she’d found her thing. “Yeah, this is 100 percent what I want to do with my life. And it’s been non-stop work ever since,” said Annie during our conversation. Sometimes, there’s just no turning back.
Joining the Team
About one year later, Paul joined the business full-time to help with all the incoming orders. Initially, he was terrified to leave his day job. Money, of course, was a big part of that fear. Studio fees are steep, and purchasing your own kiln can cost upwards of $4,500. But the amount of pottery — and therefore money — that can be created is limited by how many pieces can be fired, so access to a large kiln is vital.
On top of that, fear of the unknown kept Paul from taking the leap to self-employment. He found the mental roadblock of the financial risk was his biggest hurdle. Paul shared that “…being able to fully support ourselves with art is something you don’t learn about or hear about very often.”
A Community of Mentors
Becoming a successful entrepreneur, especially as an artist, felt like a path to tread lightly. Annie had learned from several mentors that facing your fears head-on is the best way to deal with them. One of her mottos is “scared money doesn’t make money,” so she works hard to identify her fears about the business and face them head-on. “Being brave and pushing forward,” she says, is what keeps them going.
Annie had the good fortune to meet other makers in Chicago and become part of a growing community there. Going to markets has been an excellent way for her to get to know her fellow makers. She’s found that everyone has their own tips and tricks. By working together, they learn from each other and lift each other up.
For his part, Paul seeks out shared experiences and finds this especially rewarding when coming through a shared struggle. The pandemic and other world issues provided a stark backdrop as they built their growing pottery business.
Starting this new venture and working together has brought the couple closer to each other and the other makers they’ve met. Paul told me how experiences like this “bind you together. You can always look back on really difficult times and remember the people who were there for you.”
Annie and Paul now spend most of their waking hours working together to fulfill their pottery orders. The shared feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction at the end of the day makes it worth it. But balance in life is also important to them, and they’re careful not to let themselves burn out on the work.
Annie enjoys yoga and the cool fall weather in Chicago; Paul plays music in several bands in the area. Their advice for other makers: Follow your passions and jump through the fear to the other side. Don’t let anything hold you back.
Find Out More
Annie’s artistic style is bold and bright. She uses whimsical patterns and bright colors that make her pottery stand out like a ray of sunshine on the shelf. She feels love, joy, and happiness making pottery, and she pours that back into her designs. Her small daisy bowl is available from our gift shop. You can see other pieces of her work online at her website Rise and Shine Ceramics.