Liz Pechacek’s pottery marries low-tech and high-tech. With a dad who was a chemist and an artist mom, she takes after both with her multi-step process to create beautiful houseware and stunning sculptural work.
Born and raised in Indiana, Pechacek discovered pottery while on the verge of dropping out of college. She decided to try one more semester and ended up taking an 8 a.m. ceramics class. Instantly, she became obsessed with the process.
After graduating, she moved to the family farm, where her parents had retired, and set up her studio. She realized she needed to move to the Twin Cities after participating in a craft show in the middle of a blizzard. One customer bought $300 worth of pottery. “Oh, my god—what is this magical place?” she wondered.
That customer now works as Pechacek’s assistant. They use separate sun rooms, converted to studios, in Pechacek’s home. The kiln is in Pechacek’s garage. “I got into this business so that I could just do ceramics as much as possible, all the time,” Pechacek says. “So, as a result, procrastination is a problem, too. Like, I made ciabatta yesterday. If I was at a studio that was separate from my home, then I wouldn’t have made ciabatta. I’d have gotten my work done.
Finding inspiration in ancient pottery techniques, Pechacek creates by pinching coils together, so her finger marks can be seen on the outside of each object. From there, she makes a plaster mold to capture the texture of the original piece. Into the mold, Pechacek or her assistant pours a mixture of slip (watered-down clay) and deflocculant, which makes the dried clay easier to release from the mold. From there, she adds signature graphic, textured designs with layers of wax and glaze. Her pieces frequently feature intricate parallel lines in vibrant color combinations.
Pechacek splits her practice between cups, bowls, plates, and other things for the cupboard—and then fine-art projects in between orders, and when she has a show coming up. “I’m keeping my chops while I’m working on the smaller work,” she says. “The craftsmanship that is required comes in handy when you’re making something that takes forever and is really important.”
Minnesota Monthly: It must be really nice to have your studio in your house.
Liz Pechacek: It is. I mean, it has its drawbacks because I am sort of a workaholic. I’ll poke my head into the studio sort of constantly throughout the day, and every once in a while just get kind of stuck in there. If I want to not be working, I have to make a really conscious choice. I got into this business so that I could just do ceramics as much as possible, all the time. So, as a result, procrastination is a problem, too. Like, I made ciabatta yesterday. If I was at a studio that was separate from my home, then I wouldn’t have made ciabatta. I’d have gotten my work done.
Are craft festivals a big part of your business?
I do a few high-end craft fairs. I do the ACC [American Craft Council] shows—there’s one in St. Paul that I’ve done every year, although this year I’m not doing it. I’m going to do the Baltimore ACC, which is in February, and then I do the St. Croix pottery tour, which is definitely my best show of the year.
Why is the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour so great?
The St. Croix pottery tour has been going on for, like, 27 years. It started out as this sort of loose confederation of country potters that decided to open their studios, and then they just used mailing lists to get people to come out. And over time, it’s grown, and it’s mind-blowing because you’re out in the middle of nowhere. For me, as a young potter, it’s really special that I’m even there, because it’s pretty competitive. You can’t apply. You have to be invited. When I received that phone call from Ani Kasten—that she would like to invite me to be a participant—I kept my cool on the phone, you know, but it was a big deal for me.
What are you interested in right now?
Right now, I have sort of twin parts of my practice. I do cups, bowls, plates, things—things that are really in service in your cupboard—and then I have a fine art practice I do in between orders, and when I have a show coming up. Right now, it’s a little bit of a quiet time because the holidays are over and I did a really good job in December. And I’m making bigger work.
Are the fine art pieces where you’re hoping to delve further?
Yeah, definitely. They’re good partners, the two realms of my work, because I don’t always have the inspiration to work on the larger pieces. The smaller works keep me in the studio. I’ve designed the production work to be studies for the larger pieces. So, I’m keeping my chops while I’m working on the smaller work. The craftsmanship that is required comes in handy when you’re making something that takes forever and is really important.
Find Liz Pechacek’s work at lizpechacek.com