6 Questions with Sarah Wolf

Your mom is a painter. How did this influence you artistically?

I grew up with a giant printmaking and painting studio in the attic of my house because my mom is a painter. I spent a lot of time up there. There was a corner where I could play with glue guns and popsicle sticks and make whatever I wanted, she let me draw on the floor, literally, anywhere I wanted. We did all sorts of projects all the time. But I was never interested in painting, like her, I always wanted to make three-dimensional objects. I actually thought all women were artists as a kid because of her.

What spurred your transition into ceramics as a career?

I was always interested in many things growing up. I liked ceramics, but I was also into chemistry and math and thought I might go to school for architecture. For undergrad, I thought it might be too specific, so I minored in art with a focus on ceramics, and studied geochemistry. I spent a lot of time in the mountains looking at rocks, and a lot of time in the lab. Then all my spare time in the studio. After several years of bouncing around after college, I realized what I liked the most was making things that have a tangible outcome. I applied to architecture school, but in the end, I wanted to be moving my body more and making things.

How did you come up with Mug Club, and how did it eventually led to Wolf Ceramics?

When I was 25, I came to the point of ‘Oh, shit, I don’t want to go to architecture school. What am I going to do for a living?’ Even though my mom is a painter, it didn’t feel possible to make my living off of artwork. But I just had to do it and decided I’d figure it out. I got into Oregon College of Art and Craft, I was afraid of student loans, so my friend suggested I start a mug club. It was kind of like a CSA, and at first, it sounded silly. Like, who’s going to pay for that? But I did it, and the first round was about 30 people—pay $150, and you’ll get four mugs over the course of a year. It ended up being a win-win-win: I made enough money to cover tuition, I got experience of putting designs into production and I got to give people these wonderful surprises every season.

How would you describe the Wolf Ceramics aesthetic?

When I think of my aesthetic, I have to rewind. In high school, I was making ceramics with raw clay and black-and-white patterns. I’d forgotten that until I came home from OCAC, and saw all this work again, so I came back to that. I became obsessed with the contrast of a satin glaze and earthy stoneware. I like the challenge of being creative and finding possibilities when you only have one color and clay. There are endless possibilities. Then, a professor of mine told me I had to just try using one color. And then gradually, over the years, I’ve added lots more. I like the simplicity of shapes and negative space and playing with that, and seeing how many different ideas I can come up with.

How does your love of the outdoors inspire your artwork?

Another big part of my life is being outside and being in the mountains. An overarching theme in the things I love to do is physicality. In ceramics, there are things that are hard to do, like heavy-lifting, but there are also things that are very delicate. It’s something that makes me feel really alive. And it’s something I find from being in the mountains as well. In terms of aesthetic, I love being able to create things that are contemporary and clean but still have that earthy texture to them.

Wolf Ceramics ‘create pieces that are a part of our lives.’ What’s a piece you can’t live without?

It’s sort of funny I use so many colors now because the ceramics I take home with me are almost all plain white or plain black. And very simple. I would say the thing I use the most is a tiny, little cup. I use it for everything from a little glass of wine to a shot of kombucha to an elderberry tincture. I love very tiny vessels.