Photos by David Ellis
Joanna Craw grew up fascinated with art but had no idea where it could take her. Now, looking at the detailed etchings and thoughtful coloration on the ceramic works she creates today, it seems near impossible to think it wasn’t until college that she took her first pottery class. She instantly fell in love in the craft, but at the time, the idea she could transform a part-time passion and hobby into a full-time career seemed unfathomable. After college, she found a job with a pottery company and realized the career path was, in fact, something worth pursuing. Fast forward a few years, and Craw was confident enough to branch off and start her own business.
Although that company, now known as Fringe and Fettle Ceramics, has grown significantly since its humble beginnings in 2011, Craw still likes to focus on the day-to-day and not get too wrapped up in the big picture. She makes everything out of her home studio in Champlin, but her long-term vision includes also owning a larger studio space somewhere in the Twin Cities—including a gallery to showcase her work. For the time being, Craw sells her products at local shows, two galleries in the Twin Cities, and on her Etsy shop.
Describe your creative process. Where do you find inspiration?
I always say that I’m my own customer and tend to focus on what I want and what I would genuinely use in my life. Many of my designs come from natural inclinations, and I love to integrate the natural shapes and lines the pots make as I work with them. Some of my pieces have a feminine feel because of the almost womanly curves that naturally shape the pot. I also try to center on the purpose of a piece. My kitchen-focused designs are pretty specific, like my honey pot or garlic plate.
What is your signature style?
I like soft colors and textures that make the pieces feel inviting. I would consider my style fairly minimalistic but still playful. I love the subtlety and incorporate that through muted colors. I am experimenting with even more subtleties in my glazes and hope to add more colors to my palette.
How can someone get started in ceramics?
It can be a little challenging to get into because [equipment and materials are] expensive. If you’re a beginner, I would recommend looking into classes. Many cities have art centers or community centers that provide affordable options.
How can people incorporate your pieces into their home?
I like creating things with a specific purpose. So, there is the obvious, practical way to use the piece, but you can also get creative and use it for something completely different. My pitchers can make wonderful vases for flowers, the little nesting bowls are great for holding delicate jewelry, and the garlic plate could be used as a soap dish. You can use the kitchen-focused pieces all over the house—not just in the kitchen.
How has your company evolved in recent years, and what’s next for Fringe and Fettle?
I feel like I have found my footing and have realized how much I love selling my products directly to customers. This way, I can connect and interact with them more closely and get personal feedback that I consider the next time I create a piece. I see myself growing and expanding to some extent but still staying pretty small.
What do you love most about making pottery?
It combines a lot of aspects of art into one. I get to be highly creative, incorporate my style, and be practical. The possibilities with ceramics are endless; you can combine different textures, use varying shades of paint, and change the size. I adore the actual formation of each piece. I get a lot of satisfaction from bringing an idea to life.