The best way to give ceramics character is to make them by hand, something husband and wife team Melissa Tolar and Jonathan Ballak of A Question of Eagles, know only too well. Based in LA, they’re dedicated to making heirloom quality goods that are inspired by nature, their travels through the American landscape, and studio pottery of the 60’s and 70’s. We love their ceramic planters, which they throw, carve and then paint with lead-free glazes by hand. We took a sneak peek around their LA studio.
What does a typical working day look like to you?
“Well, we get to the studio in the morning, and firstly check on everything we worked on the day before. Working with clay is a long process, from raw materials to coming out of the final kiln firing, one piece can take weeks to finish. Each technique that we use requires that the clay be in a different state of dryness, so we’re usually working on multiple pieces at the same time. Once we evaluate everything and set our goals for the day, we get to work! In between working on ceramics, we respond to emails, pack and ship out orders, photograph new pieces, and generally just do whatever needs to be done.”
How would you describe your studio space?
“Comfortable and inspiring. We worked from home for several years at the start of our business, and it was great, but we had totally outgrown that situation. Our new studio though is amazing! The open space and view of the city is inspiring the moment we walk in the door. It’s allowed us to take on bigger projects and work on a larger scale. This spring and summer we’re also planning on opening the space up to more people by offering workshops, having studio sales, and planning some special events.”
Where do you seek inspiration?
“Our eyes are always open to inspiration, but we’re particularly inspired by the western landscape and the rich heritage of studio pottery on the west coast. We have a main sketchbook at the studio that we both work out of, but often times we sketch in three dimensions, and just try new things out directly in clay. YouTube has been a particularly fun source for finding historic film footage of potters and artists working in clay from the 60s and 70s.”
A Question of Eagles was born in Illinois, lived in Portland, Bend and Eugene, OR, moved to upstate New York, then settled in Los Angeles. Follow along with their travels and inspirations over on their Instagram.
Photography by Jessica Comingore