Though her minimalist designs exude an effortlessness—and timelessness—that almost make them seem to have always existed, Joanna Buyert’s pieces took her a long time to perfect.
After studying pottery in college and working for three-and-a-half years at a production pottery company, she had the skills down but was feeling like she couldn’t flourish creatively.
It took an almost Bon Iver-style retreat—six months in her family’s cabin in northern Wisconsin—for Joanna to really find her style. She spent those months alone, doing nothing but creating piece after piece of one-of-a-kind pottery.
“I kind of took a leap not knowing if it was going to work out,” she said. “It was really great. I learned a lot, it was hard, I felt a lot of pressure. I was worried I was going to have to come back to my job at the pottery company in the fall. I did have to take a few part-time jobs and I lived at my parents’ house for a year.”
But her time away paid off, and she found that it was instrumental to honing her style.
“When I started I felt like I had to show all my skills in a piece so people would be impressed by it,” Joanna said. “So I would do really ornate carving and all this stuff. I would spend like four hours on one piece. I found over time that I’m really drawn to simplicity. Now when I work, I really think about the form rather than the surface of it.”
That mindset shows in her pieces: a perforated berry bowl perfectly shaped to fit the curve of a hand, a ribbed honey pot, a batter bowl with a thumb hole and pour spout.
“What I really love about pottery is its craft and function,” Joanna said. “I just really love thinking about how a piece is going to work and what’s going to feel good in your hand but also combining that with the aesthetics of it. Like a texture that’s good for aesthetics but it’s also good for grip. Something that has a tactile quality that’s really nice when you’re using it.”
After she left the cabin in Wisconsin, Joanna started her company, Fringe & Fettle Ceramics. She now lives and works in the Schmidt Artist Lofts, which were converted from an old brewery into a space dedicated to supporting local artists of all kinds. She throws and dries her pieces in her apartment, where she has private studio space, and fires them in a larger shared studio with two kilns.
The environment suits her. Being surrounded by artists—both within the lofts and in the larger art community—is something Joanna says she appreciates.
“I’m inspired by being around people—families and communities sharing meals and dining. I love seeing people enjoying that valuable community time, eating and talking. It’s what draws me to this particular form of art.”
Photography by Dina Kantor.