Chris Long, 27, insists that while he’s been throwing pots on the wheel for nine years now, his craft is still in its infancy. The potter’s journey is “lifelong,” Chris says. “The more time and the more of myself that I give to [my craft], the better I get … I still have so much to learn.”
Words by Jess Hagemann Photos by Eric Morales
And yet, since his early days as a ceramics student at ACC, Chris has seen his art go from part-time hobby to full-time profession. He does well enough that pottery is now his sole source of income. Such success would suggest that Chris is a ‘real’ artist—but with a knowing smile, he admits that ‘going pro’ has been a harder transition than it appears. For a long time, Chris saw his art as a “pure” thing, strictly “outside the sphere of commerce.” When he realized he could also pay his bills with it, however, he got down to business.
What inspired Chris to pursue a career as a potter was the month-long residency that he completed in Taiwan, shortly after graduating from ACC. “That part of the world has a totally different respect for the ceramic art form than the Western world does,” explains Chris. “Everyone drinks tea, and they respect the tea wares—as well as the ceramic artists who make them.” In Taiwan, Chris honed his teapot-making skills, then returned to the States ready to make Austin love pottery as much as he does.
Since that experience, Chris’s clay-work has focused exclusively on ‘functional’ rather than sculptural art. His favorite pieces to make are mugs, and his favorite glaze colors are on the gray-scale. As featured here, his latest creations range from organic-in-form dark brown mugs with etched ‘rings’ reminiscent of a tree trunk cross-section, to these small creamy cups washed with soft black stripes. Why mugs? “You actually bring your lips to [them]. You have a close relationship with this piece of art that you don’t even think about. It’s intimate.”
Lucky for him, Chris gets to make a plenty of mugs. They’re top sellers at the HOPE Farmers Market, where Chris hocks his wares nearly every Sunday, and they’re in high-demand at the Blue Genie art market and other local holiday fairs (in such demand, in fact, that he starts creating inventory four months in advance). When he’s not filling commissions, Chris also throws custom mugs for Third Coast Coffee roastery.
Although Chris no longer calls east Austin home having recently moved closer to UT, his studio space, which he rents from fellow artist Ryan McKerley, is permanently on the east side, where the collective has room for their wheels and kilns, and favorite supplier Armadillo Clay (featured in EASTside’s April/May 2016 issue) is just around the corner. If you’re in the neighborhood, drop in and watch the artists at work.
Native Knowledge: Chris is currently designing whole sets of dinnerware for a brand new east side restaurant. The details are still under wraps.