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Monthly Maker Spotlight: Candy Relics

Q & A with Candy Relics

Tell us a bit about your background?
My name is David Price and I am the designer and Co Owner of Candy Relics. I've been active in ceramics for over 15 years and it is always a challenge to get me away from my studio. Morgan Roberts, my wonderful partner in life and business, gave me those reasons to take a break. While traveling abroad in a new start with fresh inspiration for our business, Candy Relics was born.

After experiencing Asia together for over a year, I couldn't wait to dive back into the studio. Morgan and I both love unscripted adventure from beach to mountain and look at life as a challenge to do it all and never stop living it to the fullest.


When did you start working with clay?
I started working in clay during my first year of high school in Kansas, and fell in love with the potters wheel instantly and naturally . The ceramics department felt more like home than any other space in my life and I was given the opportunity to work and play almost everyday. Greg Brantman, my amazing high school ceramics teacher, sat me down and told me that there was a world to discover in clay and that I had just experienced a taste of the potential. With his encouragement and assistance on my college application, I applied to Kansas City Art Institute, and thanks to Mr. Brantman I was excepted. KCAI was a challenging and vigorous program that developed my fire and dive in ceramics that I still carry today.


With a BFA in my pocket I wanted to see what it took to be an artist living and working by the studio. So following KCAI I applied to train as an apprentice under the artist Tim Rowan in the Catskills of upstate New York. With his expectance I was off to New York and a one year apprenticeship. Still working on the potters wheel and challenging myself to the high standards college can instill, I found that ceramics will always be a part of my life. The problem was, I just didn’t know how my work would fit in with the rest of the clay world. My apprenticeship showed me that hard work in the studio and in the office is only just the start to getting yourself out there. And to get myself out there I needed to focus on finding my voice in clay so that I can have a story to tell when i'm standing on my soapbox.


With the application process back in action I applied and was excepted into a residency program with Richard Carter in Napa Valley, Ca. While working in a residency setting with other artist in Napa I was given the space and opportunity to focus on what ceramics means to me. With the advise of Richard Carter I was told to let the potters wheel take a break and focus on telling my story. It was in this break that I had my big "Aha Moment". I am not Japanese and I shouldn't be making Japanese pots. I'm from Kansas and we drink from Mason Jars, and that was the start to the thought process seen in Candy Relics today.

Tell us about the name Candy Relics.
Morgan: While we were traveling, we knew we would be starting a company on our return, so we were always looking at the cultures around us for inspiration. In South East Asia and India there are so many temples, objects and beliefs that are important to that particular culture, in an infinite number of forms from the beautiful Ankor Wat in Cambodia to the loud and firework filled Diwali festival in India to the making and drinking of rice wine in Vietnam.  Experiencing all the different cultures and traveling for so long also flips the mirror onto yourself to see and appreciate what makes your culture so special.  

A relic is an object, custom, or belief that has survived from an earlier time but is now outmoded. For us this speaks so much to the foundation of our thought process in a beginning stage of designing a new idea. We really wanted to take the original idea of a relic and flip it to reflect our own life and upbringing, but with a little more whimsy and candy coated color; thus Candy Relics was born.


How do you find inspiration for new designs?
Design ideas seem to come and go as a result of being inspired by the things and people around us. This might be why we both start to feel restless after being in one place for too long. The world is too big to stay in one place for too long, and as Morgan and I shift around, some objects seem to demand to be made, most of these ideas seem to be discarded objects laying about.  

The mason jar is an object that has so much history with my family and I think a lot of people can say the same. Making this mold 10 years ago was that moment in time when I thought ,"This could be me, this could be my work."  And now it seems as though the Paper Cup has worked its way into my life with the multiple trips to the coffee shoppe. So it was only natural to have found that form invoking enough to transform it into a permanent cast of porcelain.

More recently I have become inspired by my surroundings in the Pacific North West, since having moved here to Portland, OR. Discarded old pieces of wood sitting around outside the studio, have now become porcelain cheeseboards while others are planters and jewelry holders.  I love to take objects that we can connect with and then turn them into an function that we were not expecting; much like our Vintage Matchbox butter dish or the Caster Flower Vase.


How long have you been in business?  What advice would give young designers who want to/or have just started their own business?
Morgan: Candy Relics was founded in June '14, however David had a previous product design company that he ran from '09-'11, so even though Candy Relics is still in its startup phase, we came into the race with a small product line and client base, which really helped us get our start. The past year we have built up the studio, expand and defined the voice of our product line and really started a strong foundation for growth.  Knowing this, there is still so much to learn, to not only get seen in this world of beautiful makers and craftsmen, but to also know you are doing those critical first steps to build a business.  I find myself constantly learning and making mistakes along the way, which are definitely some of the most valuable lessons, mainly so David doesn't keep reminding me of that time I sent the wrong order to the wrong store, sorry about that. :)  I most recently signed up for a small business class to get some guidance, peer support, and finally learn how to use Quick Books properly, which I never learned and can be so confusing!  We are both still learning the ropes and gaining perspective into running a small business, and I know it sounds super cheesy, but I would tell young designers to never give up on your dream.  To get to watch David in the studio experimenting and creating new ideas and also fulfilling everyone's orders into the wee-hours of the nights is so inspiring to me, he is an example of never giving up on his dream, and is the backbone of Candy Relics, the rest we are learning and hopefully perfecting everyday.


Who are some of your favorite makers out there today?
For me, I've always loved work by Harry Allen. I think he plays with function and form in a way that I aspire to. A company that I have always loved from the beginning is Grove Made. I found them a long time ago selling felt ipad carriers and loved how they would spot light their employees/ makers. It just seemed like an awesome group of people. Today they have grown into making so many awesome products and my walnut phone bumper is one of them. When Morgan and I started Candy Relics I made her look at there website and mission statement as to articulate what I wanted out of our business. I love their "locally made the hard way" badge. They've got it! Turns out they are based out of Portland, OR too.. We totally need to take a tour of that place!

Really there is so much good work out there. The more we reach out to new shoppes and boutiques the more we see so much amazing new awesome design. In this world of constant change you have to stay on your toes because there is so much good competition out there.


Do you have any funny stories to tell us?
When we moved to Portland, Oregon last June our moving truck was half our personal items and the other half studio supplies, with the heaviest and most numerous being all of David's plaster molds. For those of you who don't know about mold making, the mold is a heavy white plaster negative of an object that is filled with a liquid porcelain, called slip.  The plaster mold then absorbs all the liquid from the clay and voila you open the mold to find the porcelain version of the original.  Needless to say a plaster mold is heavy, dense and covers your clothes in white powder.  

We had all of our stuff stored in a friend's basement in a commercial space while we were traveling, which meant it was free but also not the most convenient.  Everything had to be hand carried down a long corridor, up some winding steps and down an even longer hallway into the back of our truck.  Even with a handful of friends helping us, it still took us all day to load the truck and get on the road.  Our drive spanned two 8 hour days and not knowing how to drive a manual transmission meant I was behind the wheel of our 14 foot moving truck with no AC, while David got to comfortably drive his cruise control AC-rific ride.  By the time we reached Portland I was burned out to say the least.  David had yet to see the apartment I signed a lease for and we were still sans a studio space, which meant all the studio equipment was to be unloaded from the truck into the basement and then moved again once we had a studio.

So there we were, with the door flung open on our moving truck, staring at a hundred plaster molds that needed to be moved before we even began to get to our personal items.  One by one the two of us shuttled the heavy plaster molds to the basement, worn out and hot.  After several trips and only a few over sized molds left, I was relieved to find a small one tucked to the side, which I then proceeded to not so smoothly drop onto my pinkie toe.  Screaming at the top of my lungs, I grabbed the mold and decided that what I needed at that moment was to shatter it and my frustrations into a thousand tiny pieces across the sidewalk.  Mold lifted over my head, pinkie toe throbbing, I threatened David with my actions, but he stopped me when he realized it was the found doll mold he never cast.  He talked me down from my anger, promising to cast the mold first thing once he had the studio.  And a few weeks later he did just that, and you know what, the Doll Vase is now one of my most favorite pieces in the collection, part of which I attribute to my almost shattering her into a thousand pieces that very first day in Portland.


Anything else you would like us to know?
I think it is really important to just talk about how awesome Morgan is! There is just no way we could of gotten Candy Relics to where it is now without her help and that is why I've asked her to be a partner in this adventure. I get to play in the studio all day. She's in the office making it happen. It's got to be every other day that I come to her with an idea, image of a new product, a price change or something isn't working on the website. These might sound like easy changes to some, but it really isn't. Every change Morgan makes she has to follow through to the wholesale pages, the product lists, price sheets, inventory and more! She is the backbone to the company being able to move as fast as it is.

When it comes to designing a functional object in the studio I can be that excited little boy at the candy shop wanting so bad to get his way, and Morgan puts on those breaks for focus. "What do you really want?" It's hard sometimes when I have a new idea and can think of a hundred uses for it. Morgan is for sure Candy Relics' flitter as well as our product tester who can develop the function of an intended use clear for me to rethink or turn upside down and try harder. 

kerri johnson
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