Alex and Cindy Williams are a husband and wife team who founded Potsalot, their inviting pottery studio and store located on Magazine Street, in 1993. Alex, a Tennessee transplant, first met native New Orleanian Cindy in Carole Leak’s painting class at Loyola University in the late 1980s. Both were sculpture majors and neither anticipated that ceramic pottery would end up being the thing they’d be known for.
The original focus of their business was bronze casting, as well as clay pottery. They would soon find it easier and more profitable to produce and sell the pottery. This presented a more profound learning curve for Cindy who had focused on sculpting wood, concrete and metal at Loyola.
Alex and Cindy have learned how to work together as a team while maintaining their own individual styles. Alex is very prolific, a fast worker, while Cindy specializes in the more intricate textured pieces on display. Over the years they have also developed their own glazes that give their pottery it’s own distinct look.
As a young potter, Alex was inspired by an English potter named Mick Cason. “I felt that the strength of his work was really something to aspire to. And we were really fortunate that to actually meet him in 1996. He passed away in 1998.”
Cindy has drawn inspiration from Kristen Kieffer, who also creates textured pieces as well as another contemporary potter named Sarah Pike.
Alex and Cindy wisely purchased the building at 3818 Magazine Street in 2008, just before a recent boom in rental costs along this iconic New Orleans arts & retail artery. Their bedrock local business has since become an enduring favorite of visitors and locals.
Not long after Alex and Cindy completed the purchase of their building, Potsalot received a large corporate order from Anthropologie. This order for thousands of pots came with a January 5th deadline – especially difficult considering the Christmas holiday season is normally their busiest time of the year anyway.
“We wanted to negotiate the deal to have it done in the summer, but it was taking too long to negotiate everything. Eventually, we had to hire a person just to deal with the administrative tasks associated with Anthropologie! We were making thousands of pieces, a monumental undertaking, but it was worth it in the end monetarily. We also learned a great deal from the experience.”
When asked about negative feedback about their work, Alex and Cindy agreed that any negative comments have usually been focused on how the piece functions (“the edges are too short”) rather than the aesthetics. Situations like these cause them to take a second look at each piece and figure out how to adjust and modify it to improve functionality for users.
Cindy pointed out, “Our work touches customers in a more personal way. They use our cups in the morning to drink their coffee. They prepare their food in our bowls and eat off of our plates. Our art is meant to be used in a functional way rather than just to be looked at and admired.”
Alex and Cindy have also had success making with pots used on sets of locally produced films. 200 of their pots appeared in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes! They enjoy that type of work even though it sometimes puts them in a time crunch.
When asked if there was anything that they wished they knew back in 1993 when they started this business, Alex said, “I had to learn to manage my creativity within very specific blocks of time. This especially became true once we had kids. Creativity, managing a retail shop, and raising children all have to be managed within a 24 hour day.”
Another thing they’ve learned through 26 years of business is how to price their pieces to sell. Alex stated, “We’ve learned how to evaluate whether or not there is enough demand for a piece and weigh it against the time it takes to create each piece.”
Cindy added, “We were also lucky when we first started out to have other potters willing to share their knowledge. They showed us how to build a pricing structure starting with wholesale prices. We’re totally open and share with people all the time because it’s a tough thing when trying to start a career as an artist.”
You can see more of Alex and Cindy William’s work at Potsalot Pottery located at 3818 Magazine Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. Also visit their website at www.potsalot.com or their Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/potsalot/