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Made in Chicago: Circa Ceramics

By Jess D'Amico in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 4, 2008 6:45PM

2008_04_circa_chairs.jpgParking in our city during the winter is an especially trying act. If you've shoveled a spot adjacent to your building and "saved" it by means of a spare chair or ironing board, or even been embroiled in a debate about the morality of doing so, you'll appreciate these space saver cups by Chicago based Circa Ceramics.

Chicago native Nancy Pizarro, 34, and former Wisconsinite Andy Witt, 36, turn lumps of clay into usable porcelain pieces of art. Their shapes are traditional, but the designs vary from the pictured Chicago-centric to a teacup with a brain and bowls emblazoned with lego blocks.

Circa Ceramics has already been featured in several blogs and websites (including as one of Etsy's featured sellers). Made in Chicago gets in on the act and Andy and Nancy notify us of the collective will, productive messiness, and tater-tot casserole with ranch.

Chicagoist: How do you make your art stand out from everything else out there?

Andy: We make it seem easy. Everything looks clean and crisp, and it takes time to get our pieces to look like that. We make everything here in our studio

Nancy: Andy is a model and mold maker, and all of our pieces are made with machinery we made ourselves or modded to fit our purposes (and budget!) We want our pieces to be as uniform as possible, and also keep production in house. I'm surface decoration - And that ranges from screening decals, painting, carving, etc. Combining all of these helps us get to a final piece that's easy on the eyes :)

C: Where do you want to go with your art? Where do you see yourself in five years?

A & N: We'd love to get to a point where local specialty boutiques (especially one's that cater to tableware) would actually look at our work and carry it and we don't want to travel to NY to have them look at it. In five years, we want this business to be moving along smoothly - And hopefully we can have an assistant or 2 :)

C: How did you start making stuff?

N: I was never a crafty kid - I did, however, tend to draw a lot - On anything!

A: I am the youngest child so I think I was programmed by my parents to keep myself busy by making stuff.

C: Why is the sky blue?

A & N: Because we all wished it to be so. The collective will is strong!

C: What does your process look like?

A & N: Messy :) We have images on Flickr of our studio in various forms of mess - You can't NOT be messy with clay!

C: What's the best thing about Circa Ceramics?

A & N: We're not afraid to try new techniques or materials - That keeps us from being bored (or boring!)

C: Tell us a secret. . .

N: I like tater-tot casserole. With Ranch Dressing!

A: I love seeing people make little origami sculptures.

C: What's the Chicago art scene look like for you?

A: After living in smaller cities all my life I see the Chicago art scene as an influence over peoples lives; whether we realize it or not we are living in it.

N: What we make isn't considered art in the usual sense of the word - We're artisans due to the functional nature of our work. So in this respect, the scene looks pretty good - We're lucky here in that we have the broadest range of fairs & festivals in the Midwest, and as long as we can jury into & can afford the fees of some of the more well known events, every thing's cool.

C: Where do you see that culture going?

A: It will completely overwhelm us and we will realize that nothing is true and that everything is permitted :)

N: I see the gradual move to more online sites (like Etsy) for a lot of us - Again, booth fees are getting pretty high, and the amount of artists willing to pay that are dwindling. Plus, setting up for shows (not to mention working your booth) takes away a big chunk of your studio time. Having access to an online venue like Etsy has not only opened us up locally to buyers, but globally as well, and all without any travel or long lost studio time :)

C: Any advice for beginners wanting to sell their stuff?

A & N: Don't half-ass it!

Know somebody who should be featured? Tell us: MadeinChicago[at]chicagoist[dot]com