Studio Visit: Annie Hanks Ceramics
It was a rainy, gray summer day when I ventured out into Chattanooga, Tennessee to meet the women behind Annie Hanks Ceramics. After picking up some coffee and pastries from their favorite bakery, I head to their studio for an early morning breakfast visit. I follow the directions to their studio, and I have no doubt that I have arrived at the right place: the twinkle lights, sheer white curtains, and soft, shining spot lights radiate welcome and warmth from the beautiful studio within.
When I walk in, Stephanie and Katherine greet me enthusiastically and show me around their studio. I can’t help but notice that this new studio space is itself a creative and collaborative project: together, Stephanie and Katherine transformed what had been a cramped, dark sewing workshop into a beautiful, light-filled studio, with textured plaster walls, bright lighting and a distinctly creative energy. Their beautiful pieces fill the room, perched on wooden shelves that rise to the ceiling.
Like these pieces, Stephanie and Katherine personally built their studio to be both functional and beautiful. We make our way to some vintage furniture nestled among their pottery wheels and kiln, arrange the pastries on one of their lovely ceramic plates, and begin chatting over the simple breakfast. As soon as we start talking I feel like I have known Stephanie and Katherine for years.
The two are business partners, but more importantly they are close friends. As I learn about their backgrounds, their inspirations and the origins of Annie Hanks Studio, I cannot help but notice the great respect, admiration and understanding they each have for the other. Though I had only just met them in person, their affinity is infectious. I immediately feel at home and welcome in their world.
The two recount how they met in a pottery class in Chattanooga, where their shared love for the art form quickly brought them together (coincidentally, they tell me, they learned early on that they share the same birthday—surely a good sign for things to come). After dedicating more and more time to the studio to refine their work, the two started Annie Hanks with the hope of collaborating and growing as artists and makers. Now, Stephanie and Katherine share a distinctive artistic vision, one on which they continue to build thanks to the constant inspiration each receives from the other’s work.
With this shared history, commitment and approach, Stephanie and Katherine’s designs are a truly collaborative effort. They work side by side in every step of the process: they each maintain the studio, form (or throw) their pieces on the wheel, glaze them, fire them, unload them from the kiln and manage every other part of the business as complete partners. Even talking about it I can tell that the two thrive off of the partnership’s energy no matter the task.
When we finish talking, I get ready to leave and Katherine and Stephanie get ready to return to work. The two put on some music and don their aprons, cut clay from their reserves and begin throwing on their potter’s wheels. As the raw material spins under their hands, a similar shape emerges; both pieces will, in time, become wine glasses, perhaps part of the same set.
The throwing process is fascinating, and Katherine and Stephanie radiate a quiet focus working side by side. Mesmerized, I linger a few minutes to watch and take in the studio once again, now having heard all that has gone into making this dream a reality. Finally, I thank them for having me and quietly make my way out of their studio space, taking care not to disrupt the pair’s finely tuned process.