Of the Same Mold
Katherine Hanks & Stephanie Anne Martin
FROM WHERE WOMEN CREATE
KATHERINE HANKS AND STEPHANIE ANNE MARTIN are the owners of Annie Hanks Ceramics in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After bonding over their love of ceramics in their hiking group, the two began a journey of creating a collaborative business together. Katherine brought with her the experience of growing up in San Antonio. Her family runs a summer camp in the Texas Hill Country, and it was there that she developed a great appreciation for nature and her relationship to the earth. Stephanie grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and had a mother who encouraged her and her brother to explore through their creativity.
Annie Hanks Ceramics is a collaborative utilitarian ceramics studio in Chattanooga, Tennessee, formed by myself, Stephanie Anne Martin, and Katherine Hanks. Katherine and I first met through a climbing group, and after meeting several times, became friends and learned that we shared a common interest in ceramics. After a while, we started collaborating together to create beautiful functional pieces that our local Chattanooga friends and customers knew as Annie Hanks Ceramics.
I spent most of my childhood between Asheville and various places around the Southeast. My family moved quite a bit, but my mother encouraged my creativity by blocking out time every day for me and my brother to paint or draw. My brother was a big source of inspiration for me growing up, and still is today. When I was 8 years old, we sat for each other to draw portraits. I recall feeling a huge sense of pride in my work. Eventually, I found my own special medium in ceramics and flourished in it.
Katherine was fortunate to be born into an amazingly creative family as well. Each summer, her family would pack up their lives in San Antonio and move out to the beautiful Texas Hill Country to the camp and retreat center run by her parents. This camp, at its core, aims to recover a sense of the sacred. The property is nestled in a limestone canyon with towering abstract and aesthetic bluff walls, and through it flows the crisp, emerald- green Frio River—clear enough to see 20-plus feet below the surface. Having this experience pulled Katherine into spiritual conversation with the natural world and with wilderness. She created her first clay pinch pots after a rainstorm and fell in love with the process.
There are aspects of our studio and business that make Annie Hanks Ceramics exceptionally unique, especially in the way our studio is run. Often, it’s challenging for people to understand what a collaborative studio and collaborative work entail. It’s a foreign idea to many makers, because creativity and artistry is often a single-man concept. Katherine and I have a similar style and aesthetic, and we use that to our advantage as we work through new ideas, new forms and new glaze lines.
Each piece that passes through the creation process within our studio is touched by both of our hands and is of a higher quality for that very reason. We take pride in the fact that we each pay great attention to line and detail and allow each piece to pass through the scrutiny of both sets of eyes.
Our first joint-show was held at Rivers Edge Gallery in Kerrville, Texas. There, the gallery owner, Clay, gifted us two framed shards of pottery from the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. These are prominently and proudly hanging amongst our shelves of completed and in-process work, reminding us daily of the rich history of our craft. Our work is ultimately inspired by the power of nature and landscapes, as well as the softness of the feminine form. Our style developed from our friendship, our passion for the natural world, and our desire to create designs that are as intriguing as they are simple.
Chattanooga is such an incredible place to live as a creative! We have a strong community of small businesses that understand the value of supporting one another. Within the creative community, we have enjoyed working on various projects and collaborations with other creatives. It is through this that we have found a strong community and space for growth within our own medium. We have worked closely with several businesses around town, namely Wildflower Teashop, Niedlov’s Breadworks and Nade Studio. Out of these collaborative projects have come a network of support, friendships and the growth of all businesses.
Aside from being inspired by natural landscapes, we both find inspiration in secondary creative activities. I enjoy working with my hands and finding a rhythm in the kitchen to draw new inspirations. Katherine enjoys gardening and seeing the world through a different creative lens in the form of photography. Practicing these other kinds of creativity, we are able to bring together our unique inspirations and ideas to create beautiful collaborative work.
There are several struggles that can take place in a small business, especially a creative one. It can sometimes be difficult to be taken seriously as a female business owner. Managing a business can be a struggle when you haven’t had a formal business education. But we have done well so far. In the end, our biggest accomplishment is that we successfully opened Annie Hanks Ceramics together, and that every day we get to work together to make beautiful and functional pieces of art for people who appreciate it.
Pursuing creativity makes every day richer. Finding ways to invite creativity into your daily life is a healthy place to start, rather than feeling like every moment of every day must be filled with creative genius. Begin with a sketch-a-day or by making a photograph at the same moment each day, several days in a row. Then allow that inspiration to grow and seep into the rest of your life. Creativity is a rewarding practice and has the power to take you on adventures.