After a 15-year hiatus, Sarah Steininger was ready to return to her passion. Last July, the Seattle-based ceramicist started her own studio, Saltstone Ceramics, which she says has been “the best decision [she has] ever made.”
Aside from being an artist, Steininger is a teacher. She teaches clay classes that focus on beginner techniques in throwing (forming the clay on a potter's wheel) and building (creating a form with only hands and tools) in her small studio in northwest Seattle. While the sessions have only engaged adults up until now, Saltstone will offer clay camps for kids starting in August.
“It seems like clay is seeing a resurgence of interest,” she says. “I love working with kids and I’ve spent a lot of time with kids, so the newer classes will focus on them.” The artist hopes to instill the young students with the process of working with clay, as well as some forming and decorating techniques.
Steininger’s love for the art began years ago when she worked for Richard Pankratz, a production potter in Colorado. There, she learned how to run a pottery business. She continued her desire to learn about ceramics at Goshen College, a small undergraduate school in northern Indiana, where she studied pottery. After graduation, the artist put her passion on hold and moved to Seattle to work as a non-profit manager.
“[Moving to Seattle] was a little bit like throwing a dart at a map,” Steininger says. “I have a love-hate relationship with the city. But I’m still here so I can’t complain too much.”
She has no intentions of leaving, though. She and her husband Steve Leroux, a fine furniture builder, recently bought a house, which kick-started the process of opening a ceramics studio. In her shop, the artist builds her own pieces of stoneware, which are available for purchase by appointment. Her primary aesthetic has a clean and modern appeal, but Steininger says the edge she is working in currently focuses on surface decoration. While the artist hopes to expose the next generation to some of these techniques, her work has also been influenced by a young artist’s work — her daughter’s doodles.
“I found a picture she drew of herself floating in the water, and I asked if I could have it,” she says. “Then I created a decoration with it and applied it directly to a mug.”
An appetizer board built by Leroux, with inserted bowls by Steninger. Photo by Sarah Steininger.
The artist also regularly pairs with her husband to create collaborative work that highlights both of their talents. The duo works on projects like appetizer boards, coffee sets and now, teapots. For the new project, Steininger will form the pots and Leroux will build the handles, inspired by the design of the vessel. Though the teapots are not yet prepared for public consumption, the pieces will be available by September.
Steininger will appear with her work at several indie craft fairs this summer: The Fremont Solstice Festival, Urban Craft Uprising, Magnolia Summer Fest and Seattle Street Food Fest.