Stray Ceramics

Desert living leaves lots of room for active and curious creating. Space gives way to expressive exploration, and lends its hand to things that take time to make. We saw this first hand when we got to hang out with Tayler of Stray Ceramics, and talk about her very hands on ceramic process- pit firing! "Pit firing is the oldest known method for the firing of pottery. Bisque fired pots are nestled together in a pit in the ground and are surrounded with combustible materials such as wood, salt, dried manure and metal oxides. The pit is then set on fire and carefully tended to. Once the pit is fully cooled, pots are taken out, cleaned and admired."

We are so honored to carry her beautiful pieces in the store, we and wanted to get a behind the scenes look at her work and studio. Read on to learn more about Tayler, check out her firing pit, and get inspired :)

Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do
I grew up in Long Beach, right by the Pacific Ocean, then moved to Downtown LA. I bartended in DTLA for many years, taking off to different parts of the world when I had enough money saved, I had a lot of fun! Then, last year I decided to make the move to the desert, where I could focus on my passion, ceramics. So now, I make objects out of clay and play with fire, it's awesome! I also teach art after school, at the local elementary school, which is just the best way to spend time out of my studio. When I not working, I'm hiking and exploring the vast desert or chilling out with friends and a drink. 

When did you get into ceramics, and what about it do you appreciate the most?
I got into ceramics in high school, I was lucky enough to have a really great ceramic studio at my high school and took ceramics for 2 years, I was hooked and continued on to CSULB where I recieved my BA in Fine Art. I appreciate the endless possibilities and the pleasant, and sometimes unpleasant, surprises. 

What made you decide to get into pit firing? Any comparison to how it feels creating on the wheel?
I got into pit firing because I was living in a loft in Downtown LA and bought an old 60s kiln that never worked. I needed another way to fire my work, so I looked into alternative firing techniques. I decided to plan a trip to the desert to try out pit-firing. I did my first pit-firing in Pioneertown, I had such great results and the firing was so fun, being surrounded by friends, good food, a great fire and the beautiful desert. I was hooked to say the least. I actually create a lot of the pit-fired work on the wheel, but to compair them, they are both very hands on. I also approach the form in the same way as the firing. Since each piece is 100% unique I usually do all different forms in each pit. 

What do you appreciate most about the desert?
Everything!! I love the community, I've felt accepted since day one, these are my people! I love the vasness of the desert and the endless amount of cool things to go check out. My partner and I love hiking to old mines in and around the park. Also, the rocks!!!! 


Any music you've been grooving to lately?
I listen to a lot of world music, esspecially African and Brazilian funk. I can always go for a little yacht rock also, but my all time favorite is Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down The Line". 


Are there any lessons that ceramics has taught you?
Tons! I will list a few; it's taught me how collaboration and community is so important for the creative process and for growth. It's taught me about 'happy accidents' and how to take really good notes, so I can either repeat or avoid these 'happy accidents'. Ceramics has definitely also taught me patience and how to be very resourceful.


Whatre your 5 favorite spots in the high desert?
One of my favorite places is in Pioneertown at the pottery studio, Mazamar, where I worked for a few months as a prodution potter. Everyone there is so talented and such a great resource when I get stuck with something. They are my desert clay family. I also, of course, love the Wine & Rock Shop. I always have to stop when I'm in Yucca Valley, for the wine but also to just hang, Monica and Justin created such and inviting environment. I frequent the Desert Hardware in 29 Palms, which is a great hardware store right down the road from my place. I love to also treat myself to a delicious smoothie from Natural Sisters in Joshua Tree, to cool me off. Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park is my absolute favorite place/activity out here in the desert, Amboy Crater is pretty amazing as well. 

Any simple ways to bring creativity into everyday living?
Two of my favorites that come to mind are, one: I love to cook, I'm always getting creative with recipes and experimenting with new dishes. And two: fashion!! When I'm not in my studio clothes, I usually get very creative with my outfits, it's so fun to mix and match crazy prints or colors. I have a lot of fun dressing myself lol. 

Photos by Marielle V Chua