Maker Monday: Diana Barns Pottery

Welcome to our newest tradition, Maker Monday! Our Store Manager, Marissa, gets to know a little bit more about the makers of The DIME Store. We believe in bridging the gap between our customer and the maker -- and this new project is a great way to learn about the person behind the product!

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Diana Barns is our first Co-Op member in our Maker Monday spotlight! Our Co-Op is the lifeblood of The DIME Store. They’re the artists that help us run the day-to-day of the store and who we consider part of our closest community. Diana has become a dear friend over the past year and it was a blast getting to sit down with her and chat about how her unique training was a crucial part of her becoming a Maker.

So for those that don’t have the pleasure of knowing you, give us a little bit of your background?

I’m (newly) 28 and I was born and raised in Denton. I went to college at Oklahoma Baptist University to play tennis. I played for the first 2 years and then my major was in Comm Design so my junior and senior years I was able to focus more on the arts department. I graduated in 2013 and then moved back to Denton and I’ve been here ever since. I really enjoy living in Denton. I think I was more excited about living here because I had been away for college.

How did you get started as a Maker?

My major was in Comm Design but I took 2 ceramics courses as electives and really loved it in the beginning. After I graduated I went into graphic design for 3 years and while I was doing that, I got back into pottery on the side. I slowly built up my studio; I started with a wheel and a small kiln because it was just a hobby at the time.

So what made you make the jump from it being ‘just a hobby’ to Diana Barns Pottery?

I started doing it more and more as a hobby and the more I realized how much I loved it, I started thinking in the back of my mind “this would be really cool it I could focus on this more’. But you can only do so much while working full time. Originally, I had never really planned on switching over to pottery completely but after my 3rd year of graphic design I was realizing that I didn’t really want to sit at a desk all day every day. I still wanted to do something creative. I’ve learned a lot from graphic design but as I was thinking that it might not be what I wanted to do long term, I started thinking about pottery more. I initially thought about going back to school and then I found the apprenticeship in England so that’s when I made the jump. If it wasn’t for that opportunity I probably wouldn’t have fully gone for it.

How did you find the apprenticeship in England?

I was bored at work one day and I started googling pottery apprenticeships and I started finding that this type of training was more common in Europe. So I thought that would be really cool instead of going back to school, going to another country to experience a different culture and live somewhere else while I learn the skill better. It was definitely going out on a limb. I had emailed a few people not really expecting a response but after I got a few replies I started really thinking of it as a possibility. Penny, the lady I ended up working for, she emailed me and said she was looking for someone and the timeline just really worked out to where I could finish up my job and then move out there. I had a few months to decide if I was going to quit my job and move so that was an interesting couple of months while I tried to make that decision but I’m really glad I did it.

How long were you there? What did that apprenticeship look like?

I was there for 6 months, February to August, and I was definitely nervous at first. I had skyped with her once and emailed a few times and knew that she had a small studio in a tiny little village of about 1000 people. It was very countryside, small town which I really liked the idea of. But I was nervous because I had never lived overseas. The apprenticeship itself was really great. I learned a ton! The first month or so was a lot of repetition, just practicing to get to where I could get the forms good enough to make stuff for her. A lot of training by trial and error; she would show me how to do something and then I would spend the day practicing it. There was definitely a big learning curve from the very beginning to the end, it was basically 9am-5pm or 6pm in the studio every day and she would give me something to make and slowly but surely she would keep more of what I made. So I would make her forms and then she would do the decorating and I would help with small tasks, like an assistant. It looked different the longer I was there and the more she trusted me. It was definitely a hands-on, studio-based apprenticeship and I thought it was a good way to learn.

So how did the end of the apprenticeship compare to the beginning?

The beginning was about learning the ropes and how the studio was run. At that time I had only taken a couple of ceramics classes so there was a lot of skill I still needed to learn. Because of that there were a lot of frustrating days in the beginning. I would spend an entire day working on something and we wouldn’t keep any of it. But i think that was also a really good way to learn because there wasn’t the pressure to keep everything you made. Looking back now, as a maker, if you have to toss out a whole batch of something, that’s what you’re trying to make a living off of but as an apprentice you have the freedom to experiment and practice without that pressure. It was really important to learn to not be too attached to what you make because you definitely progress and get better and then look back and see how what you were doing at the beginning wasn’t very good. So from the beginning to the end of the 6 months you could definitely tell that there was improvement in my work. Penny was also very encouraging about my progress but it was also mentally tough to be working in the studio every day for someone. There is a level of pressure and expectation because you are working for someone else but it provided a really solid foundation to leave there and branch out on my own. Being in the town itself, moving somewhere where you don’t know anybody, and getting involved in the community and seeing how that even changed over the months was really cool to see. There were actually a lot highly skilled potters in that area that I got to meet and visit different studios and be really inspired.

What was the timeline between coming back from England and becoming a full-time maker?

It took me a couple of months to get my studio running. I already had a wheel and a kiln so I was partially set up but not for a full studio so there was definitely some things I needed to do. I did a couple of shows in the fall after I got back and then in the spring is when I remodeled my garage to be a fully-functioning ceramics studio. It was a progression but I got to it really quickly.

Can you talk about what it’s been like to be in Co-Op? How did that come about? What benefits have you found?

I’ve been on co-op for about a year and it’s definitely been one of the highlights of the past year. Shelley originally approached me last year but even before I got back to Texas from England she was someone who encouraged me to jump right in. She was already such an encouraging voice throughout the process and so I was really excited to be a part of the community and be more involved in the store. It’s a big jump from working a 9-5 job to being self employed and working by yourself. Having the Co-op as part of my community has really helped in that transition. Looking back at the past year, those are some of my good friends now! It’s just fun to part of it.

How would you describe the DIME community to someone who has no idea what it is?

The Dime Store community is a unique community in the sense that everybody is very open and encouraging with their ideas and feedback. It’s really nice to have different sounding boards to share ideas because working by yourself and thinking through things by yourself can only go so far sometimes. The DIME Store is just a very encouraging environment and as a Maker I think there’s different seasons everyone goes through from motivated to kind of stuck to working on new things or more being established. I think all of us are at different places at different times so it’s great to have each other to encourage one another wherever you’re at and not feel crazy or the only one feeling a certain way.

So growing up here and now living as an adult, how is Denton different for you?

Denton has grown a lot even since I graduated high school and came back from college. There’s definitely more to do and it’s turned more into an arts community, I guess it’s always been an arts community but I feel like there’s more of a focus on that now. Maybe that’s just because I’m a Maker that I notice it but there’s definitely more to do than there used to be. There wasn’t anything on the square that you would really want to go do and you’d have to get out of Denton to do anything really fun so it’s nice to stay in Denton and have all of these great options.

If there was one movie that you think everyone should see at least once in their life, what movie would that be?

I feel like these questions are harder than the serious questions...there’s so many good movies! My go to’s are the Harry Potter movies. If you haven’t seen Harry Potter then who are you?!

If you didn’t have to sleep what would you spend your time doing?

Well I really like sleep! But before I was a potter I would probably add more hobbies but it’s a little different now because I do my hobby as a profession. I would probably watch more Netflix and movies and definitely have a more balanced life. I’d do the things that I feel like I don’t have the time to do like house projects! I like working on house stuff but I don’t do it as much because I don’t really have the time for it.

Find Diana’s work on her website and at The DIME Store!
You can also find our exclusive blue-rimmed Denton mug from her here!