We asked Rachael Williams, ceramicist behind Margaret + Beau and owner of Cupboard Goods to talk us through how she got into the world of ceramics, what she hopes to give the neighborhood through her new space, and what inspires her. Read on for more and see how she wears our utility-inspired styles.
What was your path to becoming a ceramics artist like? What were you doing before and what did you envision yourself doing professionally when you were younger?
When I started Margaret + Beau about 4 years ago, I was still very much dreaming about owning a coffee shop where everything, including the ceramics, were made in house. It didn’t feel like a good time then, but since I had never even take a ceramics class I figured I should start there.
I took one ceramics class at PCC, and within the month quit my job, bought a wheel and rented a janky basement studio space in lower SE-determined to watch a lot of you tube videos and play. I was in need of a creative change, and ceramics became the perfect outlet for that. Previously I had been working both in baking and pastry, and the specialty coffee industry.
No one that knows me was really surprised when I made the shift into ceramics, as art has always been a part of my life in a variety of mediums.
I asked my mom recently what I used to say I wanted to be when I grew up, and she said, “ it was different every week with you. You were always fascinated by anything new, and wanted to try everything. Some I remember were an artist, a chef, a teacher...”
I don’t know that I can particularly remember one specific thing, but in the last decade I’ve definitely had a common theme revolving around art + hospitality. Every year it feels like we get a couple steps closer to tying it all together.
How do you define your ceramics aesthetic? What’s the feel you’re trying to evoke through your work and how do you differentiate yourself from others in the space?
This shouldn’t be a difficult question for me, but it is. I don’t love being stuck in a specific aesthetic, because I like so many different styles and contributions to the ceramics world.
I’m still learning, and still at the very beginning of my ceramics career, so I don’t feel like I’ve arrived in terms of a specific style. Two things that I am constantly trying to incorporate in my work are color and playfulness. I want to appeal to both a very minimal modern type as well as someone highly eccentric.
I enjoy collections that can be mixed and matched but still have a 'same-same' but different feel, and I like to change regularly, to not be too attached to one thing.
Seasonality just feels right in food and art, and I try to shift with the seasons through color, as well as function. We love to garden, and we cook at home a lot- so it’s really easy to be influenced by what’s growing, and imagining the platings that’s could pair with certain colors and designs.
Congratulations on opening Cupboard Goods! What is the concept behind the space and what inspired you to pursue brick & mortar?
Thank you! One of the main reasons we opened Cupboard Goods is because I need to have personal connection with the people I’m working with and making for. Being online is great, but I’ve not quite mastered a Webshop, online sales and marketing.
My goal in any career has always been to be a word of mouth business, and I’ve been missing my regulars from working in hospitality. The goal of a cafe is always in the back of our minds, but right now my career is ceramics, so when I saw the space come available we just pulled out the dream board of what it could be. I wanted it to be named something other than my personal ceramics line because I wanted to carry other makers, including other ceramicists.The artisans and companies we’re using align with our values of caring for the environment and people. We focus on goods that are ethically and sustainably made, businesses that give back in the community and that are fair trade.
We serve free coffee on the weekends, because we wanted people to see that coffee tastes better out of a handmade mug, and to get to know our new neighbors. I guess you could say our concept is flexible. I like active multi-use spaces so we’re a shop by day, we host other makers for pop ups, and workshops. Some evenings we have wine tastings and community events.
We’re trying to build a community and be influenced by the people we’re serving which is exciting because I have no idea what transformation we’ll go through. Right now, Having a space people can walk in and touch and feel my ceramics and take home what speaks to them has been so satisfying and brought in a new wave of joy and energy to my work, I’ve loved all the new people we’ve gotten to connect with in person, and we’re super thankful to go into the new year with so many possibilities.
What do you like most about being a maker in Portland?
Being a maker in a Portland has been an incredible experience, because of how supportive Portlanders are of the arts, entrepreneurship, and people paving their own way. There is something for everyone here, and I definitely feel cheered on to explore and imagine possibilities.
Because of that, there is a lot of us, and it feels great to have such a large community of people who are all in this together and super open to collaboration.
Any favorite neighborhood spots you’d suggest?
Oh man, I am a huge boneless buffalo wing fan, so having Fire on the Mountain across the street is dangerous, and Peters Bar and Grill is a neighborhood staple. I love walking along Fremont. We frequent Happy Day Juice Co. for a Beaumont smoothie and Tuk Tuk for Thai almost weekly. Their house golden rice with veggies is an obsession, as is the Margarita from Wonderly- it has pineapple Shrub!
What’s next for you? What are you excited for in 2020?
Honestly, I’m probably most excited about meeting my sisters baby, they’re due in February and having some time to go off the grid with my husband.
My New Years resolution last year was to not add anything new to my bucket list, but to start crossing things off, and going into 2020 I feel the same. A little less daydreaming, and a bit more doing, one thing at a time.