We had the good fortune of connecting with Judy Adams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Judy, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Customer Service and listening to the needs of our clients. This is true for the ceramic work I display in our gallery and how we run our pottery classes. Since starting this business in 1979 John Foelber, my husband, and I have always strived to showcase unique, contemporary ceramics by local artisans. When we teach we do so in a very hands-on, relaxed way. People know they are getting the real deal when they walk into our establishment. We stay true to our values and the balance of being creative artists and teachers. Throughout the years we have learned that we can never water-down our personal design aesthetic or jump on the gimmick of the year just to have sales. It doesn’t ring true. So the pieces I exhibit are works we truly believe in and can vouch for. We can tell you the story behind each piece and each artisan we represent. I am excited to help a client find the perfect piece for a new home, wedding gift, or interior design project. Commission work is another way we listen to our clients needs if they can’t find exactly what they want in our gallery. And if I feel their design vision doesn’t work with our particular ceramic process I will gladly direct them to another local ceramists. There is an amazing network of local talent we have culled over 40 years in the business. That is also a secret to our success. Honesty and sharing information. When I help a client find just want they need, even if it isn’t with us, then they are liking to return because of that positive experience.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I love going to work everyday. I still have sketchbooks full of ideas for forms, surfaces, glaze combos, and kiln firing techniques. A wise artist was once asked which piece he created was his favorite. His reply, “The next one.” That is the way I look at my work. I’m always striving to do better. Then I get excited sharing these discoveries with our advanced ceramic students. My work has evolved so much over the years. I still do small batch functional ceramics like cups, bowls, and serving dishes now and then. But my true passion is architectural, modern vessel forms that can stand alone as a sculptural piece. I took my first ceramics course in college in the late 1970s while working on an Art Education degree. It was love at first spin on the pottery wheel. I wanted to explore all of the possibilities of clay and let me tell you, there are many! After graduating with a dual degree on Art Education and a BFA in Ceramics I moved to Houston and taught art in private schools for about 7 years. At the same time I started renting studio space from John Foelber so I could continue my ceramics on the side. John and I married in 1987 and he soon persuaded me to quit my “real” job and work with him. Those were scary, lean years! For one, Houston was still rebounding from a recession. The Montrose, where we are located, was considered unsafe so it was hard to get the gallery and classes going. We did art festivals throughout Texas and slowly built up the business. It was a huge learning curve when the internet became a thing! Then I created a website. Then there was Facebook. I’m a bit late to the game but Instagram has been a wonderful venue to connect to other creatives and clients. Just this spring when the world had to shut down because of Covid19 I had time to upgrade our website and finally have an online store! It is difficult to wear so many hats as a small business owner but I love the challenge. I am always willing to learn new technology (although I may be a bit slow sometimes). Owning two old buildings for the business (the gallery was built in 1929) means I’ve had to learn a bit about plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, and of course creating good relationships with excellent tradespeople. My biggest lesson to share to those wanting to start a business is not be afraid to learn new skills, even the ones that don’t directly pertain to your passion. If nothing else you will know what your can’t do, but be able to ask good questions of those who will do the work. Also, network, network, network. There are so many generous, creative, knowledgeable people around you. Seek them out.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First, welcome to Houston, TX!! An amazing, vibrant, diverse city. Soooo many fun things to do! Within walking distance of our gallery is the fabulous Menil Art Campus with 4 separate art buildings, green space, and the Bistro Menil for a nosh. Let’s walk to Hermann Park and the stunning McGovern Centennial Gardens with the Ziggurat Water feature. Then to the MFAH, Contemporary Art Museum, and a place dear to my heart.. The Center for Contemporary Crafts. A walk along Buffalo Bayou is lovely as is the new Houston Botanic Gardens. We can get funky with the Art Car Museum, The Orange Show, Smither Park, the National Museum of Funeral History. Diversity abounds with the Buffalo Soldiers Museum, TSU Art Gallery, and the beautiful new Emancipation Park. Then we can stop at Crumbville, Soul Food Vegan, or Kaffeine Coffee to give some 3rd Ward love. What’s your food preference? Houston has it all. If you love sushi like me and we are walking I’d take you Nippon Japanese Restaurant for a traditional experience. Or we can head to Shun for a contemporary twist for 2nd generation Sushi chef. Pondecheri for Indian. The Burger Joint for well, burgers. Star Pizza, a Houston icon. Thai, South American, Vietnemese, Tex Mex, BBQ, Vegan, ….stop… you’re making me hunger!!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Defiantly have to give a shoutout to my husband and business partner, John Foelber. He is the ying to my yang. We balance each other so well and know how to make each other laugh.