We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Hernandez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When I was studying ceramics at the university level, I never intended to start my own business. However, as I progressed with my career I saw that ceramics was not accessible to everyone. As a disabled Latina who went to a university in a small west Texas city, I saw firsthand the different types of obstacles that would prevent someone from working with clay. I am grateful that I had a latino ceramics professor to mentor me during this period. He inspired me to use my position as a successful ceramicist to help others and create opportunities for other people of color.After I finished my internship at a production pottery studio and getting my degree, I felt confident that starting my own production pottery studio would be the avenue in which I could help my community. Once I explored it further, I saw that this could have a real impact – I could teach interns, hire women or people of color, and supply ceramics to Latinx restaurants. This motivated me to take those first steps and start my own business. 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 believe that what sets me apart from others is that I not only run my own production pottery studio, but I am an artist as well. For my business, I make colorful ceramic pieces in the style of Russel Wright’s ceramic dinnerware. For my art practice, I use the surface of my ceramic vessels as a canvas for my abstract “paintings”. I recently made a few vessels with alternative firing practices that I’m really proud of. I was able to achieve colors and effects that I’ve never seen before, and I’m excited for others to see them.
I was a Studio Art major in college and I believe it was important for helping me become an artist. During my time there I learned about the artistic process and entered multiple juried shows with the guidance of my teachers and mentors. Once I graduated, I felt prepared to navigate the art world on my own. However, creating art in school and creating art in the real world are two different things. I felt that it was much harder to create work outside of school because I didn’t have the same structure or resources. It took time for me to find a space to work in and to buy my equipment, but I was determined to make it work.
One of the things I’ve learned along the way is the importance of consistency. Life can get pretty chaotic and busy, but it is important to set aside some time and keep working on your art. For some people, that can look like an 8 hour studio day. For others, it can look like one hour a week. The important part is to just keep creating.
I hope others can see that while it was not easy to get to this point in my career, I am happy that I have seen success. I am more motivated than ever to keep growing so that I can create opportunities for other women and people of color.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Anytime someone from out of town comes to visit me, I always take them to Snooze AM Eatery for brunch. I love the bright colors and the food is amazing. Some of my other favorite spots to eat are Jupiter Pizza & Waffle Co, Somisomi: Soft Serve & Taiyaki, and The Burger Joint. One thing I love about Houston is that no matter what you’re craving, you’ll be sure to find something that hits the spot.
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?
I would like to give a shout out to Michelle Heinesen. She has been an incredible help to me along my journey. When I first moved to Houston, she introduced me to the local ceramic scene and she has continued to help me since then. From helping me fix my equipment to sharing her studio facilities, she has been there every step of the way.