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Meet Eric Barth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eric Barth.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
As a high school freshman with a passion for surfing, my number one priority was figuring out how to spend the most time at the beach. Ceramics was offered as a second period class, which timed out perfectly with my surf class schedule. Turns out, the class I took for the easy A ended up being the creative outlet I didn’t know I needed.

Our high school didn’t have pottery wheels, so all our work was hand-built. This gave me an appreciation for clay and the time and patience that comes with this unique art. So, you can imagine the excitement when wandering down the halls in college, I spotted the ceramics studio – full of wheels! I spoke with the professor, Neil Moss, and joined the beginners class the next semester. The following two years shaped what started as just a creative hobby into a part-time job for the college. I was responsible for recycling clays and mixing glazes and the daunting task of loading and firing the kilns for all the student’s work. When I wasn’t taking entertainment lighting or guitar classes, I spent most of my time in the studio. I then got the unique opportunity to step into entertainment lighting on a full-time basis. For almost two decades, I’ve traveled the world, working for countless clients as a lighting director and programmer on live events, concert tours, and video game competitions. It was years after college, in my downtime, that I decided to rekindle my passion for ceramics and buy a wheel and a kiln. Unfortunately, my work schedule made it difficult to dedicate much time to my old hobby Enter: 2020. I was on the road most of January thru March, and then the pandemic struck. The entertainment industry completely shut down, and everyone was forced to stay at home. I finally had the opportunity to dust off my wheel and start creating again. While I was honing in on my throwing skills, my girlfriend encouraged me to start selling on Etsy. We got invited to be part of a local, socially distant craft fair, and for the first time I sold my pieces to the public. And I was hooked.

In the meantime, we were building a site called Side Hustle Collaborative – a source for entertainment professionals to list and promote their side hustles they created or spent more time on due to COVID-19. This was a great way to connect with other artists and creators across the country, giving us the impetus to continue designing and producing our side hustle, pottery. Once we hit 50 sales on Etsy, we decided to start our own website to open us up to more opportunity beyond just selling our pieces. In a time where so many people are itching for that creative outlet and to have somewhere safe to go and express their art, we decided it would be fun to teach 1 on 1 beginner pottery classes in our garage studio. We also partnered with Crockd, an at-home pottery kit company, to be one of their local studio kilns for their customers to fire their pieces. We’ve embraced the hiatus that was forced upon our industry but look forward to creating a solid work/pottery balance when the world opens back up.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The struggle is being an artist living in Los Angeles. While the screeching halt of my industry allowed for more time to pursue my hobby, unfortunately, it doesn’t pay the bills. Convincing friends, family, and strangers that they should pay a premium for handmade goods during a global pandemic has proven to be difficult. However, the appreciation for bespoke and unique pieces seems to be on the rise, and we’re hoping the “shop local” movement keeps building momentum.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’ve been working in entertainment lighting for just about 20 years. I’ve played the role of lighting director and programmer for about a decade, doing shows ranging from small backyard concerts to the Riot Games World Finals at the Birds Nest in China. I own my own lighting consoles and I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far. I work for some great designers, clients, and corporations that allow me to add my expertise and creative touch to shows globally. The feeling of accomplishment that comes with almost every show I do is why I get up for work each day. The schedules are grueling, the traveling is exhausting, but when you’re working with the best teams in the business, it makes it exciting to go to work with your friends and colleagues.

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
Disconnecting from the screens we’re all dependent on and focusing on building something with my hands is really important. Turning a cold, hard bag of clay into a set of handmade mugs is primal, creative, and grounding. I love seeing the recipients of my pottery enjoying their coffee or ramen in something I made.

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Photos by Rachel Miller

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