Despite his instant popularity and overnight success, Isaac Nichols still shows up to the studio each day and makes his pots by hand. Tucked behind an unmarked steel door, the studio space is massive and, one can imagine, quite rare in its north Williamsburg location. As understated as the exterior of the space, Isaac greets us with a shy smile, wearing a lived-in crewneck and paint-splattered pants. Throughout the tour of his space, he’s constantly crediting his teammates, beaming at them between breaths. They call themselves Group Partner and began working officially, under this name, in 2012. Before that, straight out of art school, Isaac was stressed about becoming an “artist” and started making pots for fun. With about thirty complete, he set up shop on his Brooklyn stoop and quickly realized that he could turn his therapeutic hobby into a real business.
How did you decide to start making pots?
I had a lot of plants and I couldn’t find good pots for them.
Can you remember the first pot you created?
I can remember some, but memory isn’t my strong suit. My friend Dan Morris has a bunch, the earliest ones that I couldn’t really give away, they were terrible. Then I started adding faces, that’s when I started to like them, and then the girls came around. I had so much fun making pots in those early days.
Looking at your work now, there are lots of different types of pots. Do you have a 'core' or signature few that really got your career started?
I probably started with around 1,000 pots that I made by hand. I made them all different to keep things interesting. Having so many, I decided to try and make a real business out of it. I began to streamline the designs to have a cohesive collection. What’s available now is sort of a “best of" from those earlier days. I’m looking forward to adding more, entirely new styles to my inventory really soon.
Your boob pots are often interpreted as a type of feminist statement, did you design them with that intention or did it just happen?
I didn’t design them with that in mind. I made the first one for my girlfriend. It was supposed to make her smile, feel appreciated, and act like a little thank you for putting up with me. Then my friends wanted some and so I kept making them. That being said, I'm glad that they’re seen as a feminist statement. They are certainly about being female and celebrating that.
Why did you decide to make the boy pot? Did its inception have anything to do with the reaction to the boob pot?
I had made boys in the past, but they were always harder to make. People kept asking for them, and I felt like they would be an appropriate addition considering the girl and bikini pots, so here they are.
What is your favorite part about the pot-making process?
I still really enjoy making the pots by hand. When I don’t yet know what it’s going to look like, it’s like I’m slowly discovering the person in the pot. Then there’s the painting; it’s great and super therapeutic.
Looking around your space there are rows and rows of ceramics that look ready to ship. Do you have a team working with you now? Are you as hands-on and involved in the process as you were starting out?
It’s true that we’re making a lot more pots than we used too. I am one of the five people working here currently. There's Steph, Mimo, Diana, and Sophie. We have a lot of fun. I’m still here and making pots as much as everyone else though my role keeps changing. It’s been a learning curve for sure, but I’m happy to finally be figuring it out and doing it all in good company.
Speaking of the space, it's really incredible and expansive and we've spotted works by a few other well-known ceramicists. How does the shared space affect your work?
I started the shared studio about a year into making the pots. It played a huge part in getting me to where I am now. When you’re working around ten other really talented and hard working people, doing the same thing, it makes staying motivated that much easier and allows you feel like all the effort might actually amount to something. Being able to imagine success is an important factor in actually achieving it.
What other mediums, if any, do you like to work in?
I like working across the board: wood, paper, fabric, or metal. I really like it all. I have a growing interest in mechanics lately – with that, there’s something interesting about making an existing object work in new ways rather than designing an entirely new thing. I’m trying it out.
Do you have any big plans to expand the business?
More pots. I don’t want to jinx myself so we’ll leave it at that.