We recently connected with Sarah Sauer and have shared our conversation below.
Sarah , thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Did you always know you wanted to pursue a creative or artistic career? When did you first know?
I started taking art classes young. I think it was just a nature thing at a certain point. For as long as I can remember I thought: I want to be an artist and that was my answer when people would ask. As I developed I got this more technical mind too. The traditional arts didn’t always seem like a perfect fit. I did all of the art fundamentals but nothing was striking me as a good match for my form of creativity. Then when I started realizing: print-making exists, ceramics exist, there is a lot of technicality, there is a lot of process, you must have very fine attention to detail. That’s when I realized that mediums existed that matched design with my bent towards more of a technical practice. I started taking classes in ceramics when I was in high school, then went to art school and collected a tool belt of different mediums. Then when I got out of school I decided I wanted to give it a try and see if I could make a living doing it on my own. People expressed interest in my work. There is a lot of freedom and power in having your own setup that you’re running where you produce lines of work—it sells—then your shelves are empty and you do it again. That’s what excited me about it and I’ve just been growing it since that humble beginning point.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
I have always believed in the influence of good design. [Guten = “Good” in German.] Guten Co. was started after I finished art school to see if I could use my hard skills to make a living producing well-designed items. I started small with producing lines of ceramics, and through many changes, a few different cities, and a handful of workspaces, the business steadily grew.
The general ethos of the work is that I produce distinctive designs but because of the way they are produced and the clay bodies I use, they are perfectly suited for everyday use. Thoughtful design, but not fussy. It is important to me to hit that satisfying mark between lots of design interest, without taking away from the pure function and enjoyment of the piece.
This business was built slowly and with purpose and care, which is something I am very proud of. I began it young and was willing to work through the pains of a business’ early stages without giving up. Now, I can see that not rushing to scale has allowed the work I produce to be grounded in quality craftsmanship, and allowed me to find a balance so that I can sustain making great work for the long haul.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative in your experience?
I have the distinct feeling that my creative practice is separate from myself and is its own entity. Because of that, it allows me to see it as something I am building and steering along the way. It almost feels like you can sit down to an imaginary control board and try different things, see what works and doesn’t, and that gives an amazing sense of flexibility. Especially through the pandemic, I found having this practice that could pivot and flex as needed to be incredibly valuable. This flexible yet challenging work is extremely rewarding and having achieved that point of stability as an artist is one of the things I’m most proud of.
Learning and unlearning are both critical parts of growth – can you share a story of a time when you had to unlearn a lesson?
Due to some perfectionist tendencies, I have always had a fear of failure on the first try. I didn’t have a lot of experiences growing up where I failed and it was ok, and I was encouraged to try a second or third time. On a bad day, my expectation is that I should be able to do something well (even brand new things!) almost immediately. This led to a really narrow view of possible methods, tools and mediums that only held me back. Over the last several years, I have tried to welcome intimidating challenges to practice this acceptance of failure so that I can get to the other side with more skills and understanding. Many times this looks like trying to produce a large, challenging piece three, four or fives times before having a success. This new mindset is a constant practice but as I have adjusted, it has manifested in more interesting work, great collaborations with big companies and a great sense of growth and development for me personally.
- Website: www.gutenco.com
- Instagram: @gutenco
All photo credit: Guten Co.