DAMDAM

Conversations with

Sarah Van Raden

BY GISELLE GO

Photographs by Notary Ceramics

The Portland-based Notary Ceramics is one of those accounts on Instagram that would give anyone pause: Each visual is imbued with a sense of calm, clearly emanating from its founder and creator, Sarah Van Raden. The former stylist started making ceramics as a reprieve from a fast-paced lifestyle and has since taken over her life, full-time. Today, she resides in Portland with her husband and children, where each ceramic piece is created and becomes a vessel for her family to enjoy food and nature. Here, our chat with the potter.

Hi, Sarah! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a mama and potter and I grew up in rural Oregon. My husband and I bought a house in the Woodstock neighborhood of Portland about 10 years ago. We are a bit off the beaten path, and down a long dirt road. It feels like a nice balance between country and city living.​

How did Notary Ceramics start?

Notary Ceramics started as hobby and a retreat from my life as a stylist and a mama. I needed something that was creative in my life that I had full control over. I began taking an evening class in beginning wheel throwing and was immediately hooked. I drove home the first night from my class absolutely filthy, covered in clay, and smiling ear to ear. I knew it was something that I wanted to spend more time doing.​

Sarah at work in her ceramics studio.

“It was very scary to walk away from a 10 year career as a freelance stylist. I made a good living and was able to help provide for our family. However, the hours were brutal, the lifestyle was not in line with my values any longer. I wanted more time with my children, and more creative freedom in my career.”

What was it like to make the leap from your previous job as a photo stylist to pursue your passion in ceramics?

It was very scary to walk away from a 10 year career as a freelance stylist. I made a good living and was able to help provide for our family. However, the hours were brutal, the lifestyle was not in line with my values any longer. I wanted more time with my children, and more creative freedom in my career.

I would absolutely recommend taking the leap to pursue your passion if you know that you are driven and have the energy and resources needed to begin a new chapter. I worked more in the first year starting this business than I ever have before in my life. But it was work that inspired me constantly and that never felt tedious. ​

Do you have a philosophy or aesthetic that you strive for through Notary?

I like to keep my ceramics simple, organic and timeless. I want to create things that people can pass down to their family members and that will not go out of style or become irrelevant. ​

Everyday objects are elevated to an art in Sarah’s hands.

“I am also endlessly inspired by plants and flowers. I adore making vases and shallow bowls for floral arrangements. We have a beautiful garden and throughout the summer my daughters and I fill every vessel in the house with flowers, weeds and greens.”

Still life at Notary Ceramics

Do you have a daily beauty ritual?

I wash my face with a warm washcloth in the morning and put on a light moisturizer for the day. I wear mascara and smudge a bit of eyeliner under my eyes. In the winter I like to wear a bit of blush and a little rosy lip balm.

In the evening I try to remember to wash my face and put on facial oil and maybe an eye cream. Sometimes I am too tired to even brush my teeth and the rest goes out the window!

What inspires your work?

I am inspired by my husband’s meals. He is constantly creating new recipes and delicious foods for our family to enjoy. I love creating vessels for him to showcase his beautiful edible creations.

I am also endlessly inspired by plants and flowers. I adore making vases and shallow bowls for floral arrangements. We have a beautiful garden and throughout the summer my daughters and I fill every vessel in the house with flowers, weeds and greens.

Inside the Portland-based shop

“I have loved France and Mexico the most. I love both of these cultures and how they prize their downtime. I wish that we had more opportunities to rest throughout our day and to enjoy one another’s company over a long meal.​”

Where are your favorite travel destinations?

Thus far I have loved France and Mexico the most. I love both of these cultures and how they prize their downtime. I wish that we had more opportunities to rest throughout our day and to enjoy one another’s company over a long meal.​

 

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