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Daily Inspiration: Meet Caroline Freese

Today we’d like to introduce you to Caroline Freese.

Hi Caroline, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I went to Iowa State University (ISU) for college. I am an Iowa native. I took an art class my first year, which led me to take an interest in design. I graduated with a BFA in Integrated Studio Arts (essentially a fine arts degree) from the College of Design at ISU. I focused on ceramics and woodworking and took several field trips during college up to Minneapolis. Once a year, we would drive up at 5 am on a Saturday, visit the Continental Clay Company, and pick up ceramic tools and clay. Then we would go to the Northern Clay Center, view fabulous clay works, shop, and tour the studio (one of my favorite places). Then we would go to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and spend the rest of the day walking around, sketching, etc. The entire trip was a vital part of our education in ceramics. I also attended the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference, which was held in Minneapolis in the spring of 2019. Minneapolis is a home base for ceramics for me. I bought all my materials from Continental Clay Company for my business and applied for a spot at the Northern Clay Center last year. Still, it is a very competitive program, and I didn’t get accepted. I currently run my design business in Indianola, IA, Caroline Freese Designs. I have my studio as of 2022. I make custom animal paintings on wood that I digitize and apply to the pottery using iron transfer decals. I do festivals (multiple in Minneapolis each year) to sell my work to the public. I turned my love for animals and the community into a business, thriving at it. Without those vital trips to Minneapolis, I don’t know where I would be today.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Running a small business is always a challenge. I have especially experienced difficulties in supply chain shortages since 2020. I have had numerous instances where clay or other necessary raw materials for my ceramic processes have been unavailable. Continental Clay always does a fabulous job of putting artists that have to travel long distances first to get material. I also had to wait 6 months before I received the kiln I ordered for my new studio. Overall, setting up my new studio post covid has taken almost a year to get all the equipment, supplies, and studio fixtures. It was a long time coming but it has been 100% worth it because now I can produce at a much higher rate.

Thanks – so, what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I was born and raised on a small farm in Indianola, Iowa. Always involved in my parent’s farm and 4-H, I have a soft spot for animals and nature. I make handmade, wheel-thrown ceramics. My forms are unique to my brand and fired in an electric kiln. I decorate my pottery with black iron oxide printed decals based on my original paintings of folk-inspired animals and nature scenes inspired by the Midwest landscape. My ceramic forms are a canvas to display my love for animals and nature. My pottery is functional, food, dishwasher, and microwave safe. I perform every step in my process by hand.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Supporting local businesses is the lifeblood of a community. Being a small business owner, I always shop locally if I can now. Visiting small shops around my town center is one of my favorite activities. Not only to purchase gifts for family and friends but to communicate with the people and get to know the heart of a community. Participating in community events, like art festivals, is a joy and brings to life a sense of connection with the people around us.

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