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Rising Stars: Meet Debbie Wolk

Today we’d like to introduce you to Debbie Wolk.

Debbie, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’m Debbie, owner and creator of Debbie Wolk Designs. I’m a wife, and a mom of two post-college kiddos. I grew up in St. Paul, MN and now live in Plymouth, MN.  I started out in television production after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. I really enjoyed the casting process and was the production manager of a home improvement show on TLC.

Due to the tough hours, I had to put that on the back burner when I started my family. I have worked in print advertising sales most of my adult life, but have kept my hands in creative fields in one way or another. I have always painted and have always loved being creative. I have had my own retail business, done event planning, marketing consulting, managed large scale Home Improvement and Food and Wine Shows and most recently I have produced maker events with up to 30 vendors. As you can see I like to keep busy and I love a challenge.

One thing that has always remained consistent is that I love to paint ceramics!

Over the years my style has changed and I continue to be inspired by my surroundings as well as others. I can get an idea from nature, travel, photography, my family and just about everything I encounter. Painting is soothing to me. It relaxes me and helps to feed my soul. It is the one constant that always makes me happy.

I have always loved to create! I have been coloring, painting throwing pots, taking classes and crafting my whole life. Almost 25 years ago, when visiting a friend, I saw a beautiful ceramic bowl on his coffee table. I asked where he got it and I was told that his mom made it for him at a local ceramics studio. I called the next day and signed up. I was hooked after my first class and have been painting ceramics ever since.

2021 has been my most successful year to date. I attribute this to starting to venture into retail stores. This has been such a rewarding experience. I love working with local shops and their customers to add to my own loyal followers. I am currently in about 12 stores throughout the country.

I recently moved into a studio space in the Casket Arts Building in Northeast Minneapolis. This is something that has been a dream of mine, my whole life. I love being surrounded by other artists in a creative community. I also bought my own kiln about 4 years ago. I am now producing the largest amount of work I can possibly create with my own two hands. It has been extremely productive and satisfying.

An important element in my work is remaining relevant. I do this by continuing to take classes and workshops. I am currently throwing pots and building hand-formed pieces from clay. This is rewarding and keeps my inventory fresh.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
In the beginning, the challenge was building a customer base and getting my work out there for people to see. I started to do local pop-ups and shows throughout the cities. This gave me the exposure I was looking for and allowed me to build a following.

In addition to shows, I began the process of building up a social media following. After taking some classes to learn more, I realized that I could never underestimate the power of social media. The combination of my website/Facebook/Instagram/e-blasts are extremely vital in involving my customers, getting my work out there for people to see and of course to generate orders.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
From the very beginning, I always gave my work as gifts. It wasn’t long before people started asking me to custom make pieces for them.

One of my favorite things is creating custom orders for special gifts. I do everything from platters for weddings, showers and anniversaries to birthday plates, graduation gifts, Mother’s Day and Teacher Gifts. My customers love the idea of giving a gift that has meaning.

I do try to make some of my collections, Minnesota focused. I find that Minnesotans are passionate about life here in Minnesota and they love to surround themselves with all things Minnesotan!

I really have honed in on making pieces with custom lettering. I use my handwriting to make the piece customized and special.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
I believe that if you put yourself out there and get involved in the community, you will always find that there are people willing to help. Join organizations, take classes, participate in workshops. Any time I have someone reach out to me for advice, I make time to talk to them. I believe networking can be a very powerful tool. I keep the names of other makers and always try to pass their names on whenever there is an opportunity. We all like to help each other. I am in a group of women makers who always encourages each other. We also like to do social media collaborations whenever possible in an effort to gain more followers and boost all of our exposure and this equates to sales.

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Image Credits

Debbie Wolk Designs

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