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How a 100 day project can change your life and career


Lalese Stamps is a ceramicist and the founder of Lolly Lolly Ceramics, a small-scale ceramics production and design studio.

Since undertaking a 100 day project at the end of 2019, Lolly Lolly Ceramics has grown to more than 100K followers on Instagram.

In this episode we talk about Lalese’s start to ceramics, the process of making a mug, growing a large following overnight, brand partnerships, and how her tenacity has helped her to make the most out of her opportunities.

Transcript and show notes can be found here

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Transcript

Lalese Stamps 0:00
I knew I needed something to really push me out of my comfort zone. And this project did that. I mean, it was hard. There were a few all nighters. And it really forced me to look at my surroundings and really see inspiration and things that were around me.

Jay Clouse 0:16
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show.

Hello, my friend. Welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. I'm grateful that you've decided to spend another hour here with me today. Back in June of 2020, I published an episode with Cat Coquilette, a graphic designer who licenses her designs to major brands. That episode has always been a listener favorite. And I'm making a commitment this year to speak with more designers and not just graphic designers but product designers too. And one of the first people who came to mind when I was thinking about products and design is today's guest Lalese Stamps. Lalese is a ceramicist in the creator of Lolly Lolly Ceramics, a small scale ceramics production and design studio in Columbus, Ohio. Lalese's ceramics have gotten a lot of attention over the last year, and her public profile has really blown up. In what feels like the blink of an eye. her Instagram following has grown to more than 100,000 followers and her studio is consistently sold out of their handmade mugs. I first met Lalese a couple of years ago at a coffee shop here in Columbus called One Line Coffee. And it's where a lot of local artists and creatives tend to hang out. This was a few years ago when she was still a graphic design student at the Columbus College of Art and Design. And it was there at CCAD that she first tried her hand at ceramics.

Lalese Stamps 1:55
I thought that ceramics was something that I could try. I never tried it before ironically. So back in 2017, I decided to take a class and it kind of stuck I I started selling pieces locally at the flea market and then it just really took off from there.

Jay Clouse 2:11
That if you hadn't guessed is Lalese. It has it here in this interview, she took a ceramics like a fish to water or clay to a wheel or some other clever metaphor, or maybe that's a simile, I don't know. And while she studied graphic design at CCAD, she also continued to practice her craft of ceramics, making mugs and sometimes selling them at a local flea market. But that got a little repetitive for Lalese. And she started looking for ways to stretch yourself creatively.

Lalese Stamps 2:37
So I decided that doing 100 day project would be perfect because that meant I can do something for 100 days. And hopefully that would expand my knowledge and also skill set for ceramics. So I made 100 different mugs with 100 different handles for 100 days.

Jay Clouse 2:56
Lalese 100 day project got a ton of attention locally. For days it felt like if I open Instagram stories, I was going to see her mugs. And not long after in mid 2020s, things really started to change for Lily's on a national level. As our country grappled with the murders of George Floyd and Briana Taylor, black business owners started to get more of the attention that they deserve. And the least is business Lolly Lolly Ceramics started to really take off.

Lalese Stamps 3:22
So at the time, it was really interesting because I wasn't really focused on my ceramics as much I was protesting a lot and doing a lot of social justice things. So let's look at my phone and see the amount of followers that I was getting at that time. It would range from like 10,000 new followers a day to 20,000, which was insane.

Jay Clouse 3:42
We talked about this a lot more in the interview. But Lalese's work grew like wildfire, getting attention from the New York Times, Pop Sugar, Marie Claire, and even Gwyneth Paltrow. But it's challenging to keep up with that type of growth, especially for a first time entrepreneur. So in this episode, we talk about Lalese's start to ceramics, the process of making a single mug let alone 100 of them growing a large following overnight, brand partnerships, and how her tenacity has helped her to make the most out of these opportunities. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen. You can find me on Twitter or Instagram @JayClouse. I'd love to know that you're listening, just take a photo, tag me. And if you're not already in our listeners community on Facebook, I'd love for you to join. But now, let's talk to Lalese.

Lalese Stamps 4:31
I was a student at CCAD and I studied graphic design. So I was always on my computer and I really just needed an outlet that was separate from that but I can kind of use my hand because I've always been a creative. I've just dabbled in so many different things.

Jay Clouse 4:47
Talk to me about like your first efforts in that class. I feel like taking a ceramics class. Your first tries have got to be so rough. I think back like I said I had a ceramics project in 8th grade and it was horrible. So did you like take to it really quickly? And you were like, oh, wow, I'm really good at this, or was it really, really hard for you in the beginning too.

Lalese Stamps 5:08
You know, I, I don't mean to say this in a way that sounds cocky, but I kind of am really good at things. And I think it's more so determination, if I really put my mind to it and practice really hard. So maybe that's more of it, I wasn't incredible at first, because throwing on the wheel is really challenging. But I think the way that I really got great at making pieces is by just practicing, I studied abroad, actually, that summer. And my advisor told me, he was like, you should try to sell some of your pieces. And I was very new at that time. And I was like, I don't know, that sounds kind of crazy. But sure enough, I just kind of went to the studio and practice basically every day. And I think just kind of, you know, repetitively doing something really made me good at it. So it was hard at first, of course, like anything, but I think being really determined. And that really helped me to get good at it.

Jay Clouse 6:03
For somebody who's never taken a ceramics class, what is like the base level understanding we should have of how this works and what you're actually doing to make a piece of ceramic art?

Lalese Stamps 6:13
Yeah, I mean, you need a lot of strength. So I tell people, especially working on a ceramics wheel, it takes a lot of strength of your whole body, which is a fun thing that I've learned, like, using your core your back, every part of your hand, every finger. So I think once you kind of establish that underlying understanding, then you can really put your whole self into it, because it takes a toll on your body, essentially.

Jay Clouse 6:39
So you have like, clay, clay is the base ingredient here, right?

Lalese Stamps 6:43
Sure.

Jay Clouse 6:44
And do you have to like mix that in some way? Or does that come pre made as in like, here's your clay.

Lalese Stamps 6:50
Well, ceramics is such a wild world, there's so many different ways to approach a ceramics piece. For example, with clay, you can either buy clay from a manufacturer, or you can make clay yourself like with raw materials. And the same goes for glaze. I tend to make my own glazes, but there's some people who buy premade glazes and it works great for them. So you really again have to explore what works for you. And I think that that's such an important part of every creative outlet, not just ceramics.

Jay Clouse 7:27
Well talk to me just like through the process of Okay, so you have the clay, how does it go from like a ball of clay into a mug.

Lalese Stamps 7:35
So for me, I, I purchased clay from a local retailer, and it comes in about 50 pound boxes again, you need a lot of strength, and not even I feel like I'm pretty small. So I, I work it out. But I buy clay, I kind of separate it into balls, I weigh it out, I take those balls of clay to the throwing wheel. And then I basically throw a vessel from the throwing wheel. There's so many steps in ceramics.

Jay Clouse 8:04
And that's why I'm gonna break down because for people who aren't familiar with it, like I want them to understand what goes into this, like I hear vessel, what's a vessel?

Lalese Stamps 8:11
Yeah, to be a vessel is the core part of the mug that holds the liquid. And, you know, I'm actually trying right now to explore different ways to be more transparent about my process for my business, because there it is really fun. And it's really exciting. And no matter which way I explain it to people, it still gets really confusing. So visually, I think being able to see it with your own two eyes is really fun and exciting. But yeah, the vessel I then take from the wheel, and then I let it dry for some time. And then I put a handle on, let it dry for some time, then I put it in the kiln, take it out of the kiln and I glaze it. Yeah, there's a lot of steps that go into it.

Jay Clouse 8:52
And a kiln is just like a really hot oven. Right?

Lalese Stamps 8:55
Yeah, the kiln that I have, I have two now actually just bought one to help to scale up production. It goes up to 2200 degrees, that's what I fire it to. So they get insanely hot, but they're really also awesome. Like they don't exude a lot of heat. There's brick that protects the inside. So as long as you're safe and you don't really go near it while it's on then it's perfectly normal.

Jay Clouse 9:20
How big is one of these kilns that you're using? Is this like something I can wrap my arms around? Is this like a room in my house.

Lalese Stamps 9:27
So right now the two that I have are pretty standard size, they go up to about my my neck in height. And then they're pretty wide, I want to say about four feet in diameter. So maybe a little bit larger, it's I don't actually know. So it's kind of hard to wrap your arms around them per se. But one of my big goals for 2021 is to invest in a very large film that is almost the size of a room so that I can again scale up my production.

Jay Clouse 9:57
This is really fascinating to me. So thank you for entertaining question.

Lalese Stamps 10:00
Of course.

Jay Clouse 10:01
How many mugs can I fit into one of the kilns that you have now?

Lalese Stamps 10:06
Okay, so one of the cons I have now can fit about, I want to say about 80 pieces at a bisque fire. And a bisque fire means it's the first fire. When a piece is completely dry, it has to be completely dry, or else the moisture that is retained in a piece will cause it to explode in the kiln. So once it's bisque, that means that it comes out, porous still, so that porosity of the piece can absorb glaze, because there's a lot of moisture in the glaze. So the second fire, there's always two fires, sometimes not every time. But for me, there's usually two fires. And the second fire, it fits less pieces because they can't touch. So you have more room the first time because you can stack everything. But the second time a glazed piece can't touch or else it'll melt together.

Jay Clouse 10:58
Got it? So what's that breakdown to for the second time like half as many pieces in there.

Lalese Stamps 11:03
Not quite, I would say about three fourths of the first load because I don't really stack everything in the first load either. Like I've seen people who like stack a ton of pieces. And that's something probably that's just a fear of mine. I'm afraid that things will topple over when it's in the kiln. So maybe I should make that a goal for 2021 to be a little less fearful of things breaking. But that's just from experience. I've learned to kind of be a little bit more careful about that. So yeah, about three fourths of the first kiln load.

Jay Clouse 11:31
It's also interesting, I didn't realize that the glaze was kind of like an agent to fill these porous holes and to like protect it from taking on moisture. Okay.

Lalese Stamps 11:40
It makes you a more safe piece to use for dinnerware options. You can eat from it drink from it, then yeah.

Jay Clouse 11:48
I feel like my ceramics 101 knowledge is a little bit dialed in now. So I want to I want to go back to this, this fact that you mentioned of going to art school for graphic design. And that being kind of where you started? How does or doesn't graphic design relate to ceramics?

Lalese Stamps 12:05
That's a really great question, because a lot of people have told me that they can tell that I'm a graphic designer through my work. And that actually makes me really proud because I do care a lot for structure and form and functionality. And I think my training in graphic design has helped me to refine my ceramics. So the fact that people can tell that through my work is really satisfying. But then also being a graphic designer and having that skill set as a background has been incredible. As a small business owner, I've been able to, you know, really refine all elements of you know, my marketing, I created a whole brand this past year with some of my friends. And I think that really just kind of puts me a step above, you know, my competitors, which I don't even feel like I have competitors per se but it really helps me to stand out really.

Jay Clouse 12:56
After a quick break the Lalese and I talked about building Lolly Lolly on the side while working a full time job and how her community helped her grow her business in the early days. Right after this. Welcome back to Creative Elements. Back in 2017, Lalese was a student at the Columbus College of Art and Design studying graphic design. But as we already know, today she is working full time as a ceramicist. So I asked Lalese, if she saw that shift coming, or where she thought her career as an artist was leading.

Lalese Stamps 13:26
I never really thought that I would pursue ceramics full time. And that's because I love graphic design I, I could see myself raising the ladder of being a graphic designer, and then being an art director, maybe a creative director. And that was a really exciting thing for me. Even after graduating, I got a few of my dream jobs right away, which was really awesome. But then once ceramics started to really grow, my business started to really grow, I realized that I could kind of meld the two and successful way that made me happy still, I just quit my full time job as a graphic designer about three months ago, which surprises a lot of people, people were like, I didn't have any clue that you were even working full time. But at that time, it felt a good decision to transition away from my career fully just bring my skill set to my own business.

Jay Clouse 14:16
I've actually heard that that type of response quite a bit from from creative folks. Because when you start making these things and putting it out on the internet, you kind of put it out as if like this is this is me, and this is everything that I'm doing. But it's often like, I want this to be me. I want this to be everything I'm doing and I need to like show that I'm doing this and and I'm going to portray this as everything, but it's just hard to get things started. You know, it's really hard to get things started.

Lalese Stamps 14:41
Yeah, definitely.

Jay Clouse 14:42
When you say you got a few of your dream jobs. What did that look like? Was that like a type of position was that the type of clients you were working with what that mean to you?

Lalese Stamps 14:49
To me, it meant the places that I worked. I was able to work in environments to me that felt very fulfilling. The people I worked with were incredible. The clients that we work with we're really fun and really challenged me. So that was a really fulfilling thing to be able to work in spaces after college that felt right for me, which was hard to let that go, because I was afraid that maybe I would never get that again. But after talking to, you know, people who I trusted, they reminded me that I can create that environment myself through my own business. And I think that's when I really gained my confidence and realize that, that stability of having a job was nice. But also, I was at a stage where I didn't really need that anymore.

Jay Clouse 15:31
When you were working as a graphic designer, were you creating ceramics all along the way? Or did that ever take a pause?

Lalese Stamps 15:38
Oh, yeah. All the way. Which also is another thing that surprises people, I think people start to really put two and two together and realize like, oh, wow, you're actually kind of working two full jobs. And I was like, yeah, yeah, that's basically what happened.

Jay Clouse 15:52
What did that look like? Like, how much time were you putting into that? And what were your goals at the time that you were doing that on the side?

Lalese Stamps 15:59
So my ceramic side hustle, which is what I will call it, because that's really what it was, I didn't really take it seriously, in regards to it being a business, you know, I did have an LLC, because I wanted to protect myself. But at that time, it didn't really feel like they were competing pathways. To me, it felt like ceramics was just a fun thing that was fulfilling the same reason why I started it, because it was an opportunity for me to get my hands dirty, truly, and to explore a different realm. But now I take it a lot more seriously, obviously, because it's a full fledged business. Now I'm an entrepreneur.

Jay Clouse 16:38
What were your first like sales like selling of ceramics? How did you start to see like, Oh, I can actually make a little bit of money doing this.

Lalese Stamps 16:46
My sales in the beginning were fine. I mean, I would go, I would sell at the local flea market, the Columbus flea, I would bring maybe 100 to 250 pieces, depending on how many I can make. And I would sell out every time. And honestly, I think that has a lot to do with my community and the support that I have. I mean, the pieces I make are fun, and they're good. But I really think that support from my community really helped me to make those initial sales, which I always appreciate those, those OG customers. And now I feel like my sales, they've transitioned to being online. I work with wholesalers now. And even that I still feel like I'm not doing the max capacity that I can be doing. So I'm excited to continue to grow with my sales.

Jay Clouse 17:32
We're definitely gonna get to these wholesalers and where things are today, because it's incredibly inspiring. But something you just mentioned, makes me want to dig in a little bit. You know, you said, I really credit the support of my community. And that's something that anybody listening to this, we all have some amount of inherent community, but I think a lot of people are also looking around at some of their peers and people they admire and saying, they seem to have more people around them than I do. So how did you build that? And what can people learn about how you kind of forming these relationships that really supported you in the early days?

Lalese Stamps 18:03
My friends will laugh at this question, because I'm probably one of the people out of my friends group that will have so many friends, quote, unquote, friends, acquaintances, whatever, Everywhere I go, you know, I'm from Milwaukee, originally. And I lived in Chicago for some time. And I've lived in Columbus now for the past 10 years. And no matter where I go, I tend to really attract people in this way that I think is just very genuine and authentic. I don't like to call it networking, because I really don't think that's what it is. But I love meeting people in different situations. Like, ironically, I'm very introverted. But if you put me in a situation where there's a ton of people, and I know I'm going to be there, like I'm mentally prepared to, like, meet people and talk to them. So I've just never been afraid to really put myself out there and meet new people. But I also do think there's something about my personality that attracts people and makes them want to talk to me. And I've had people tell me that too. So it's not really coming out of like thin air, I really do think that there's something about me where, like, I'm easy to talk to, and that I always have some exciting things going on that people want to talk about.

Jay Clouse 19:10
Let's say you you went to an event and you met some people, and you had a really great conversation and feel like you you just made potentially five new friends. How do you maintain that over time? Do you do it intentionally at all? Or have you learned anything about what you do that makes that possible?

Lalese Stamps 19:26
Yeah, I'm super intentional. I mean, I'm really good at keeping in touch with people no matter if it's via phone by text, or just like sending a direct message on Instagram. Just the other day I reached out to someone who I hadn't talked to in a while. They're a former coworker of mine. And I was like, just thinking about you want to say hi and check in and I think that's so important, especially during a time right now, when you know, communication is really limited with the quarantine. I think it's so important to just kind of stay in touch briefly because we all have things going on. We're all busy, but I don't like To make that an excuse, I like to remember that there's people in my life who might not be there as consistently now, but at one point they were. And they're important to me. And I just want to make sure people know that. And I also love sending people mail, which is so outdated, but not even I love sending cards and just letting people know that I'm thinking of them. And I think that's a reason why being an entrepreneur is actually perfect for me, should be now product is so exciting to me, because I can send along a personal note, and just letting people know how much I appreciate their support.

Jay Clouse 20:36
It's so meaningful, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who's a recent dad. And we were talking about how as we get older, we're just a little bit slower to be the person that goes first and reaches out to somebody. And when other people do that, for us, it just means so much. So just a lesson for people listening, like, think about five people right now that I haven't talked to in a while just shoot him a text to say, Hey, I was thinking about you.

Lalese Stamps 20:56
Yeah, like.

Jay Clouse 20:57
So far.

Lalese Stamps 20:58
You don't even have to continue the conversation after that. If you're too busy. Like, I feel like sometimes I'll start a conversation and it keeps going. And I'll just be like, hey, like I'm at the wheel right now. I can't talk but just wanted to reach out and say hi.

Jay Clouse 21:11
In Septembe of 2019, Lalese embarked on a creative project that would change the trajectory of her business and career, she decided to undertake a 100 day project, challenging herself to create 100 different mugs with 100 different handles for 100 days, the project required a ton of tenacity, and concluded with a gallery show at The Fort, a creative space here in Columbus, Ohio.

Lalese Stamps 21:33
The 100 a project is a project that is not a new thing. 100 a projects have been going on for some time now. And essentially, they're projects that you start if you are curious about you know, expanding, at least this is what it was for me, I really wanted to expand the work that I was doing. As I kind of told you I was working full time and also making ceramics on the side. So it was really hard for me to create new things, I think I was kind of stuck in this bubble where I was creating the same things over and over. So I really wanted to push myself and make something new. And it was one of the best things I've ever done. To be honest, it was so successful. If you were lucky enough to follow along during the project, it was super excited because I would post a new picture every day of a new mug. And people would get so excited about it. It held me accountable. And it got me excited and inspired. And I can't tell you, Jay the amount of people who reached out saying how they were inspired by that project. And I've talked to high school classes about how they're starting their own a 100 day projects, and, you know, giving them tips on how to survive it because it's hard. It's 100 days. But yeah, it was a really fun project.

Jay Clouse 22:49
You know, at the beginning this interview, we talked about the process of creating one of these pieces, can you go through an entire process of building and firing the mug in a day? Or did you have to get ahead of schedule a little bit?

Lalese Stamps 23:00
Yeah, I you, you're not able to do one piece from beginning to end because alone, a piece has to be in the kiln for so sorry that it's so hard to explain all the time. But one piece is in the kiln for about 24 hours alone. So they already you kind of knock out that part of the process. So I really did have to prepare ahead of time. And which really worked out for me in the beginning, I was able to kind of make two to three pieces at a time to have them drying while I'm making another set of pieces. But then towards the middle is when things start to get a little bit trickier. Because ideas that I thought were really good at the beginning might not have panned out as well towards the middle. So I kind of had to really be innovative. And this is the reason why I started this project because I knew I needed something to really push me out of my comfort zone. And this project did that. I mean, it was hard. There were a few all nighters. I had traveled during that time to a few different places. So I had to really plan ahead for that. And it really forced me to look at my surroundings and really see inspiration and things that were around me everyday things like a remote control or a handle on a door. And that was the most fulfilling part of the project really just being able to open up to my surroundings and really take in everything around me.

Jay Clouse 24:22
When we come back Lalese and I talk about the constraints she set on herself for her 100 day project and what it felt like when her work really started to take off. So stick around and we'll be right back. Welcome back to my conversation with Lalese Stamps of Lolly Lolly Ceramics. I'm fascinated by this 100 day project. I've left a link in the show notes to all the mugs that Lalese made in crazy as a lot of them are. You could technically drink out of each of these mugs. So I asked Lalese what types of constraints she put on herself when it came to creating a new mug.

Lalese Stamps 24:55
I didn't have any restraints honestly. And that's the funny part about this project. On the reactions that people have had, mostly they're really excited. And people look at the mugs, and they're like, these are so interesting, I would have never thought of that. But then there's like probably 2% of people who are like curmudgeons about it, and they're like, this isn't functional, I can never use this. And that's the thing, though, I never really set out to create incredibly functional pieces. To me, it was more challenging what a mug handle really is. And I think I was super successful in that. And I think that pushing those boundaries, and really challenging people, the way they see, a classic mug was really so much fun.

Jay Clouse 25:39
This is where a podcast kind of fails. Because if you're listening to this, you need to go to Elise's, Instagram and and see some of these mugs, because they are like, really, really phenomenal and different and a lot of fun. So one question, I have about 100 day projects, you know, you you have kind of like the project itself at a macro level. This is a 100 day project. But inside of that you have 100 projects individually. So were you thinking about this as one big project, or 100 small projects,

Lalese Stamps 26:10
I thought about this as one big project. And I never intended on selling any of my pieces, which is very interesting, because I do sell some of them now. And I think that this project, to me initially was just supposed to be an art project and then more of like an installation. But it's become more than that it's become bigger than that. And it's just another testament to, you know, trying something for the first time, I think that my thoughts of what it was supposed to be just changed over time. But I'm happy with it, I think that that's kind of the way life goes. And as an entrepreneur, you kind of have to be open to letting things evolve from your initial thought of them.

Jay Clouse 26:51
Do those thoughts evolve within 100 days, or after the 100 days, when you started to get some response to it.

Lalese Stamps 26:57
Definitely afterward, you know, I mean, I ended that project at the end of 2019. So about a year ago, and 2020 is when I really started to gain more attention after the project was completely done. And that is from the power of Instagram, a lot of people just were sharing my work and gained a lot of traction internationally.

Jay Clouse 27:19
So if somebody is listening to this, and they're saying, okay, I want to push myself, I want to do 100 day project, should they just focus on doing 100 great pieces of whatever the thing is? Or are there other elements of the project that you would encourage them to think about from the beginning to help set them up for success afterwards,

Lalese Stamps 27:38
I would encourage people to really think about their support system, to be honest, for me, it wasn't just about all the products that I made. For me, it was about, you know, connecting with other people. And, you know, building my skill set. So I'm and I say having support from other people, because I wasn't able to do every aspect of this product on my own. You know, taking the photos, for example, was a really important part of this project. But I don't really think I'm an incredible photographer. So my partner was there for me to help me do that part of it. So they were kind of wrap them this project themselves. So thinking through that, and timing, timing is so important. I feel you can just jump into something and do it successfully. But it is a good idea to really think about, you know, how much time you can dedicate to something or At what point in the day can you dedicate to it, because I think in the long run that'll help you be successful, instead of kind of, you know, flailing and trying to figure it out as you go. Things will change throughout the process. So you can have a little bit of structure to start with. I think that would be a good idea.

Jay Clouse 28:44
Lalese's gallery show for the 100 day project was on December 7, 2019. Living in Columbus myself, there was a lot of buzz around this project, as I said, so when Lalese says that her community has really supported her. She's not kidding. But things didn't change overnight. So we asked her what happened in 2020 when things started to really take off.

Lalese Stamps 29:04
So the quarantine happened, which I think for me was a little bit of a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to really pivot and think through what my next steps were for Lolly Lolly. I was able to work on the branding, which meant you know, developing a family of logos, a color palette, a photography style, all those important things. And then I think what really catapulted the project was the Black Lives Matter movement, which is kind of a controversial thing for me during the time of No, the Black Lives Matter movement, and, you know, the protesting for George Floyd and Briana Taylor. A lot of people I think really woke up to the fact that maybe they weren't doing enough to support black people, black lives, black businesses, and I think that brought a lot of attention to my work. I think that a lot of people were starting to kind of share different black businesses and I kind of got roped into it. So I was getting a huge following at that time, I think it was hard for me because I wasn't sure if it felt real or authentic. It was hard because I couldn't tell if this performative. But then as time went on, I continued to grow my following continue to grow. And people were really excited about the work that I was making. And it made me realize that the support was genuine. And I think that people really saw me for me. And it just made me excited, because I think it was just a little bit of a boost, and allowed me to really gain a whole new audience.

Jay Clouse 30:37
So as this is happening, and you're going to protest, and you're you're trying to do what you can to raise awareness yourself, what type of tension, did you feel to, like, capitalize on the traction that you're getting? At the same time? How did you wrestle with that?

Lalese Stamps 30:51
I mean, I just kind of did what I had to do, which was continue living. Like I was still working full time at that time. And going through a lot of hard moments at work, we were having a lot of conversations at work about what everything meant, I think a lot of people at my job, didn't understand why the protesting was happening, or didn't understand why I was so involved. So it was interesting, because I was dealing with much more than ceramics and like a new following of people like I was dealing with, like my livelihood, and trying to really just stay afloat in that sense. So to be honest, I didn't even think about capitalizing on anything at that time. I think for me, that came later, when I was able to kind of, you know, emerge from this fog of, you know, frustration and anger. And I was able to really focus and be like, Okay, I have this new following. Now, what does this mean for me? And I had to really evaluate, like, was I going to keep doing things the way that I was doing them before? Or was I going to evaluate how to move forward and really take this new following and grow with it and continue to grow my business. And that's what led me to my decision to quit my job, essentially, I realized that it was a good time, because I had this new following. And I moved into a new studio. I was in my basement before. So I felt like the timing was, it was right. Like, I never argue with timing. And I took the opportunity to really, you know, just move forward and do what I could with what I had.

Jay Clouse 32:18
Did it still feel risky and scary, even though you thought like, the timing was right.

Lalese Stamps 32:22
Oh, of course. Yeah. I mean, I love taking risks to be honest. I think that that's the only way to live, how will you really know if something will work out if you don't take a risk. But for me, seeing like, I was starting to get a lot of, you know, partnerships coming in with brands. And I was, you know, getting different grant opportunities come in. So for me, being financially secure in that way made me even more confident in my decision to, you know, focus on Lolly full time.

Jay Clouse 32:51
What does that look like for somebody who hasn't had like, inbound partnership interest? Is that just coming through? Like an Instagram dm? Is that coming through email? How did you start receiving these things?

Lalese Stamps 33:01
Oh, everywhere. And that's a part of why that time in my life was really overwhelming. You know, the growth of the business at that time was exciting. But so, so overwhelming. I can't even describe how I felt because I'm so typically in control of my life and the way I'm really organized. I'm really sorry, I was gonna say strict, but I'm not strict on myself, but I am really regimented. So at this time, when I was getting so many inquiries from email from text from my DMs, it was so overwhelming, so I had to really gather a team, a lot of my friends were super supportive. And we're like, I'll jump in, I'll start answering DMS and my friend went on my website and changed a few things to let people know like, Hey, we're not currently for sale like, because people were confused. They're like, you're so big and popular. Why is there nothing for sale on your site? So we redirected my shop page to email subscriber list so that people we could at least capture people's email. So I think what happened to me I think, was okay for me, because I was able to handle it. It was hard at the time, but I was smart enough to, you know, gather people to help and I think that really made all the difference.

Jay Clouse 34:16
And then how did you think about where you were investing your own energy as you're seeing people come in and say, like, hey, why can I buy more stuff? Were you like, Okay, I gotta get back into the studio and make a ton of mugs. Or how did you think about where you're putting your time?

Lalese Stamps 34:29
Well, that was what encouraged me to quit my job because I think that I was limited on time. As far as working as a graphic designer. My hours for working full time as a designer are pretty, like fluid I don't really have I didn't really have a set schedule. So I think finally kind of quitting that job allowed a lot more time to open up for me, so that I can allocate it towards making pieces. Now that's shifted. Now I'm kind of in the mindset where I don't necessarily want to be as involved in the production, I do want to oversee it. But I think for me to be most successful is to step away, about 80% give away about 80% of my power as far as making things and focusing on other parts of the business, because I think I'd be a lot more successful. Like he was handling, like the marketing, for example, or the creative designing new pieces to get people excited.

Jay Clouse 35:24
So when you have these brands coming to you and saying they want to work with you, are they trying to place like large orders at once? And do you need to have inventory on hand like, what does that look like?

Lalese Stamps 35:35
The various brands that are reaching out, there's different categories, there's wholesalers who have been reaching out who want to sell my pieces in their shops, which so many wholesalers that I, I didn't, it's not alone has been overwhelming. And so having to decide, one, whether or not I want to work with wholesalers, or two which ones to work with, there's a lot of research involved in that like, kind of understanding their values and who they are. And then a lot of big commissions, people who have reached out to me about, for example, Bath and Body Works has been a client of mine this past year, and I did two big commission's with them making special mugs for them for different events that they've been holding. So those are the different categories of people who have reached and then there's like, individuals who have reached out about commissions. And that's just like, not possible for me right now.

Jay Clouse 36:25
What does ceramics look like at scale? Like do these wholesalers or even consumers like would they want among this I kind of standardized? And then how do you make that to make sure that they are like the same?

Lalese Stamps 36:37
Great question. That's something I'm exploring right now. Something that I've always kind of stood by is the fact that my pieces are handmade, and that I make them personally and I touch every single piece. But I don't think that will be sustainable down the line, I think that I've experienced burnout in ceramics multiple times already. Throwing on the wheel again, takes a lot of strength. And I simply can't continue doing what I'm doing forever. So to me, it's smart to scale up and to invest in ways that I will allow other people that will allow other people to also take part in the production so that it doesn't all fall on me. So that means having to create a product that feels really handmade still, but also really consistent. So I'm kind of tearing that line right now trying to figure out what that means. There's other examples of brands that do a great job of it. For example, East Fork Pottery out of Nashville, they have a huge company, well, not huge, they have 80 people that they have hired. And I think they do an incredible job of having a manufacturing line, but also making pieces that feel unique and special. And that's kind of what I'm modeling my own business after. And they've been great. They've reached out and have offered help and advice and equipment that they don't use anymore. So again, I have such an incredible community who have been supportive.

Jay Clouse 38:02
I'm just so impressed with how much you've had to learn and grow in such a short time. Did you aspire to be a business owner or an entrepreneur? You know, you mentioned you had your dream jobs not too long ago. So how does this feel now?

Lalese Stamps 38:17
Honestly, it feels incredible. I'm shocked at how much I love growing a business. I think that there's times when I wish that I would have gotten education in business, I think that that would have helped in a lot of ways. But lo and behold, we're in 2021, the resources that are available are insurmountable. Like there's so many resources I've booked right now that I'm reading, there's a few podcasts that I really appreciate. And there's just a lot of websites that I've been referencing that offer like really detailed resources and guides for how to manage your business. And of course, again, I have friends who are all really smart, I've lawyer friends, I have friends who work for payroll services. So I've been doing my due diligence, as far as research and, you know, finding the right resources that I need. So I think growing a business has been fun for me and down the line. Like I kind of, you know mentioned earlier, if I can focus more on the business aspects of things, and not actually producing I think I'd be really satisfied.

Jay Clouse 39:19
Through this year where everything grew so quickly. You've obviously had to be really tenacious, to take advantage of that. Were there any points that you almost felt like just like giving up where it felt just too overwhelming?

Lalese Stamps 39:30
Only about three times. For the most part, being able to see how much I've been able to grow and adhere adversity. I think that I look back and I'm like, wow, at least you've really grown and you've really been able to jump over these hurdles that I think for me in the past felt impossible. But now there's especially as a black woman, I think it's not just about me anymore. It's about a community people and the people who will come after me. And I can't say that there's a ton of, you know, ceramics companies that are black owned or women owned. So even having that prospect under my belt has been the light. Like that's been what's been inspiring me the most. And knowing that I can be an example and knowing that I can eventually invest back into my community. Right now, it's in small scale ways. But my goals for 10 years down the line, I want to invest like hundreds of 1000s of dollars into my community and knowing that I can do that just really drives me every day.

Jay Clouse 40:34
For people listening to this who have similar aspirations, but they're funneling all their creative energy into maybe a job they're working right now, or or something else? What would you say to them if they have this itch to kind of start making their own projects again?

Lalese Stamps 40:48
So I actually I love this question, because I listened to your episode with Seth Godin. And he kind of talks about how he put all of his eggs in one basket basically didn't work for anyone else.

Seth Godin 41:01
I have been one of the rare people who hasn't had many jobs. And a job is something that you do for the money, period. There's nothing that says, you're entitled to not have a job. And unless you take significant evasive action, you're probably going to need to have a job. And I took significant evasive action, so that I wouldn't have to have one. But it was really painful for a long time.

Lalese Stamps 41:29
And but not everyone can really do that, you know, sometimes you really have to work a job to have some bit of stability. And he mentioned that too. So I think you really have to be determined and tenacious, you really have to have some kind of structured focus, if you want to have a creative career path. I think, for me, just always making sure I was involved in some kind of creativity in some way, whether it was through my college experience, or taking a class at the cultural art center, or just gathering with friends doing like a painting night or something. I think you really have to really stay engaged and the thing that you want to do because you never know where it can go. And I think that that's happened to so many people, especially in our generation, like there's so many people are so creative people are making rugs right now and their homes, and selling those and making a whole business out of it. I think that we just live in such a time where anything is really possible.

Jay Clouse 42:33
It's really inspiring to hear Lalese's story. I don't know about you, but this conversation definitely made me want to start a 100 day project to 100 days is a lot longer than it sounds. And it really does take a ton of tenacity to stick with something every day for more than a quarter of the year. But I don't want to discount a couple of the other points Lalese made about having a support system and community behind you. It's really hard to do things at the scale without a strong support system. She talked about her partner helping with photography, but that may also be design or even your website. And because Lalese spent so much time before the 100 day project, being a good human and making a lot of friends. There are a lot of people in her corner supporting her and hoping for her to succeed. If you want to learn more about Lalese, you can follow @LollyLollyCeramics on Instagram or visit LollyLollyCeramics.com links to both as well as her 100 day project are in the show notes. Thanks to Lalese for being on the show. Thank you to Emily Clouse for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan Todhunter for mixing the show and Brian's Skeel for creating our music. If you like this episode, you can tweet @JayClouse and let me know if you really want to say thank you. Please leave a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.