2018 Year End Review

It was a Stellar Year! I’m excited to be writing my 2nd year end report. Gathering all the details of the year to record for myself is a healthy exercise. I can see where my energy is going and aim it more thoughtfully as I proceed forward.  Having time to do this project speaks to the sense of clarity and overall organization which has grown as I way-make for my dreams. Seattle and my broader community have risen in support of my endeavors.  I am incredibly grateful for this and I feel proud of where my efforts have brought me.

I have steadily grown more fluid in process- both working with assistants, organizing community classes, and in using studio time to make!  On top of it my home is life feeling richer. Time, with my loving partner Joe, is teaching me ever more about communication and growing with another person.  It is tremendously meaningful and I am enjoying the journey!

Balancing all this continues to be such a huge lesson. And yet, I feel a sense of ease growing inside of all this movement. I have taken more time to pause and be healthy.  And I am embracing this more some troubles with my back are demanding it.  

One of the hardest things I did in 2018 was to rework my personal and studio Mission, Vision and Goals. With the help of Grace Archambeault, we plowed through this task of thoughtful clarification. She helped me apply for grants. We did not get many, but I sure learned a lot (maybe more than I was hoping for! ) Below are some of the results of this… . Mission, Vision, & Objectives.

I am sure 2019 will bring even more possibilities of connecting people through clay. I hope you will enjoy the summary below and I hope to see you at a studio event in the near future!

Rat City Studios Teaching Studio in 2019

Rat City Studios Teaching Studio in 2019

RCS Mission
The mission of Rat City Studios is to engage and build community through clay – one person, one neighborhood, and one experience at a time.

RCS Vision
Rat City Studios is a place for innovative experiential learning, quality community classes, emerging artist opportunities, and working with clay. It is a place where people come together to learn and grow. It’s a dream!

RCS Objectives

  • Build community through clay- Deb’s career as a ceramic artist, studio assistant positions, workshops, community classes, and events

  • Support emerging artists- financially, with community, and with guidance

  • Foster experiential learning- fuses full circle studio practice & daily living, through working with assistants on daily studio chores, personal guidance, & introducing them to the way I do everything from networking, managing a studio, & being an inventive, successful artist in the ceramics field.

  • Form innovative collaborations/ Cross pollinate communities- create cross sector partnerships and collaborations, grow relationships, provide learning experiences for myself and crew at RCS that stretches us personally and broadens the scope of our work.

  • Serve the community-  with a high level of thoroughness and professionalism, attentive teaching, quality facility, educational workshops/presentations,

  • Stay inspired- keep bees, deepen conversations with contacts in the field, tend the garden, love life, and share it with others

RCS History:

The charting of participant practice hours

The charting of participant practice hours

Rat City Studios began as Deb Schwartzkopf’s drive to have a personal studio where she could make work and hold workshops.  As she mentored assistants it became clear that they needed a space to invest time in their individual artistic practice. In 2013, Deb purchased her home and studio in West Seattle. Rat City Studios has now evolved into a communal clay establishment. It is home to Deb’s production pottery studio, communal pottery education classroom, several semiprivate artist assistant studios, and kiln yard. Through these endeavors, people are brought together to connect with each other and feed their creativity.

Join the Rat Race!
To see more history, visit the 2017 Write-up for a short history…

Statistics and profiles of people RCS serves

Studio Assistants: Tend to be in the 20-35 age range, leaning towards the younger group.  Most often they have an undergraduate degree. About 10-15 applicants apply each year.  The applicant pool varies greatly. Most have a day job in order to meet their financial needs during their time at RCS.


Adult Class Participants: The mix of students varies greatly. Many students live close by, but some insist on driving all the way across town, even from as far as Orcas Island!. The Tuesday class is a beginning level and the Wednesday class is more of a study hall with a demonstration theme.  I am hoping to try more workshop (demo) in 2019. The number of practice hours is going steadily up. (Bar Graph above) This means skill acquisition and happiness with the studio facility and offering! From the pie graph to the left, it can be seen that over half the students come from the West Seattle area.

Studio Assistants
Eliane Medina stayed on for a second year. Anika Major and Hayley Reed committed to two years and have finished about six-seven months of that. Alex Olson had planned for two years, but had trouble with his elbow and had to take a medical leave.

Studio Members

There are six studio members that pay a monthly fee to have access to the studio. They meet the requested requirements and work independently… More info on studio members.

Rat City Studios

Projects during the 2018-2019 Group

Currently working at the studio are
Eliane Medina (2nd year, studio manager)
Anika Major (1st year, assistant)
Hayley Reed (1st year, assistant)
Alex Olson (hoping for a return in May from medical leave)

The Impact Pitch competition brought us all together as finalists for the grant. See video clip below... Together, we are working on self-critique, We reviewed websites, redid artist statements, and more! 

Studio memberships & Sip N' Spin events were added for studio offerings.

Our weekly classes are regularly full with a waitlists!
Eliane Medina taught the Tuesday class and I taught the Wednesday class. We are slowly adding studio memberships and evening events.  Eliane spear headed our new Sip N Spin offerings where people can try clay for one evening (while sipping on a favorite beverage). Classes, Workshops, and Sip N Spin Events are now registering...

Art to Table CSA

Art to Table CSA

In addition to clarifying the goals of the larger studio, I worked on what my goals are in having studio assistants. A long term goal I have is to find way to support them more directly through a stipend, exhibition opportunities, curriculum development, and attention toward their personal goals. I bought a pug-mill. This means less wedging for us all. Assistants may use any pugged reclaim without cost. I started the Art to Table CSA, which is both a learning project and a sellable product to help support the studio and assistant stipends. The Art to Table CSA began in collaboration with Babirusa Restaurant. Currently people art ordering plates directly through the studio and we are shipping them across the country. Learn more about the Art to Table CSA.

Mission of the Studio Assistant Program

The Studio Assistant Program, at Rat City Studios, provides first hand experiential learning, community, and guidance to emerging ceramic artists. The Studio Assistant Funding Endeavor, S.A.F.E, will provide financial support (as it grows) to artists as they dedicate their time to the assistant program and individual studio practice. Through this program, assistants will gain valuable insight on the logistics of running an art studio, personal career direction, and artistic voice development.

Art to Table CSA

Art to Table CSA

Vision of the Studio Assistant Program

Deb Schwartzkopf worked for two studio potters while completing a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Alaska. These experiences shaped her career as a ceramic artists, studio potter, instructor, and mentor. Assistantships and apprenticeships have a long history in ceramics and are a crucial part of an artist’s education. Through the daily studio operations, young artists learn ingenuity, master skills, and gain an intimate understanding of their materials and process. It is important that experiential learning opportunities continue to exist for emerging artists who want to pursue a career in the ceramic arts.

Rat City Studios has become a thriving community and is no longer a one woman operation. Deb has developed a mutually beneficial assistantship program, allowing RCS to grow and providing experiential learning opportunities.

Being an emerging artist takes dedication, drive, and passion. The artists that commit to a Studio Assistantship at Rat City Studios have all of these qualities and have chosen to invest their time to develop a professional career as an artist. Information is helpful, but time is a key factor in growth. S.A.F.E. is being developed to buffer the financial burden assistants face as they dedicate their time to further their artistic education. S.A.F.E is an active effort to eliminate the “Starving Artist” from our society and invest in a generation of talented makers.

Objective of the Studio Assistant Program

Career path development for artists is complex and often untaught. Emerging artists apply to join the Rat City Studio Assistant Program with a developed portfolio, artist statement, and references, which exhibit dedication to a career in the arts. The studio assistant program fills a need for individualized guidance and varied learning opportunities. Assistants have access to a well equipped, collaborative ceramic studio and community networking opportunities.

Studio Assistants enter into a work-trade exchange for one to two years at Rat City Studio. Assistants work 8-15 hours a week in exchange for their studio space and regular artistic and professional guidance from Deb. Deb and the assistants can rely on a weekly routine: Tuesdays are for studio chores and projects, and Thursdays are for professional development and to check in on individual goals. Over the two year assistantship a large variety of topics are covered, such as artist statements and missions, career mapping, technical clay issues, taxes and business operations, website development, marketing techniques, alternative sales venues, and gallery relationships. Each assistants’ experience is uniquely directed by their personal motivation and aspirations. Time is essential for emerging artists to be able to invest in objectives and projects identified for their growth. A key factor in experiential learning is the assistant’s ability to absorb information and put it into practice.

The Studio Assistant Funding Endeavor (SAFE) is Deb’s way of investing in the next generation of ceramic artists and passing on the support she received as an emerging artist. It allows assistants to dedicate as much time as possible to the practice of experience based learning and mentorship, which is crucial at the beginning of an artists career.

2019 Ceramic Artist of the Year Award ( writings... )

2019 Ceramic
Artist of the Year Award

"Community Cup Showcase"  Look for it every October  At  Dubsea Coffee

"Community Cup Showcase"
Look for it every October
At Dubsea Coffee

Build or BUST 2018: Active Surface Theme  FB Photo Album

Build or BUST 2018:
Active Surface Theme
FB Photo Album

Goals for the 2019

~ Making time more for physical health: more running!
~  LIVE Stream from the studio at 1pm PST the 1st Thursday via @ratcitystudios Instagram
~WRITE a Book ...
~focus on the art of critique with assistants, my own work, and students
~ developing a meditation practice through the Waking Up App
~gathering, building on current strengths rather than reaching far at every stride
~ See more live music

Making a living as an Artist looks like this...  

Below are Pie Charts of my 2018 Income and Expenses
Even further down are highlights and lists of where all my time went.
I hope to learn as I do this over the years.

For more resources: visit http://ratcitystudios.com/resources/

Year End Review 2018
Year End Review 2018

2018 Writing Contributions or Inclusions
Originally published in Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated, Copyright, The American Ceramic Society. Reprinted/ Linked with permission.

Ceramic Arts YearbookDeborah Schwartzkopf: 2019 Ceramic Artist of the Year
Ceramics MonthlyWaste into Want, May
Ceramics MonthlyBuild or BUST!, January
2018 Workshops Taught
Clay Studio of Missoula, Missoula, Montana
Rat City Studios, Jennifer Allen & Deb Schwartzkopf, Seattle, Washington
Rat City Studios, The Great Glaze Exchange taught with studio assistants, Seattle, Washington
Women Working in Clay Symposium, Hollins University, Roanoke, Virginia,
Baker Creek Clay Studio, Bellingham, Washington
West Virginia University, Kurt Anderson, Jen Allen & Deb Schwartzkopf, Pre-NCECA WVU Demo
Cornell Art Center, Layton, Ohio
2018 Events Held at the Studio.
Visiting Artist: Sue Tirrell and Jennifer Allen!
4th Annual Build or BUST: Active Surface
The Tilth Alliance Coop and Urban Farm Tour Participant
Rat City Studios: Open Studio & Holiday Sale
Community Weekly Class Sessions on Tues / Wed throughout the year
Sip N Spin Evening Events
Private Lessons

A short clip of the studio through the voices of many.

Other 2018 Highlights
Saw four bee hives make it through the winter!!!
Worked with Babirusa to make a restaurant wear that continues as the Art to Table CSA
Participated in the BAM ArtsFair
Guest artist of Cook on Clay for the Whidbey Working Artist Studio Tour
Bought a Pug-mill with support from the CERF "Get Ready Grant 
Rebuilt the back deck to enclose the glaze mixing area (now a heated space!)
Filmed again with Ceramic Arts Daily (How-to clips release date TBD)
Helped out with the Pottery Northwest Board
Short Term Residency at RLCC - YouTube Below...
RCS was a Finalist for the Business Impact NW Grant (we did not win, but sure learned a lot)
Started the Community Cup Showcase as a yearly Event at Dubsea Coffee
Had a Pop-up wot Baked Custom Cakes
Holiday Open Studio and Online Sale!
I turned 40 and took a whole weekend off to explore around Port Townsend with Joe!!!

There is so much to be thankful for.

Residency with Mudflat Alumni at Red Lodge Clay Center - Sept 2018

Coming Up in 2019!

~ In House Workshops and Classes!
~ Objective Clay at NCECA - Gallery EXPO - March
~ Workshop in Indonesia at Gaya Ceramic and Design - April
~ Workshop in North Carolina, Penland - May/June
~ West Side Artists Studio Tour - October
~ Workshop in California, Higher Fire Studio, October
~ Rat City Studios, Open Studio and Sale - December

"And in the end it is not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years."
                                    ~ Abraham Lincoln

Deborah Schwartzkopf

Rat City Studios is the workspace of Deborah Schwartzkopf, Seattle based studio potter and instructor. Her mission is to engage and build community through clay – one person, one neighborhood, and one experience at a time. In service to this pursuit, she offers studio assistant positions for emerging artists, connects people through social events, instructs classes and workshops, and maintains a lively career in the ceramic arts!