Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Our names are Joe Hall and Lydia Rennalls, together we collaborate to make functional ceramics with bold and colorful designs under the name Two Snake. We have been working together since 2018, and we formally created our Business LLC in 2019 after gaining some success. Joe has been making ceramics for over 10 years and Lydia has been a lifelong painter. It took us a long time to get where we are now, mostly due to the complexity of the designs and the look we wanted for our art, as well as being former full-time Archaeologists in the Southwest United States. Through years of experience and trial and error we are now reaping the
rewards for continuing to push ourselves artistically and taking a leap when the opportunity arises. We mostly sell our wares within the United States and locally in the markets around our home of Tucson, Arizona. As we continue to grow we will take on new challenges like taking on commissions for shops and restaurants. Our studio is a very simple set up, we work from our home and utilize the basics. Joe has a wheel he throws the pots on in our dining room, he stores the pots on some covered shelves from the Ikea. We wash all the tools and sponges in the backyard with a 5 gallon bucket of water. Lydia has a desk and shelves set up in our spare bedroom which serves as a painting studio and secondary area for drying pottery. We hope to one day have a bigger studio but working from home has shown both of us how much we are capable of with little means. Currently we do not have a kiln due to renting our house, because of that we have made friends with a lot of the fellow potters in and around Tucson. We are always able to fire with a friend and this has been huge for us because we love being part of the small community we have created. It's been very valuable learning new and old things from people doing the same thing as us. Tucson has a very strong art culture and being a part of it has been one of the more rewarding experiences that came from creating Two Snake. We tend to utilize just about everything we can, whether it's old containers for storing paint or clay or anything else that might be useful. We are expanding into more local art markets which has been great for getting the word out about our ceramics and our business as a whole, where we once used to have to search for places to sell our pottery, now we have stores and markets asking us to be participants. Our favorite pieces to make are household wares you might see in your pantry, we like the idea of elevating every day objects to something beautiful and more than just a daily item. You can find our work and more at our website TwoSnakePots.com
What made you choose this career?
We both set out not to make a career out of art but to explore what was capable. Joe saw that Lydia had bold and geometric designs consistently flowing from her pens and pencils and knew that these would be great on ceramics. We continued to explore and hone our techniques, which took years to get where we are now. In the beginning we just wanted to create something cool and beautiful to post on instagram and keep for ourselves, but after the feedback we continued to receive we decided to take it further and started to offer our pieces for sale. In the beginning we created an Instagram page and sold exclusively through the application using PayPal. We continued like that for some time before deciding to go another step further and create a web shop online. Neither of us really expected this outcome when we first started, we just wanted to keep creating. By taking it step by step we have been able to keep ourselves comfortable and not over-extending or becoming burnt out which is a real concern for us when creating. We both hope to see ourselves continuing to thrive both within our local community and the greater beyond. Ideally one day we hope to create a space that artists like us can live and create with opportunities to grow. Joe has a degree in Nonprofit Management that we hope to be able to use some day and apply for grant opportunities to help us get closer to our ultimate goal. Two Snake started as two field archaeologists spending their free time making pottery and since, has turned into a small business from the ground up. It would be great for us both to make enough income off our business but for now that is just another goal we are working towards.
Did you go through formal education? If so, what did you study and where? If not please explain your journey.
Joe took a couple of years off of high school to figure out what he wanted to do, eventually he landed in a community college in Southern Arizona. That's where he realized it is actually possible to thrive in an academic environment. In his studies he discovered a passion for Archaeology and while studying at the college he took ceramics classes for his electives. When he was close to graduation he received an opportunity to attend an Archaeological field school, where one learns how to become a field archaeologist. While he was there for 6 weeks, a guest presenter came and gave a demonstration on wild native clays and prehistoric pottery replication. Joe immediately became obsessed with wild clay, and the history of pottery. He focused his efforts on pottery replication, the harvesting and processing of wild clay, and this was a way to stay connected to ceramics even when away from the studio. For many years Joe would drive around with five gallon buckets in his vehicle and a geologist's pick to stop along road cuts to search for wild clay. He then attended Arizona State University for Nonprofit Management and continued to take ceramics courses. By fulfilling his electives with ceramics he continued to hone his skills and gain access to one of the best facilities in the state as well as guidance from some of his most respected peers and instructors. Lydia went to college at Wayne State University, in Michigan, straight from high school. She knew she had a passion for art and history and she studied in the anthropology program. Lydia took both art history and general courses like painting, color theory, and illustration for her electives throughout her educational career. She also attended an archaeological field school and eventually they came to meet one another while working in the field on a project in remote Utah.
Did this have a positive or negative impact on your chosen career?
Both Joe and Lydia agree that there would have been benefits if they had majored or continued their education within the arts specifically, however neither of us really had that opportunity to begin with. By coming into our art in this roundabout and organic way we both agree that it has been incredibly beneficial for us. Joe would be asked why he wasn't enrolled in the Master's program for ceramics at the Arizona State University, which used to bother him but since then he has realized that art really exactly is what you make of it. We both agree you don't need a formal education in order to become a successful artist, while it is highly beneficial there are many other ways of becoming successful and we are proving that to ourselves. We are able to think outside of the box that a university provides, and when necessary we can ask for help or guidance from our friends and peers. Joe would like to continue his education, possibly pursuing a Masters degree in ceramics in order to teach others in a Community College similar to where he gained a passion for the arts.
Who inspires you?
We are both inspired by each other, by working as a team and through a collaborative approach we can continue to push ourselves further and further, we are both very open to critique and new ideas. By listening to each other and working together we both agree that our art has been elevated to levels that wouldn't have been achieved on our own. We are also inspired by many of the great artists that came before us, we have a really solid appreciation for history and we love going to the museums to be inspired. Some of the best artwork that we have been moved by are by unknown artists, prehistoric cultures, or simply what is often described as folk art. We both do follow many artists on instagram and online that are both local and abroad, we enjoy seeing how others create. Most of our personal inspiration comes directly from our immediate environments, we often find ourselves reflecting on the natural scenery we have taken in from the years of doing archaeology in remote portions of the southwest. Joe and Lydia find most of their inspiration in the animals and natural settings in which they inhabit. Lydia has a strong appreciation for botany and plants and these are often reflected in their artworks. Other inspiration comes from those around us and the needs of the people, almost everyone uses a mug to drink their coffee or tea, one of the great questions Joe constantly asks himself is how can we improve the standard mug? This is a question that we don't think can ever be answered simply, because there's always a new and interesting way to look at it.
What’s the scariest thing about your job and how have you overcome it?
The scariest thing about our job is probably the deadlines, or lack thereof. We always want to have a deadline which almost guarantees us business but working towards that deadline is always risky because of the nature of our work. We mold and shape "earth" for lack of a better term and try to force it into these delicate shapes to be handled by others, sometimes due to timing, weather, or unforeseen troubles things can go awry. That's probably the one thing that scares us most about our work, but there are plenty of other things to be concerned about like whether or not some random person on the street will like our stuff, if they don't that is okay. We like it, and after all it's just pottery.
What do you want to change about your industry?
We would like to change the industry by creating more opportunities for ourselves and others just like us. As we mentioned before, we hope to one day create a nonprofit that caters to the arts community and facilitates the option for small talented artists to have access to quality studios and a place to live. Another aspect we would change is about the sustainability of ceramics, there's a culture of people throwing away old dry clay and supplies when they could be recycled, reused, or given away. If there were more opportunities put into place for people to learn about recycling their own clay, or art donation centers then we would collectively be able to consume far less. We often search online for anyone getting rid of ceramics equipment to see if we can acquire it and put it to use. Joe has donated many of his old tools that he no longer uses to the local clay co-op for them to use. We would also like to make ceramics more approachable, we don't think everyone realizes you can make ceramics from home and it doesn't require a full blown studio. We have been able to make our ceramic pieces and business through very simple means and lots of hard work and passion. There isn't much else we would change because we are making everything happen at our own pace and through our own means of ability.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your field?
Our best advice would be to avoid the distractions of what success looks like, make exactly what you want to make and don't worry about the rest, it will soon fall into place. We can easily get caught up with not getting enough likes, praise, or sales but continue to push yourself because you're doing this for yourself at the end of the day. No one else is going to make your art for you, it's up to you to make it how you want. Still today Lydia has to remind Joe that it's not always about the perception of someone else, we both love what we do and will continue to create even if we are only making it for ourselves. That's what art truly is about and we think that's when the best art is made, it comes from within, an expression of one's self. So never get yourself down based on your "success". Take risks and experiment, some of our favorite designs come from the end of the day when we are tired and worn down of the regimented tasks at hand and we explore what something would look like if we tweaked it here or there. Don't be afraid to ask for help from your peers, friends, or even random people, we have both learned so much by doing so. Our pottery wouldn't be at the level it is if we hadn't asked for help or sought out guidance. Joe specifically remembers asking an older woman at the local pottery shop how to get the colors of the underglaze we use to pop and it turns out she knew the exact answer and it was something we hadn't ever considered. Try and try again, we often talk about how the first time we try something new it will take at least two more times before we find it executed perfectly. Joe has been making pottery for 10 years and thinks he finally really understands the mechanics of making mugs and mug handles as recently as last year, be open to learning and don't be afraid of failure. Critique can be a really positive thing, while we were both in college we both had critiques of our work and it benefitted us greatly hearing what others had to say. Oftentimes it's the little things that can change a piece from an okay work into something truly beautiful. Be open and never settle, we are always looking to improve on our process whether it's the amount of time it takes or the overall construction. We are often searching for new ways of thinking and exploring solutions. Our final piece of advice would be to document and take detailed notes, you never know when you may want to come back to a concept years down the line. We have already learned this from our own experiences, if you're not a note taker, become one.