Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandra Chaves.
Hi Sandra, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
My name is Sandra Chaves. I was born in Bogota, Colombia as the youngest child of an incredibly loving family of six. I grew up with many of the wonders of my country’s cultures. A proud Colombian, I left my country 17 years ago trying to find opportunities without knowing what I really needed was to find myself.
At six years old I fell in love with fashion design. I spent hours using a sewing machine, unsupervised, making dresses for my dolls. Even then, I knew I wanted to be a designer.
I went to school for Industrial Design, and during my second year, I got my dream job. I became the product designer and instructor working with a group of 50 people displaced by violence. I mainly worked with women from various regions who wanted to learn a skill and start a business. I loved my job, and I wish I could do it again.
After graduating, I moved to Barcelona–one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I found a Flamenco academy 3 blocks from where I was staying and embraced my love of dance, something I’d loved since I was three.
In 2008 I moved to San Antonio, TX under a student visa to improve my English. I pushed myself, taking college classes in web design and graphic design, even though my English was extremely limited. I presented my projects to a class of very confused students who barely understood me. Both fellow students and professors were very understanding and helpful. I believe this decision helped me the most in learning a new language at 30 years old.
I have a wonderful husband who, just like my parents, supports me and my ideas. Thanks to him and his love, in 2019 I was able to quit my job and become a full-time student and started my NBA. It is also thanks to him I was able to discover my love for ceramics and rediscover my creativity and self-confidence.
My love for clay started during a childhood vacation, my dad found natural clay near the house and made two small pieces. The handles were two dancing women. Even though we didn’t have a kiln, they were on display at my family’s library for many years until, finally, they fell apart little by little. The image of him transforming a lump of clay into something beautiful has stayed with me.
Thanks to my major in industrial design, I had the chance to experiment with a lot of different materials, including clay. The little time I spent doing ceramics only produced more questions and the bug grew. But life always took me in a different direction.
At the end of 2020, I decided I wasn’t going to allow any more excuses to postpone learning ceramics. I found a community studio, Alamo City Pottery Workshop, in the heart of Bulverde, TX. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I started classes with Patty Hoffman, a self-taught potter who has worked and played in clay since she was a little girl. I continued classes until I was able to become a member. That is when I started “harassing” April Grunspan, the owner of the studio–someone who has become very important in my life. I have learned so much from her and every single member of the studio–they are my little clay family and I love it.
Thanks to the generosity within the local, online, and workshop community, I have had the opportunity to meet open and helpful potters from all over the world.
After graduating with my MBA, I decided to become a full-time potter. I knew I needed to immerse myself in the work since there is so much to learn. I have been experimenting with techniques and exploring my own style. Everything I make has intention, function, and design. I combine wheel throwing with hand building to give my pieces unique details.
As my skill grows, I see all the previous experiences working with other materials and my love for dance become part of my process. When I’m working with clay, I feel like a choreographer in which, step by step, I’m putting parts together to create a final piece. Just like dance, working with clay is personal and mindful. It’s both relaxing and exciting, resulting in a complete expression of me.
I put time and love into what I do and, when I sell a piece, I’m sharing a little part of my soul. For many years I have known what I wanted, but always had a voice telling me I wasn’t good enough to accomplish my dreams. Now, even though the voice is still there, I manage to mute it. I’m following my dreams. I know it will take time and hard work, but I’m doing it–and that makes me happy.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Moving from Colombia to Spain and then to the U.S has been an excellent experience. But very challenging too. Every time I moved I had to start from nothing.
In Spain, the culture was very different and I may have had the advantage of knowing the language but I also had to interact with a lot of tourists that didn’t speak Spanish. This was also one of my biggest incentives to learn English.
When I moved to the U.S., I had both a language barrier and cultural differences. That was difficult. At some point, I felt I wasn’t advancing, and was hard not to feel stuck. My status as and student gave me limitations for working and economic hardship made things even more challenging.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m still experimenting with techniques and styles, but I have developed three lines of work using some of my favorite techniques. I make functional objects including a tequila bottle that I made as a love letter to my husband.
I was so proud of it, that I decided to create a line of bottles decorated with hand-built cacti and agave plants to honor Mexican and South Texas culture.
Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
I enjoy books that force me to use my imagination. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a good example of that. I enjoy very much The Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit, all the Harry Potter books, as well as, biographies, or memoirs.
They can be very entertaining. My favorite app maybe Instagram. it is a good way to connect with people from all over the world who inspires me or people that may feel inspired by me. My favorite podcast is Connan O’Brian needs a Friend. It just makes me laugh a lot. I also listen to No Stupid Questions, Radiolab and Freakonomics Radio.
I’m a super fan of animation director Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli. If you haven’t watched his movies, please do it now. His imagination, creativity, care for nature, and storytelling are beyond anything I have seen before.
- My prices can be from $40 to $300 depending on the piece.