Artists and potters Sarah and Sam Costanzo, owners of Mosquito Mud Pottery in West Palm Beach, are seeing their dream of owning a successful, family-owned business come to life. A few years ago, however, they would never have guessed this would one day be their dream. The Connecticut natives moved to West Palm Beach to attend college together. (At the time, they were not yet married.) During school, they both studied missions. An art minor, Sam casually took art classes, which is where he was introduced to pottery. Little did either of them realize that in a few short years they would be running one of the fastest-growing pottery businesses in South Florida.
Although a stoneware pottery business was never on Sam or Sarah’s radar, it’s what occupies the majority of their time today. It seems incredible that these two had the initiative and talent to teach themselves to make beautiful pottery, a livelihood for their family, and a business that will be passed down to their children. That is, it seems incredible unless you know them personally. Their close friends know them to be the freest of spirits who were made to be potters by the sea.
Interview with Sarah Costanzo, Co-Owner of Mosquito Mud Pottery, West Palm Beach
A: Sam took an elective in college and got hooked. He continued working under his pottery professor for a few years on and off. While working at a local high-end restaurant on Palm Beach, he started making pieces for the owners and quickly had to learn how to make fifty pieces of something instead of just one or two at a time. He brought me on to help soon after. When we continued to make more and more production-size pottery orders, we started looking for our own studio space to start our own company. While searching for equipment, we came across a woman who was selling her entire business. It was very similar to what we had done up to that point (functional production stoneware) and seemed like a great fit. After a couple weeks of working with her, we moved our pottery operation down from New Smyrna Beach to West Palm Beach.
Q: At what point did you know you wanted to go into business for yourselves? Was it a hard decision?
A: After the initial order from the restaurant, we knew we’d want to do it full-time. We always enjoyed working together and thought this would be a great new chapter.
A: Yes, our first year was pretty scary, stressful, and demanding. We worked way too many hours for way too little pay and had no idea if we would actually make ends meet, but somehow God always provided. Our needs were always met and bills were always paid.
Q: Did you have/do you have a mentor? Who is he or she and what role does this person have in your life?
A: Initially our mentor was Jim Craft. He was the professor Sam worked under for a few years, trading studio time for work. During that time, Sam was able to learn the ins and outs of running his own studio. Craft had his own production pottery business in North Carolina for several years before going into teaching, so his knowledge in this area was exceptional. Once we started our own studio, his role in our day-to-day operation was reduced, but we still keep in touch.
A: I’m inspired by the potter Simon Leech. He posts a lot of videos on YouTube doing wheel throwing and other ceramic creations. I’ve learned a lot of throwing techniques and tips from him.
Q: How do you build your skill set(s)? For example, do you read books, go to workshops, or do new skills seem to come naturally to you?
A: We will watch videos from time to time of other artists. But, because our work is very functional, most of our skills come from just practicing — trial and error of making pieces we would enjoy in our own home. Others seem to usually enjoy them as well.
A: In the future, we hope to grow both the retail and wholesale portions of our business, take on several more employees and interns, and have our studio be at our own home (a big barn would be great!).
Q: What kind of pottery do you make? Why is it different from other types of pottery?
A: We make all functional stoneware pottery. All our pieces are oven/microwave/dishwasher safe and meant to be used and enjoyed in the home, day in and day out. We think the best kind of art is that which can be a part of your daily life, improving its quality even in the slightest way by its functional beauty.
What started out as a single piece of beginner’s pottery has turned into a brand with products represented in over 100 galleries, gift shops, and restaurants nationwide. This just goes to show you what four hands, two open minds, and a little clay can accomplish.
Visit Mosquito Mud Pottery’s website to learn more about the Costanzos and their kitchenware, bakeware, dinnerware, serving dishes, and home décor. Contact them directly here. Don’t forget to connect with them via Facebook and Instagram.
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