Artist Profile // Xiaotong Duan

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This morning we’re thrilled to feature one of our closest friends and talented artist, Xiao. Ceramicist, photographer, and just all over awesome person, this little lady is making some beautiful work, and we knew we just had to share it with you all.

Xiao and I (Reg) go way back to college, where our soul-sister-ship blossomed over a bowl of pesto tortellini while watching Saved! in her massive wrap-around porch home in rural Coventry, CT. The first of many movies and meals we were bound to share together, the two of us soon became roomies, and now both live in the Boston area.

This little dumpling’s ceramics have been blowing up all over the Etsy stratosphere and the local Boston scene, she’s had a recent pop-up shop at West Elm, and she just re-launched her brand through a newly updated website and logo (which Christa got to design!).

Check out Xiao Crafted and her Etsy page to see some more of her stunning handmade custom pieces.


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You went to school for photography, did you take ceramics classes throughout college as well? Or was that something you got into after?
It’s totally interesting to compare the journey we take through learning and what our lil’ paper degree says. I got into ceramics in college a little late in the game or else I think I probably would have focused on ceramics. My good friend/ex-roommate took a ceramics class and she would bring back to the apartment all the cool things she made. I enrolled the following semester because I also wanted to make cool things.

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Obviously you love the animals. A lot of your chosen animals aren’t just your average woodland creature – you have everything from praying mantis to big mouth bass, where do you get your inspiration for some of the quirkier ones?
Honestly? Mostly from Nat Geo’s Instagram. I love the way they tend to tell a story alongside each image, it totally activates my inner naturalist. There’s just so many interesting species that I really like to explore beyond the more commonly know creatures. Like did you know that sometimes fruit bats are called flying foxes?

How long does it usually take to create one piece from beginning to end?
Oh man, I have no idea. If I had to guess i would say 10 days if the stars aligned perfectly. Clay requires a lot of patience because there is just a ton of steps involved in its journey from this squishy formless ball to something functional and beautiful. Usually I throw a batch of work on the wheel and then let it set up so that I can trim it within a couple of days. After that, everything is hand painted and left out to dry completely before entering the first kiln firing, called  a bisque. It takes a full day for everything to “cook” in the kiln so that it is solid and porous enough for the glaze. Then I take a day to glaze my work and then back into the kiln it goes for the final firing. The glaze kiln runs for a full day as well. Long story short, if this was a race, ceramics would be going at a slow and steady pace.
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So ceramics can be a pretty time consuming craft (pun intended), any scheduling tips for someone looking to take on a new art?
Just be patient. Ceramics will never provide “instant gratification” but it is an awesome feeling to take a lil’ lump of clay and make something out of it. For people starting out it’s actually a really good 1x/week kind of craft because how the background time involved with letting work set up and firing in the kiln. Just be warned, you may get addicted and just be constantly making cool stuff!
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What are some of your favorite shapes to throw? Anything that is still a tough one you’re trying to tackle?
Recently i’ve really gotten into making planters. Just in time for Spring! The forms are really simple but I love trimming lil’ feet on the bottom to give it a little height and negative space. I don’t really make a lot of tea pots because there are so many parts and spouts are always so challenging. Definitely something I strive to work on.
We noticed that you started taking on custom work, have any of these projects sparked an idea for a new line, or new piece? Or do you try to keep them separate?
My custom work totally inspires me! It helps me explore new themes and surface treatment methods for clay. Recently I did a platter that had my first human being. It was a cowboy on a horse set to the backdrop of the American West. I really loved integrating a background and foreground visual and I’ve created some new work that follows the framework from that original custom order.
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What was the first ceramic you ever made?
It was large hand built candle holder in the shape of a star with little moons cut out on each arm of the star. So cheesy. I see it every time I visit my parents and wish that the cat was strong enough to knock it off the end table.
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Who are some of your artist inspirations?
Ayumi Horie, Chotsani Dean, Diana Fayt, Polly Fern, Molly Hatch, Julia Rothman. Lady creators represent!
You recently had a popup shop at West Elm (congrats, btw!), do you have any other goals or dreams you’re reaching for with your work?
This year I’ve really been trying to make the push to establish myself as a small business artist. (Eeep!) I’ve been doing a lot more pop up shops and sharing my work with the people. I’m hoping to just continue to develop my work and continue to add to my portfolio. I would like to do some residencies and be able to continue to explore the medium.
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Go to late-night junk food?
Grillo’s Pickles
Night owl or morning bird?
Morning bird

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