We had the good fortune of connecting with Liz Cohen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Liz, why did you pursue a creative career?
I’ve never dreamed of doing anything else. I’ve always had the creative/crafty/DIY bug in me since I was very little. I was making tin foil sculptures during lunch in elementary school and always the person people would ask to do anything artistic or design-related in all of my past classes and jobs. So yeah, for me there was never any other option. Sure I’ve worked jobs that weren’t creative or artistic in order to pay the bills, but any time I thought about what I would do as a long-term career it was always going to be something in the arts.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In the world of functional ceramics I feel as though it’s hard to stand out completely, especially now with social media. You end up seeing a lot of similar work because we are all inspired by each other. There are so many people that enjoy making and selling pottery, even if it’s just for a hobby. Nonetheless, my work is truly unique because it is made and designed by me. What sets it apart is what my mind and eyes bring to the pieces. I’m the one making the decisions. I decide which colors look good together, how thick the rim of a planter should be, how big or small the shapes in my designs are, how my handles are attached to my mug bodies. Those are all my decisions and every decision I make on a piece that I intend to sell is intentional. That combined with the amount of attention I give to the details while maintaining a hand-made quality is what I think sets me apart and makes my work stand out.
I’m most proud of my ever-evolving style. I’ve been taking inspiration from retro and midcentury modern interiors, clothing and architecture to create work that is somewhat simplistic but also bold and vibrant. There are so many possibilities to explore within this style, and I’ve only just gotten started pushing it a little further. I think I have enough ideas for a few lifetimes.
Well I spent almost all of my 20’s working towards being where I am now. Once I took my first clay class in undergrad I knew that ceramics was definitely something I was going to do, in some capacity, in my long-term career. So I worked a lot of different jobs, mainly in the food/restaurant industry, in order to pay bills and save up for the things I wanted. After I graduated from Georgia State, Nathan and I moved to Denver, and I set up small studios in whatever home we were renting in those first 4 years. I continued to make work and even taught pottery classes at a couple rec centers, but I wasn’t able to really put a huge effort into growing a business. I was having a hard time getting into a groove, and I didn’t know where I was going with my work. It was all over the place, and I was experimenting a lot. Because of all that I didn’t feel very confident putting my work out there. I also didn’t feel comfortable working in these crappy little home studios I set up. I had a vision for what I wanted, and since those places were not that I just felt like I was stuck in a holding pattern. I know some people do amazing things in the darkest, tiniest spaces, but for me it stifled my creativity. I have mad respect for those who run successful businesses out of a closet!
Once we were able to buy a home and build a studio, things really came together. Having more room and a place that was truly my own was a game changer. I was able to ditch a job that I was commuting to via bus for 2 hours a day and landed a super flexible remote job. Being able to work from home freed up so much time and mental energy, so I really began putting forth an effort to hone in on my own style. Once I had a more distinct style/brand I started seeing sales. Each sale gave me confidence that I was on the right track, and before I knew it everything just kind of clicked. I was overwhelmed with how much work I was getting that I decided it best to quit my day job and go full-time as a small business owner.
Absolutely none of this journey has been easy, and honestly the last 10 years has been somewhat of a blur. Some highs but lots of lows. You just keep going though! I’m pretty damn relentless so once I truly decide I want something, there isn’t much that can stop me, even if it takes a long time to get there. It’s frustrating when you work so hard, reflect on all the time and money you’ve invested in something, and you’re still miles away from where you want to be. I’m learning that’s just how it is though when you’re someone who’s goal oriented. You’re always going to be working on the next thing. It’s hard not to be impatient during the process, and for me it’s easy to overwork myself so I can get there faster. One of the hardest lessons I still have yet to learn is that it’s important slow down and find some kind of contentment and peace in the present moment. There’s nothing wrong with having aspirations and wanting more, but try to enjoy the process as well. Maybe enjoying the process should be my #1 goal.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Denver is such an amazing city it’s hard to decide where to start! For a whole week I would suggest renting a car for at least part of the time. Go out to Red Rocks during the day and hike around, walk the stairs of the amphitheater and visit the welcome center. Visit Garden of the Gods and drive up Pikes Peak down in Colorado Springs. You could also head up to Estes Park and do some hiking and exploring. As far as the activities around the actual city of Denver, I always enjoy walking around the RINO Arts District. There are tons of craft breweries with spacious patios to sit on as well as some amazing mural art. I also really enjoy the Capital Hill area if you want to experience spots that are a little less touristy and more of a local scene. The Highlands neighborhood is also a great place to get great food and drink and to walk around and do a little shopping at the various boutiques. I can’t say I have one specific restaurant, bar, brewery, etc. that I prefer. I just love the different neighborhoods and the fact that it doesn’t take too long to get from one to the other. Denver is a growing city, but it is still relatively quick and easy to get around, at least compared to Atlanta, which is where I’m from.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Hands down that would have to be my partner, Nathan. Talk about a support system. He seriously believes in me more than I even believe in myself. He’s always encouraging me and giving me pep talks when I get discouraged, stuck, or have imposter syndrome. He pushes me to be better and look at problems from different angles. He’s been my spokesperson at in-person shows, my pack mule when I need heavy things transported, and most recently my packing and shipping assistant. There are so many ways that he has helped me succeed, and I definitely would have had a lot harder of a time getting to where I am today if it weren’t for him and his never-ending support and love.