Celebrating 10 Years
Notes from co-founders Chris and Mark
Haand-iversary: Celebrating 10 years of Haand
Chris and I started Haand 10 years ago this summer. A lot has changed in our lives since then, we have each gotten married, had a child, bought homes, and gotten older, greyer and softer around the mid section.
We have faced existential crises: blowing up a power transformer, a fire, clients have gone bankrupt and ghosted us, and in 2020 a pandemic that effectively eliminated 80% of our clients in the restaurant business. Money has always been tight and at the end of the month and after paying our employees there were often times when Chris and I didn’t pay ourselves. All that to say, we survived, grew up, and have some actual baseline for “worst case scenarios”.
Amazingly, we have remained close friends through everything, and our friendship has only grown stronger and deeper. We can rely on each other and read the room to know that sometimes we need to take 5 minutes to talk about Dungeons and Dragons or tell a funny story.
We have gone from working out of a derelict house in the woods to working out of a hosiery factory. We have hired people who have become close friends and watched people go from knowing nothing about pottery to becoming experts. Our headcount has grown from 0 employees to now having 25. We love what we do. We love our employees and watching them grow in confidence as they hone their craft is an honor.
We wanted to do something special to celebrate 10 years. The best way to do that in a way that reflects where we have come from and where we will go felt obvious- play the hits, baby! We have done Cloudware since day 1, and starting in June we are introducing two new forms that celebrate the blue and white swirled clay. In July, we are launching two new color options drawn from our archive on our Ripple Tableware.
We started Haand knowing all along that we wanted to build something that continued after we retired. Here’s to 10 more years, and 10 more after that, and 10 more after that….
Mark Warren and Chris Pence, Co-Founders of Haand
Chris and Matt have been friends since diapers, and so during that fateful Saturday School, I was introduced to Matt’s friend, Chris. We really cemented our friendship when Chris and Matt helped me make a fake id to get into a Paul Oakenfold show using the computer lab- yes, the year was 1999 if you were doing the math. Fast forward to 2014, and Matt was one of our very earliest employees. He now runs the Materials Department, where he heads up glaze development. I will come to him with a handful of leaves or a picture of an elk leather jacket from 1890 and he will nod thoughtfully and say, “Yeah I can make a glaze that color.”
Chris and I wanted to do something for Haand’s anniversary that celebrated the joy we find in the unexpected nature of ceramics, so we went back through our catalog and selected colors that we loved but discontinued or never went into production with- Chris chose Vespertine and I chose Turmeric.
Old Favorites, Made New
When we started making plates for restaurants in 2014, we also began to create custom glaze colors for our clients to help them flesh out the design of their spaces. When honing in on a color, we would often make seven or more variations per color to make sure we got it right. In glaze chemistry, things can be really unexpected and magical- you try to make a green but end up with pink, or end up with a green apple when you wanted emerald tones.
We should introduce Matt Welch, who is important to Haand in many ways, but if you are going in chronological order of importance, he is the person who introduced Chris and I. My original home-room teacher felt I was a “handful” so I got moved into another homeroom mid-year. In that homeroom sat Matt, and we were sitting together in detention mere days later. We became fast friends when he felt guilty about getting us both Saturday detention for laughing in detention.
Vespertine is a term used in biology to describe animals and plants that are active during the period immediately after sunset- not to be confused with crepuscular, which is the period immediately preceding sunset, and nocturnal, which means active all night. Vespertinus is Latin for “evening”, and Vespertine the album by Bjork is pretty great, too.
“This glaze reminds me of a glaze we used in our high school pottery- maybe middle school. The depth of it reminds me of staring into deep water- the infinity of staring at the night sky. I spent a lot of time camping as a kid in boy scouts, you start to lose yourself in the shifting blue as the stars start to gradually come out it stops being a color and starts becoming something else- something infinite. You can start to lose yourself in the calm depths of this glaze- it’s amazing that a color can make you feel so much.”
Chris Pence, Co-Founder and President
I have always loved a warm, rich yellow. It is, unfortunately, hard to chase down in ceramic glazes- due to the chemistry of minerals in glazes, they tend to go green very easily. And, to perhaps highlight my masochistic nature, I really dislike yellow greens. I am forever disappointed, but I know it’s possible! I had the pleasure of visiting the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco a few years ago, and I was blown away by a single, elegant primary yellow plate made in China sometime in the 15th or 16th century.
There is such vibrancy in a good yellow- an egg from my chickens, sunshine, a buttercup, spices, etc. I hope using pots with this glaze in your home feels like a warm hug in the sunshine warmth.
Mark Warren, Co-Founder and Creative Director
Cloudware: part of the Haand story from the beginning
It will be 10 years this summer since Chris and I started Haand. We have created many different styles and colors since then, but something that has been in production from the very beginning is Cloudware. Cloudware is unique to Haand- we blend a blue and white porcelain slip in the plaster molds while the piece is being made. This makes every single piece of Cloudware unique, in fact, we encourage our casters to put their own spin on the process. A trained eye can tell the difference between Nickolas’s Cloudware and Helena’s, or if it’s a very old piece, between Chris’s and mine.
I always loved Wedgwood Jasperware, my mom and grandmother had a few of the famous light blue and white pattern ware. Because it was either in a china cabinet or hung on a wall, I would sneak a chair over to stand on and run my little fingers on the surface- it was such a strange feeling! Similar to my plastic toys in its smoothness, but fused and mineral-y in a way that blew little mind (and continues to).
I grew up in North East Florida within a 5-minute walk of the beach. Clouds and weather impact your life during the summer and you are always aware and looking west starting around 1 pm, where the storms would form daily and interrupt whatever you were doing outside- surfing, playing, fishing. I will always remember the feeling of wonder and awareness of my own minuteness when the huge, dramatic thunderheads scudded toward me as I bobbed in the warm ocean.
Ten years ago, Chris and I would watch the clouds as we enjoyed a beer outside at our first studio. As two poor young people without a TV or anywhere to go, it would always spark an easy, happy conversation about the future and what Haand could be as we watched the clouds move and change. When I look back on that time nostalgically, I think maybe we saw our future written in the patterns there and our meandering journey from 0 employees to our current headcount of 25. We don’t have nearly the same amount of time to stare at clouds every day, but whenever we get a chance to, we still do.
The Cloudware Tapered Mug
We worked really hard to make sure that OUR tapered mug feels like a Haand piece, with a slightly wonky, wavery rim and a handle that feels very strong but is surprisingly thin and undulating. This is one of my favorite styles of mug, but a surprisingly hard shape to inject any “soul” into. Everyone has (or had) dozens of mugs with a similar form as these laying around from an Ikea shopping spree, and there’s a reason- they work really well! The tapered form keeps liquids warm longer because it has less surface area exposed to the air, they fit well in cup holders, and they have great leverage between the large handle and the body. The Cloudware patterns have plenty of room to play on this shape, as I look at a shelf of these I am delighted to see how each is completely different from its siblings but together form a panorama- like watching clouds scoot across the ocean on a summer day.
The Cirrus Vase
This form is designed to really celebrate what Cloudware can do- how the unique mixing of white and blue clay slips responds to a form while being cast. The shape is a blend of Southwestern water storage jars and classic Mediterranean typologies- transformed through our Haandmade blender, creating an ancient/ modern chimera that could only come from Haand. The belly and curves of this shape feel wonderful in your hands and work equally well as a carafe or as a vase. Like all of our Cloudware, the Cirrus Vase is lined on the interior with a clear glaze and polished on the exterior.
Thank you for being part of our story.
Here's to 10 more years, and 10 after that...