Hand-thrown cups, vases and bowls have a certain allure, as they retain the imprint of the makers presence. Chelsea Bradford is one such maker. Her beautiful vessels have gained widespread popularity throughout San Diego and are featured in multiple stores and coffee shops across the city.
The natural texture and origins of ceramics have cycled back into popularity in recent years, and Bradford’s unique minimalist style sets her pots apart. The natural clay tone paired with the intensely pigmented black stripes is simple and bold.
Bradford’s focus lays primarily on useful and intentional pottery—vessels that exist with a purposeful beyond aesthetics. “I’ve always been concerned about the functionality of a vessel, never necessarily classifying what I do as ‘art,’ but more concerned about the usefulness of it. I want the things I make to play a part in the daily lives of the people who take them home.” Her progression towards this mindset was not quite as fluid as her work now suggests. Bradford states that the inspiration behind Chelspots comes from the stubbornness within herself.
“[When] I was in school and all of my professors were trying to steer me towards sculpture, towards contemporary art and the abstract. I just really wasn’t interested in that at all. And even though they were pushing, pushing, pushing me away from function, I just always kept gravitating back towards it…I guess to me it’s less of the art, and it’s more of the function. Creating something to be useful. Its a part of your everyday life and you interact with it. I never want it to be something that you sit on a shelf and it gets dusty, and thats the whole life that it lives. I think that it’s really important for something to function…otherwise what am I making it for? That’s my mindset. I had to push really hard in school to keep being a potter, instead of becoming a sculptor. I’m glad I did.”
The size and shape of Bradford’s most popular wares, her tumblers or cups, speak to this usefulness. They fit perfectly and delicately into the users hands, resting soothingly in the palm, no matter the contents. Bradford’s wares are versatile and simple—allowing the user to determine how each item fits best into his or her life. Chelsea’s wares were recently selected as the mugs for a local coffee shop, Communal Coffee. Her simple design and elegantly shaped cups meld perfectly into the store’s aesthetic and vibe.
As is common for most small businesses, Chelsea Bradford has come across the problem of creativity meeting with supply and demand. “The [creative] process right now is kind of what people order. It kind of limits the creativity for sure. But I think that’s where the tiny pots came in…I was so fed up with these cups…I don’t want to be a production potter. So when I find myself getting into this rut, of doing the same thing over and over again. I just had to break it up. My creative process comes primarily from outside stimulation. I’m very motivated by form…With the repetition of doing cups over and over again I’m not necessarily exploring form, and I really want to do that more in my work. I think that will come as I stop taking large orders and allow myself to say no, and allow myself to say ‘right now I’m going to build an inventory of what I want to make, not just what orders are coming in.’”
These tiny pots and ring bowls have provided Bradford with an outlet for creative expression. The tiny vessels are washed with color, utilizing glazes in a way that Bradford’s other work does not. The variation in color is beautiful and complex. Bradford states, “What’s so special to me about ceramics is that nothing is going to be exactly the same. No matter how hard you try.”
Chelsea Bradford’s vision for Chelspots is an ultimate collaboration with her other business, Witty Rentals. Owned in tandem with Bradford’s best friend Tiffany Garcia, Witty Rentals is a San Diego based rental company specializing in mid-century, rustic and industrial furniture and decor. The company also provides wedding, event, photoshoot and home staging—a full service business fully focused on aesthetics. When asked about her ultimate goal for Chelspots, Bradford states, “A mesh of my two worlds…with Chelspots and Witty Rentals. We eventually want to have a clay line for rentals—vessels for florists, china…enough for an entire wedding. It’s kind of a big goal for me, because it’s a lot. And it’s a lot of maintenance. You can imagine a lot of things would get broken. I think that would be really fun. I would get to see so many different people enjoying my wares on the most important day of their life. It would be a lot of work, but it would be worth it.”