Small businesses are the lifeblood of local communities. They keep the members of a town or neighborhood nourished, active and happy. In this series, Arkansas Money & Politics highlights those small businesses that have had an undeniable impact on their local communities.
For this installment of Small Business Spotlight, Arkansas Money & Politics sits down with Chris Swasta, the owner and founder of Rolling Hills Pottery. He has owned and operated Rolling Hills Pottery for nine years. Swasta’s name is synonymous with unique and colorful pottery found all over the state. No two pieces are the same.
How did Rolling Hills Pottery come to be?
I was in the right place at the right time! After months of talk and influence from my college and peers, I helped re-establish the program after a 15-year halt. The process of doing that got me hooked.
Where did you come up with the name of your pottery shop?
The name references both the rolling hills of Nebraska, where my journey with pottery began, and the act of hand-rolling clay to make coils.
What do you do in your day-to-day as a full-time ceramic artist?
A “normal” day for me would be to get up early, and wheel throw a few batches of items for my consignment shops. By the end of the day, I have them completed and drying for the kiln firing. That’s what keeps me in the game.
What does the process look like for creating ceramic pieces?
The process of creating ceramics is an intensive, industrial process, and each piece can take as long as three weeks to finish. After molding each piece from clay on a wheel or by hand, I fire the ceramics at 1,945 degrees. During the next step, I add a glaze to my pieces, which is what gives the final product its shiny, beautiful final color. The ceramics are then fired one last time in a kiln at 2,200 degrees. I can do all of this from my home, where I have a fully functioning home studio.
What are some lessons you’ve learned in your time as a business owner?
Arkansas has a way of giving back the energy that we put into it.
You’ve accomplished a lot in a decade. What are some goals you’d like to reach now?
Expanding services to other countries and having a storefront.
What are some skills that you think someone would need to be good at this job?
Of course, there are skills and practice you need with pottery making, but there are also other aspects of business, like networking and marketing. The work doesn’t end once you complete a piece of art. If you want to work with your passion full-time, you have to get up and do the work. Planning ahead throughout the year always helps.