Life Over Lattes: Molding Happiness Into the Everyday With Arrow + Sage
If your eyes were to land on the resume of Anna Eaves, your mind would instantly be blown. At just 32 years of age, this ceramic artist has been featured in major global publications, including Vogue UK and Elle Decoration, and has crafted pottery for top brands such as Anthropologie’s BHLDN, all while building her own thriving company Arrow + Sage.
Yet when you talk to Anna, you won’t really get a sense of this mighty impressive portfolio she has stored in her back pocket. Instead, you’ll uncover humble vibes and a radiant, down-to-earth personality.
That’s exactly why I am so inspired by her…well, that among countless other reasons.
Not only did Anna have the courage to veer off the beaten path of a regular 9-to-5 job, but this self-taught potter ultimately had the courage to turn down a life of fast and frenzy. While she was beyond grateful for the opportunities to dabble in wholesale, she chose to say goodbye to mass production and blaze her own trail so she could focus on what matters most: being an artist, being authentic, and being happy.
Anna’s story will leave you feeling inspired, renewed, and chances are, it will open your eyes and shift your focus on your own journey. The one that really matters. You know, life.
Ready? Here we go…
Name: Anna Eaves
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Let’s take it back to the beginning. You mentioned on your website that growing up your home was full of “freedom, art, and creativity.” I must admit, that sounds so whimsical and dreamy!
How do you think that type of environment influenced you as an artist?
I believe we’re all born with gifts and talents. But I also believe that environment plays a huge, huge role in the development of individuals. My childhood and upbringing focused so much on art, creation, and imagination. Art, creativity, and innovation through play was as important (if not more important at certain ages) than basic studies like math and reading. Being immersed in an environment as a child that allowed me to gain a strong foothold in the creative process has not only shaped my art, but also my mind as an individual.
How did you first become introduced to ceramics? What was it about working with clay that you found so intriguing?
My mom is a talented, multifaceted artist: fine arts, painting, pastels, collage, and ceramics, too. She is the one who introduced me to clay. To be honest, I wasn’t as intrigued in the beginning as some might think! It wasn’t until I finished my first pieces and pulled them out of the kiln that I was hooked. That moment was so satisfying, and the transformation from start to finish had me hooked.
In 2013, with encouragement from your husband, you quit your 9-5 job to pursue a more hands-on creative life. What was the catalyst behind this decision?
How did you know then it was the “right” time to take that leap of faith?
I didn’t know! I just knew I was unhappy in my current situation, and that I had a huge gift of opportunity provided by my husband so I went for it.
That leap of faith eventually led you to opening the doors to your own business, Arrow + Sage. Can you tell us more about that journey?
For the first month after I left my 9-to-5, I decompressed. I got caught up on basic life stuff. Everything was organized, etc. Hah! Then my creativity started flowing back. I love to garden, and that had become a creative outlet for me during my early post-college days. In the fall of 2014, after I left my day job, I first started making live wreaths out of succulents. People loved them so I started selling them, but it wasn’t sustainable. Meanwhile I’d been toying around more with ceramics.
In December of 2014, a good friend who had seen my new “hobby” pots asked if she could buy a bunch as gifts for friends with succulents in them. After that I made a mug and listed it on Etsy. I got good feedback so I just kept going. Learning more, teaching myself, changing things, getting better, growing as an artist.
By the fall or 2015, I started getting wholesale requests from Instagram and from my website. I dove headfirst, full force, all the way into that. For most of 2015 I pretty much only had time for wholesale orders. Then in 2016 I tried to slow down a little because I was facing burnout. But I ended up taking a few big orders from larger brands.
This year, I’m pretty much solely selling direct on my website. I still work with a designer in LA to produce dog bowls for her shop and lifestyle blog, Shop Dog Shop Cat, and I sell small batches of planters locally in Raleigh, NC at Wylde. Other than that, I’m an artist again; not a mass production ceramicist. I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had, and that I did the mass production thing. It taught me so much, I learned fast, and now I’m able to focus on my art and creating.
Once you opened your Etsy shop, it didn’t take long before orders started rolling in and your work was being recognized by major publications such as Vogue and Elle Decoration. Wow, what an incredible feeling!
Can you describe what that moment felt like?
Yes! Vogue UK and Elle Decoration. I remember getting those emails and feeling like it was a scam or wasn’t real, but it was. It didn’t feel real, and it still kind of doesn’t. But I have the hard copies on my desk; it was real!
Yet I can only imagine how overwhelming that must have been and the amount of time it took to complete those larger orders. Can you tell us more about what the process was like?
It was such an honor to work with both big and small brands. Everyone I’ve worked with has been fantastic, and I’ve built some lasting relationships.
Mass production was way too much for me though. I remember packing boxes and boxes of plates for BHLDN and running out of studio space. I used my living room floor as overflow for packing the boxes. It was insanity, but worth it and I’m glad I did it.
What made you ultimately decide to scale back on creating for wholesale and instead focus your energy on selling directly to customers through your website?
Well, mass production was insanity. But yes, people always ask me why not expand? Why not hire people? I could. A lot of designers do and they run awesome businesses. But over the past three years, diving into this, I remember something my mom told me early on when I started taking on wholesale accounts. It was something one of her art professors told her in undergrad. He said, “be careful you do not make your art your work.” That resonates with me.
When I’m relying on my art as my job, I lose something. A part of it is gone. I still work in my studio, I still sell my work, but I’ve changed the way I go about it by saying no to wholesale, and working closely with other select independent designers. It keeps me inspired and that flows out into my day to day life in a super positive way.
What have you found to be most challenging about running your own business? And on the other hand, what has been the most rewarding about growing Arrow + Sage?
Wholesale was the most challenging facet for sure. Powering through and making hundreds of one product is not my thing. Connecting with other artists and designers has been very rewarding! Reaching the place I am now with regard to my art is also rewarding. Knowing myself and being OK with letting myself be an artist, rather than the CEO of my big ceramics line.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone seeking to leave their current job and pursue their passions, what would it be?
It’s hard! It’s not all pretty Instagram posts. The struggle is so, so real some days. I think there’s this idea that “well everyone’s doing it I can too,” but no one tells you how hard it is. Especially for those in an art/design/creative field. So, there I said it. It’s hard! It’s not always fun! That, and you absolutely must learn and train yourself to stop comparing yourself and your art/work to others. It will wreck you.
Do you, and be OK with it!
You design and create so many beautiful pieces of art, all by hand. From mugs, tumblers and bowls, to jewelry dishes and ring cones, which is your favorite piece to make?
Thank you! It changes all the time for me. My two favorite things right now are footed planters, and a new incense holder I’m still working the kinks out of design wise. So, coming soon!
Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you?
That also changes almost weekly, sometimes daily, for me! I have my art/ceramics, I manage and run our Airbnb in Carolina Beach, and I also do booking/marketing/social media for my brothers’ food truck.
But typically, I get up around 6:45/7 a.m., walk and feed my dog, JoJo, get some exercise in, have coffee/eat, hit email, do studio work, and then in the evenings I try to call it quits if my husband is home and not on the road. We wrap up most evenings together with wine or a drink and dinner, and usually some Netflix.
Tell us more about your creative process. Where do you find your biggest sources of inspiration for your artwork? Who are you most inspired by as an artist?
Right now, my biggest source of inspiration is coming from a few other artists/designers I’ve been working with. I have a collab launching soon with artist Claire Daniel, who works with acrylics, and I have a brand-new line of dog bowls for LA based Shop Dog Shop Cat. These two projects are very different from my current line of work, and I’m super inspired by both!
Lastly, what does creativity mean to you?
Thinking, seeing, being in, and interacting with the world around you in a unique and different way.
Thank you, Anna. For your inspiring ways, your beautiful work, and for making this world a brighter place to call home!
For daily doses of inspiration — as well as some pretty ceramic eye-candy! — be sure to follow Anna on Instagram and Facebook. Oh, and to get your hands on your own beautiful ceramic pieces, check out her website here.
*photos provided by Anna Eaves