Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we talk to Molly Hatch. Molly is the artist, designer, ceramicist, and owner of Molly Hatch, a tableware and home goods company featuring whimsical and contemporary heirlooms.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your career.
I started as a studio potter and was making my living selling functional pottery and handmade things out of my studio 10 years ago. An executive with Anthropologie saw my work at a gallery in New York at Greenwich House Pottery on Jones St. and thought this would be a great fit for them! I was a team of one and was starting to bump into the fact that what I was doing was more labor-intensive than I could afford. Anthropologie could manufacture everything, which would make it more affordable for me and for customers. I wanted to build that up and at the same time buy more time to create. Anthropologie was the real opportunity to try that out without taking the financial risk to do it on my own, it was an amazing opportunity and the perfect marriage. Clearly, things went well between us. They sold the first collection of mugs really well and very quickly. After that, we were doing glassware, my best-selling items. We’ve been working together since then. They’ve sold over 500 of my product designs and gave me a platform to launch the brand and work with other partners.
I intended to sell pottery and be a professor. It worked for a while, but the business of being a designer and artist took over so much I stopped teaching five years ago. I still teach workshops, but I focus on designing one of a kind objects. I’ve almost always been in New England, I fit in that world, and it makes more sense to me aesthetically. You can see that in some of the collections, like the New York Breakfast Icon Collection with Bloomingdales we’re putting out next year.
2. What prompted you to start Molly Hatch?
I’ve always been interested in ceramics as a surface for drawing, I fell in love with the idea of things being functional and beautiful. As a studio potter, you can make anything you want. You can make anything handmade and Anthropologie gave me the platform to launch my career. Everything starts with a hand-painted drawing and I’m filling a need for something that doesn’t exist already. The stoneware we love in America is a heavier, cozier mug and those designs are reflected in what’s being manufactured. You get the same integrity and design as a handmade mug but at a more affordable price point.
Molly Hatch was launched because I couldn’t continue to make pottery without the help of the industry. I couldn’t afford to make pottery without making it more affordable for customers to buy. If I could make one mug by hand and send it off to the factory to reproduce, I’m still making them the same, but handing it off to a manufacturer with licensing has given me the opportunity to become an explorer of ideas instead of explorer of making things, in a fun way.
3. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
I’ve looked to history a lot. Whenever I’m stuck I go back to history and reinterpret it in some way. A lot of designs and motifs are something old I’m making new, like adding a new color or a contemporary saying or drawing historic imagery with my own hand and changing it so that it fits into our lifestyle. History is a huge source.
4. What was the first piece you ever sold and where did it go?
I sold it in college, either at an open studio or holiday sale, but I have no recollection of what the first sale was. In starting this, I wanted to make something to give as a gift, maybe I’m just a gift designer. I wanted to make something useful and artful, I love making people happy and giving things. I believe in gratitude and generosity. That drove me to make things to gift to people that they would love and appreciate the function of. Ceramics is such a clear way to do that. Money wasn’t the driver; it was more the ability to give a gift.
5. What’s your most effective marketing strategy, either to customers or to potential stockists?
Our most effective marketing is driven through Instagram; it’s been an account I’ve worked on for a long time. We also work with a PR marketing agency and the most effective press from them is through a gift guide or larger magazine article. When articles are written, the customer makes a personal connection and I’m very much part of the brand and the brand story, it’s my name, after all. It’s important that people have a personal understanding of who you are, so people are seeing and making a connection with a person and not just a brand. A story behind the brand makes it more meaningful. Marketing is an ever-shifting thing and I just try to connect with the customer personally.
6. How did you decide to start teaching classes and workshops?
It’s part of the personal connection. I’m an open book and I didn’t get here by myself. People who have taught me along the way have been just as important to me as the customer. Anytime I can get people to come into my workspace I can connect to them, and I get great ideas when I teach! I miss being a professor, so I wanted to make sure I stayed connected with teaching through workshops and interaction. I really enjoy it.
7. What do you see for Molly Hatch’s future? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
We have a bunch of new icon collections we’re working on in the new year. We’re expanding into paper entertaining and collaborations that will be coming later in 2020 with new brands in party & entertainment. We’re expanding on anything to do with the table. We’re trying to give people more of what they’re telling us they love.
8. Who is a Boss Lady who inspires you and why?
I look to Anna Bond with Rifle Paper Co. She and her husband, Nathan, craft paper goods and created such a huge business out of that. It’s exciting! Fine artist and illustrator, Lisa Congdon is doing interesting things and allowing her politics and personal life to be a large drive-in to how she thinks about her relationship with her customers. Her personal passions and messages are such a huge part of why she’s so successful. It’s inspiring to see someone take huge risks and put themselves out there. Jane Mosbacher Morris of TO THE MARKET is connecting manufacturers and retailers with ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices abroad. She’s working to end human trafficking and slavery in the contemporary world. It’s something we need to become a standard in the industry. We’ve been working together and I’m hoping to launch our projects soon. She’s inspiring, motivated, and an answer to a prayer. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this on my own, and someone who is taking it straight to the market (ha!) is really impressive and exciting and so genuine. I hope she’s able to do more of the good work she’s doing.
Just for fun!
A new (or new to me) restaurant I want to try: Le Coucou in NYC would be amazing.
In 2020, one goal I have: spend more time drawing and painting
My favorite winter outdoor activity: skiing
If I wasn’t an artist, I’d be: an art historian or curator or florist or all of them!