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Mercurial Goods: How Nicole Black Fires With Intention

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

When you think of art, what comes to mind first? What about when you think of its creation? To Nicole Black, art is an extension of herself. Its creation is a release of care and love into the sometimes tumultuous world around her. Black is an FSU alumna, art teacher and self-taught artist. She started her pottery business, Mercurial Goods, in 2018 and has since been releasing batches of handmade functional ceramic art fired with love and intention. This week, I got to speak with her about her experiences as a teacher, an artist and a business owner.

Her Campus (HC): Have you always had an interest in art?

Nicole Black (NB): Always! I have been creating using anything available to me since I was little.

HC: Do you work in any other medium besides pottery? Why did you choose to make Mercurial Goods a pottery business?

NB: I am a self-taught artist and potter. I have worked and played in many mediums. Outside of clay, I’ve mostly worked in gouache paint and ink. I have transmuted my love of painting into my ceramics practice. The process of making forms is deeply soothing to me, I thoroughly enjoy treating each of my 3D forms as a blank canvas to paint on with food-safe glazes. After teaching myself to handbuild in my former elementary art classroom, I knew I wanted to continue to create and learn techniques on a larger scale to share my functional workout in the community.

HC: What’s your favorite thing about creating art?

NB: Creating art is my time to allow my very busy mind to process my experiences and the world around me. My favorite and most treasured part of making pottery is knowing that it will be loved and used in the homes of people who buy it.

HC: Which piece of yours is your favorite?

NB: I honestly couldn’t pick a favorite individual piece. What I love most is the process of creating pottery. It is the only medium I’m aware of that uses all four elements (earth, water, air and fire) to finish a piece of work. I’m mesmerized by the tactile sensation of manipulating clay and then painting with glaze to bring a piece to fruition. I’m currently loving working with my eye drop and cashews and noodles designs.

HC: How do you get into a creative mindset?

NB: I honestly feel like I just exist in a creative mindset and it’s more about carving out space and time to allow myself to release and create. I maintain a regular meditation practice that helps me to center and prioritize creativity.

HC: How did you come up with the name Mercurial Goods?

NB: So, the official definition of mercurial that I share on my website is, “subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind.” That is precisely how I see my work. I refuse to make identical pieces or mass-produce sets of one item. Each piece is its own little universe and ecosystem that will find its way to the home it’s meant to be in.

HC: You refer to your work as “a stream of consciousness.” What does that mean to you?

NB: To me, this means not planning my designs and color stories ahead of time, but rather letting go and letting what comes to me take root as I work.

HC: When you say your work is “fired with intention,” what does that mean?

NB: Because I work in such intricate patterns, each piece takes several hours to layer. I consider my practice to be its own form of meditation. A lot of my energy and love is intentionally placed into each part of the process of making a pot. Also, firing a kiln is an exercise in patience and releasing control. Sometimes even after hours of working on a piece something with happen during a firing that will disrupt my “plans” for my pieces like explosions, glaze drips or cracks.

HC: Do you prefer making smaller batches? Why?

NB: Absolutely. I am not a production potter. Each of my pieces is one of a kind and takes dedicated time to complete. The nature of my surface designs combined with my small home studio and kiln perfectly aligns with my small batch pacing.

HC: Where do you draw inspiration for the designs of your collections? Do your collections express a part of your identity or personality?

NB: I am infinitely inspired by the elements of art and nature. I’m inspired by the energy of the people I meet, especially my high school students. Many of which I’ve been teaching since they were little. My work 100 percent expresses my identity and personality. I like to see it as a physical manifestation of the chaos, anxiety and imagination that lives inside of my head.

HC: What’s been your favorite thing about owning a small business so far? What’s been the most challenging?

NB: It’s been really validating in declaring myself an artist. I have a B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from FSU and I come from a very science/medical-oriented family. Every time I get to make decisions about how my business will progress, it brings me great comfort and confidence that I am doing what I need to be doing for myself and the greater good.

HC: What’s your best piece of advice for someone who wants to start their own small business?

NB: Start small, take a lot of notes about what works and what doesn’t and never forget that you are your own boss. Take care of and respect yourself and your labor the way you would hope someone else would.

You can get your very own Mercurial Goods on Black’s website and keep up with new collections and pop-up market appearances on her Instagram

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Hannah Grinbank is a junior at FSU double majoring in English (Editing, Writing, and Media) and Communications with a minor in Psychology. She is absolutely thrilled to be HCFSU's Head Culture Editor! When she's not editing, you can find her reading, going on a hot girl walk, or listening to David Bowie albums on repeat. She hopes to one day own a cat named after legendary music icon Cher. :)