Meet the Vendor: The Latch Key + Giveaway
Who are you and what do you do?
Maker Whitney Sharpe, the creative behind Latch Key, is a Bay Area based artist in Oakland, CA. Whitney makes every Latch Key piece by hand in her live/work studio in Jingletown. Whitney first started working with clay as a child. She received formal training in the fine arts at Savannah College of Art and Design with a focus in ceramics, textiles, sculpture, and painting. From this multi-medium education, Whitney was able to explore traditional and craft based mediums while converging intention, concept and quality.
The Latch Key creates one of a kind ceramic decor for the home and body; only using US made findings or upcycled materials.
What’s the latest thing you’ve been working on?
Hanging vases with hand woven straps. After the popularity of Latch Key’s planters, we have decided to make something for the people who love plants but can’t necessarily keep them alive (or prefer a fresh bouquet!)
Any new exciting news you’d like to share with our readers?
This will be my first time EVER in Seattle. I am beyond excited to meet fellow makers, craft lovers and see the city. I have always heard awesome things about Seattle but I can’t wait to discover it for myself!
What was your first memory of making something?
I grew up on a lake in Michigan and there was clay in the forest behind my house. I remember wanting to be a mermaid so I sculpted this raw foraged clay into a bunch of little mermaid statues and left them scattered among the trees.
What is your favorite new product for 2015?
The clover cuff, my absolute new favorite. It is much more intricate than my other jewelry and leaves a subtle statement on the arm.
How far will you be traveling to come to UCU?
What do you love most about craft show vending?
Authentic connections. I love seeing what other adventurous people are making. Creating bonds between the makers is one of the most fulfilling things… its almost like we are all long lost friends who are on the same path and continue to meet. They “get it” because they live with the fire to create and the energy to make it happen. Its always really great to feel like you are a part of something greater than yourself.
Secondly, it is so fun to connect with someone who believes in you and your work. Their amazement on the “who, how, where” and how it reflects to this tangible thing in their hands is beautiful.
How did you get started in your business?
I was working for another artist and also in a gallery. I felt like I wanted to make what was in my head rather than what was being dictated to me. While selling art was great for my bank account, I felt as if I was on the wrong side of the counter and uninspired. Eventually I made the leap… One of the scariest and most exciting things I’ve ever done. This old artist I know who lives in the Caribbean said to me “jump! and the net will appear.” That was the best advice I’d gotten and I still strive to make that a mantra.
Is this a full-time business for you?
Yes! I started a live/work space when I moved to the bay and it has been an incredible incubator for The Latch Key.
Where do you see your business in 3 years?
I see The Latch Key in specialty boutiques and a few exclusives collaborations with brands I love. The Latch Key just had its 1st birthday and I would love to grow this company as a lifestyle brand- full with utilitarian and non-functional work; sets of one of a kind kitchenware, hand printed wallpaper, woven wallhangings, a cookbook and beautiful wood accents (my partner is a very talented woodworker). All things in time but I have a wide range of interests and skill sets and cannot wait to weave together all of the things I find joy in.
I’ll throw this in too- a hand built studio with french doors + incredible light, some where with clean air and rolling hills… a girl can dream right?!
Who’s your biggest fan?
My community. Its hard to draw a line between support, positive criticism and inspiration. Without the help of my friends, family and fellow makers I wouldn’t be where I am today. Its the collective fanatical love that keeps me going.
What’s something you’ve learned through running your business in the past 12 months?
That its important to take time for yourself. Its really easy to become a workaholic + live and breath your work. When you fall into that practice its hard to separate your life as an artist vs your life as an inspired individual. I think of it as having a creative well. You can continue to pull from your well only if it is being filled- replenished and taken from sustainably in a way that will ensure fulfillment for the future. Its all about balance- hard work + enjoying life.
On a more business mindset; don’t undervalue your time. Price things accordingly.. if it takes skill and time the number on the tag should reflect that.
What’s your favorite item that you sell?
Its a tie between The Envelope terrarium and my Pinkie necklace.
Regarding the envelope planter- People are excited to acquire something that will transform their space. Its quite fulfilling to see my work in someone’s space and see how they make it their own. People respect the authenticity of this piece; I make the ceramic vessel and pair it with upcycled scrap leather from one of the last book binderies in San Francisco and secure it to the vessel with rivets made in a neighboring region of my hometown. Its specific and people dig that.
The Pinkie necklace- literally taken from a mold of my pinkie, its my homage to my hands. When I was younger I was teased for having ridiculously small hands, including my one and a half inch pinkie. This piece represents to me allowing your “freak flag to fly.” I believe the things that separate us from others are most important in becoming your best self. Also, I get a kick out of it creeping some people out so much they cannot live without it.
What do your customers love most about your product(s)?
That my pieces are made of clay but it doesn’t look like clay. People often ask in disbelief “This is clay?!” I have formulated my glazes to have the texture and colors found in the natural environment. So when someone is looking at my Grand Pyramid hanging planter thinking it is rusted metal and learns it is actually sculpted earth, they swoon.
As more people begin to see the value in local and hand made things, they appreciate that I ONLY source from the US. The majority of chain used in jewelry comes from China and Korea. While they make excellent products, it is not helping our economy. With US made findings I can proudly make pieces that are the highest quality while supporting self sufficiency.
What’s the best experience you’ve ever had with one of your customers?
I was vending at my first event and met a gal who really loved my work. She had just lost her job and didn’t have much to spare but we had a good chat anyway. I keep a few imperfect pieces at a discounted price and I gave her one because I knew she was having a hard time. Although she wasn’t asking for a handout, I wanted to offer a pick-me-up to a someone in a tough spot. Almost a year later she came to my booth at the Treasure Island Music festival and I recognized her immediately! She was so excited to have found me again and started trying on everything I had. She explained she had landed a great new job at a large tech company. She bought a few pieces and remembered the piece I had given her and thanked me again. It was heartwarming 🙂
Pinkie Necklace by The Latch Key
To enter to win a Pinkie Necklace made by The Latch Key, leave a comment below telling us about the piece of jewelry you wear most often. Entries open until Sunday, May 17th. Be sure to leave your name and email so we can let the winner know where they can pick up their prize at the UCU summer show.