Meet Bari Ziperstein, a prolific ceramic artist and dear friend. We met over a decade ago when Bari launched her BZIPPY line. I fell in love with her brutalist vases, sense of humor and flawless design aesthetic. We visited Bari at her amazing Montecito Heights studio and production facility - where she does both her fine art and design production - to talk about how she circumvented prescribed notions of success and created a business inspired by conceptual art and intersectional feminist principles.
Q: Your new work is incredible. How has your practice changed in the last year?
A: Our studio in general has taken lots of time to develop internal systems that match our values - from HR, how we hire, finances, to what we produce and who we want to work with in both design, fine art and collectible design. Those values dictate a clear direction for the studio that is focused on beauty, invention, worker's rights, and accountable communication.
Q: Balancing work/family/self is an intense challenge, especially these days. How do you do it?
A: There is no balance honestly, but delegation is key to my day to day schedule.
Q: You’re a boss entrepreneur. There are so few ceramicists able to support themselves through their art. How did you reconceptualize that business model and manage to scale it up?
A: Taking time out of my fine art practice over 8 years ago to develop a commercial design line was crucial to leaving my teaching jobs. Knowing I could have financial freedom over time, be my own boss, and develop sustainable jobs for artists. It's been a long process of working with many consultants such as Corrina Peipon, Holly Howard, and taking the 10,000 Small Businesses Class in 2019.
Q: What challenges has your studio faced in the past year and how did you overcome them and keep your team employed?
A: We had similar concerns to many small businesses in the country, but because we are considered manufacturing we had to close for three months and I had to work solo in the studio to regain my dexterity with clay, reframe my priorities and apply to as much government assistance as possible. Through that our customers were extremely loyal and we are now at full capacity with new hires in every department - even looking for a larger facility to house more kilns and hire further.
Q: Although you had a great experience at art school, what one thing do you wish you’d been taught that would have better prepared you to create a sustainable art business?
A: That value and self esteem doesn't have to come from being successful in the art world - a more realistic approach to a career and it's long term sustainability was never taught to me. It was learned on the job.
Art - bariziperstein.com
BZIPPY - bzippyandcompany.com
Instagram - @BZIPPY