Aleisha DuChateau is a talented ceramic artist based in Atlanta, Georgia, who has been creating ceramic homewares under the brand name Utility Objects since 2018. Her distinctive style combines organic textures and glazes with a contemporary, handmade aesthetic.
Each piece she creates is rooted in showcasing the true essence of the raw clay she works with, often characterized by its speckled appearance. She draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including Japanese wabi-sabi, Scandinavian pottery, and even speckled bird eggs.
Utility Objects gained significant recognition in 2019 during a pottery fundraiser for Color of Change, an organization dedicated to combating racial injustice in America during the Black Lives Matter movement.
Since then, Utility Objects has successfully sold its work to high-end boutiques, galleries, design firms, and large brands like West Elm and Food52. The brand has also received notable press coverage, with features in publications such as Dwell Magazine, The New Yorker, Architectural Digest, Ceramic Review Magazine, and Southern Living.
Connect with Aleisha on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- How Aleisha got started
- The most challenging piece she’s made
- How she stays motivated and inspired in her work
- What are her “go-to” resources for growing as a professional
- Advice for people looking to stay relevant and successful in their careers in the long term
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by on pay. Atlanta’s New standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:24] Lee Kantor here another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is one of my favorite series we do. It’s the GSU radio show where we spotlight all the good work that’s being done over there. And today we are going to be talking to somebody who’s participating in the Main Street Entrepreneurship Seed Fund. Aleisha DuChateau with Utility Objects. Welcome.
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:00:48] Hi. Thank you for having me. Lee It’s an honor to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:51] Well, I am so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about utility objects. How are you serving folks?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:00:57] Yeah. So utility Objects is a production design studio. It is based here in Atlanta, Georgia, where I specialize in crafting unique pottery home goods within the retail and wholesale markets.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:12] So are you the artist or are you the manufacturer or are you both?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:01:17] Yeah, I’m both. So I’m the founder. I’m also producing all of the work, designing and shipping them out. So juggling many different things.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:26] Now is the work you’re doing like for company would tell you, Hey, you know, we want a plate series or bowls and then you produce them for them on a regular basis. Or is it.
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:01:38] Yeah, So so yes. So through my several wholesale markets, I deal with small businesses, especially around here in Atlanta. They submit a different orders that they curate themselves by viewing my catalog. Once they put that order in, I just go ahead and get to work and produce all of the work for them.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:00] So how did you get started? What was the genesis of the idea?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:02:04] Yeah, so in 2020 I was juggling several different jobs and I noticed that I was physically hard on my body and I was a bit unhappy at that time. And I was I just decided to just turn my hobby into a full time business. And I’ve been doing it ever since.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:26] So what got you started with pottery?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:02:30] So here at Georgia State, I took an extracurricular class, which was pottery, and it was really difficult at first, but I really enjoyed it. I loved working with my hands and I just kept on doing it. I got the pottery bug, so it was it was really fun and I just kept doing it ever since.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:53] So what was the first thing that you made?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:02:55] The first thing I made was a very heavy, clunky mug. It was mugs were very, very difficult for me to make in the beginning. And so I just kept making them constantly. And it’s it’s changed over time, over the years.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:12] So what’s your favorite thing to make?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:03:14] My favorite thing to make are my dimple cups. They’re very small cups that have a little indentation on them. It makes it very comfortable for the user to use. And it’s one of the ways. It’s one of the ways that I show my artistic expression.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:36] Now, when you’re designing something, are you designing it first for you and then you hope somebody else or the public likes it? Or is it something that somebody can come to you and say, I want something and then you just make it?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:03:49] Uh, it’s a little bit of both, honestly. I sort of have these ideas when I sit down and sketch things, and then I share it with people on my website, and I also offer customizable pottery. So if someone is looking for something very specific that they love, I’m so open to creating something for them. So something that’s more unique and tailored to something that they are interested in.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:22] Now, when did you start kind of realizing, Hey, I’m good at this and that I can make a living doing this?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:04:32] So it was around the same time I started the business. I realized that, Hey, this is something that makes me really, really happy. And during that time in 2020, I was doing several little artist markets and people were just really, really loving my work. And it just made me feel that I can share my work on a larger scale and I can turn it into a business and share it further.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:02] And then how has getting involved with Main Street helped?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:05:06] Getting involved with Main Street has helped a lot. Just being able to have access to resources where I can learn about finances, like my business finances, be able to engage with other small business people has been very helpful. Again, I have no I had no prior knowledge of how to run a business. And so just being able to have that community and being surrounded by people that can help me with my goals that I’m setting for myself has been really helpful.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:42] Now, has it been challenging? Sometimes maybe they ask you questions that are hard and you’re like, Wow, I didn’t think of that. You know? Did you start at any point, like questioning, Wow, am I can I do this?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:05:55] Yes. I’ve had had challenging moments like that, but it’s something that makes me stronger because I can tackle it. It makes me excited about this business. It’s just learning different things all the time and just being able to again, like reach out to people within the Main Street program for help is has been really helpful.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:25] So having being part of a community you think is really helpful in your case?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:06:31] Yes. Yes. It’s been a huge help.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:34] Now, is it hard to like switch hats from being the artist to the business owner, kind of doing the nuts and bolts of fulfilling and customer service and selling and all that stuff as opposed to, you know, being the creator where you’re just being playful and curious and things like that.
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:06:57] It is a bit hard at times, but I think it’s an environment that I thrive in. I love multitasking and so naturally I just really enjoy going from designing and creating things on my pottery wheel to doing all the back end logistical stuff. It’s been really fun and I enjoy that. It’s definitely an area that I can grow in as well. And in the future, as my business grows, I can then delegate different tasks and work to other people, hopefully.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:36] Have you started building a team?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:07:38] No, not yet. It’s just me right now. I’m hoping within the next year that I can begin building a team.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:47] Now, how did you start getting kind of your first clients?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:07:53] So I got my first client, which was West Elm. It was during 2020.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:00] Well, that’s a that’s a big brand. Like. Yes, Yes.
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:08:03] It’s a really big brand. During the time I was just making pottery on my porch in my apartment, and so I was just producing like eight pots per week, just like trying to make things for them. So they reached out to me and told me. But had they.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:23] Had they even know who you were, that you even exist?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:08:27] Yeah. So I was working with a fundraiser at the time. It was the color of change in response to the George Floyd incident. And I guess they might have seen me in an article during that time, and they reached out to me and said, Hey, we really like your work. And we would. Like to take you on as a partner. And it was a really exciting opportunity for me and also very scary because again, I was just making things in my apartment at the time, so it really gave me the opportunity to take the leap to get my own studio and make more work.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:11] And the confidence right to have somebody Like I thought when I asked, I thought you were like, Oh, it was my neighbor or my relative, You know, this is like a big brand that’s coming to you that that does this every day and sees something in you that, I mean, you must have been over the moon.
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:09:27] Yes, I was really over the moon and scared, just feeling all kinds of things. And I still partner with them today. So it’s been a very, very good partnership and I’ve been growing, so it’s nice.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:40] Now, is that a situation where when you’re working with a brand like that and they say, Oh yeah, we’ll partner with you, and they put your stuff out there that like you could get a lot of orders, like that could overwhelm you, that, you know, how do you kind of manage the demand when you’re in a platform that has that much activity?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:10:04] Yes. So I managed the demand by just being able to set goals and be as organized as possible. If I’m dealing with five different orders at a time from that are large orders, I really have to be very strategic about how I’m going to tackle each order. Instead of doing one at a time, I could sort of, you know, make multiples at a time to be as efficient as possible. It’s definitely an area where I’m looking to grow. So if I get a team, I could, you know, sort of they can help me a bit with all of the demand that I’m getting currently.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:51] Now, the way you deliver the the finished product is, is it’s handmade, right? This isn’t mass produced, correct?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:10:59] Yes. No, it’s handmade right now. So it’s just me sitting at my pottery wheel hand making each item through each stage from glazing to firing everything in the kiln. And then I go to packaging everything by hand, just me.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:19] Now, part of that is by necessity, but part of it is you have an attraction to the the Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy, right? Where imperfections are part of the kind of the product, right? That it’s. Yes. Being imperfect and not exactly the same is kind of the point of working with you, right?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:11:42] Yes. Yes. I think it also tells a story as well, and it makes the product more unique. And I get to have my own artistic touch. So it’s really nice to have in people’s homes.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:57] Yeah, I’m a big fan of that. Can you share with our listeners, you know, the the thinking behind Wabi-sabi?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:12:05] Yeah. So the thinking behind Wabi-sabi is basically making an making art that sort of isn’t super perfect. It’s more imperfect and that can kind of tell a story. And there’s an artistic expression that’s left behind, and that’s sort of the concept of law based.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:29] Sabi Yeah, I think that a lot of people aren’t familiar with that. And and when you learn about it and you see how it, you know, the thinking behind it, it kind of gives you as a human some grace, right? Like to embrace your own imperfections. And you don’t have to polish everything up to be perfect, You know, just the way you are is kind of good enough.
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:12:54] Yes, absolutely.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:57] So what do you need more of? How can we help you?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:13:02] Um, I need more of just more hands, really. Just more people to get into my studio to help me make products, handmade products. And, you know, I can turn things out faster and get it into people’s homes.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:21] And for those who want to see some of your work or learn more about what you’re up to, is there a website?
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:13:28] Yeah. So they can visit utility dash dash objects.com to visit my online store. I’m also available through my wholesale partners West Elm Online and I’m also on Instagram at Utility Objects.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:46] Well, congratulations on all the success and the momentum you’ve got going. It’s an amazing story. I mean, to be discovered at the kind of beginnings of your career by a brand like that is just really a fantastic, amazing gift that was given to you. And it’s just amazing to hear the story.
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:14:08] Thank you so much. I’m definitely really grateful for it.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:12] Well, you’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Aleisha DuChateau: [00:14:14] Thank you.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:16] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on GSU indie radio.
About Our Sponsor
OnPay’s payroll services and HR software give you more time to focus on what’s most important. Rated “Excellent” by PC Magazine, we make it easy to pay employees fast, we automate all payroll taxes, and we even keep all your HR and benefits organized and compliant.
Our award-winning customer service includes an accuracy guarantee, deep integrations with popular accounting software, and we’ll even enter all your employee information for you — whether you have five employees or 500. Take a closer look to see all the ways we can save you time and money in the back office.