Career Spotlight: Rossella Manzini // RossLab
I am so happy to be sharing another Career Spotlight today. Rossella Manzini is the creative force behind RossLab. Rossella was born in Italy but now resides in San Jose, California where RossLab is also based. Rossella creates beautifully designed, handcrafted ceramics such as mug set which is my personal favorite (and would make an amazing gift this holiday season). Ross thinks details are key, takes the time and gives the needed attention to obtain the best results, selects high quality raw materials, and packages each purchase with care. I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as we did.
What is the story behind the concept of RossLab?
What I like the most about making ceramics is to know they will share and brighten someone else’s home and life. There is a story behind every piece that I make: it begins with me, the designing process and the making, and it ends with my customers and how they choose to use my creations. This is the beauty of being a potter: I make things that are beautiful to look at, yet functional and made to be lived with.
When did you know it was time to launch your business and what steps did you take?
I decided to open my shop when I had no more room at home to store all my pieces. I wasn’t planning to start a real business but upon receiving some positive feedback I decided to turn it into a full-time job. Since then my shop grew bigger and my creations evolved with it.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned since launching your business?
I learned that, as much as I love making ceramics in my studio and getting my hands dirty, running a business is much more than that. Some tasks may be not as rewarding as the making process itself, but they are necessary to allow you to keep making what you love.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I always try to squeeze in studio time and some admin works each day, so I keep making my ceramics, which is what I love the most, but also stay up to date on correspondence and paperwork. Having a home studio allows me to save time on commuting and being flexible on my work schedule. My work in the studio is always different because of the many steps involved in pottery making: I could be throwing on the potter’s wheel one day, glazing another, carving, loading and unloading the kiln, shipping orders. It is never boring!
What is the best part of your job?
I love when my customers share their stories and tell me how they are enjoying my ceramics. It warms my heart and makes me feel a small part of someone else’s life in the best possible way.
And to keep it real, what is the worst?
It gets tricky when I work on custom orders. It takes up to a month for a piece to be ready, due to the many steps involved, and you are only sure a piece turned out fine only at the very end of the process. The worst is to open the kiln after the final glaze firing to discover something went wrong: it means to start all over again. Luckily, this doesn’t happen very often!
Looking back is there anything you wish you had done differently?
As at first I wasn’t really planning to start a business, I didn’t plan much in terms of where I wanted it to go in the short and long term. A real plan would have helped me to have a clearer strategy.
What is a goal you have for your business that you hope to accomplish in the next year or two?
There are so many ideas in my mind on where to take RossLab! I hope to get more and more people to know my work and expand the reach of my online store, www.RossLabDesign.com. I would also love to have a bigger studio and teach ceramic classes: a place for people to meet, learn and make their own art, too.
Being a busy business owner how do you stay organized?
It is important to plan what I want to accomplish each month and break it down into smaller weekly tasks. On Sunday night, I need to have my calendar all filled up for the week to come, otherwise I will get lost in the day-to-day operations of running a ceramic studio without seeing the big picture.
What has been one surreal moment you've experienced since launching RossLab?
I had the pleasure of working with brands I love such us Anthropologie and West Elm, but the most surreal moment was when the famous Alinea restaurant ordered 90 bowls for their 3-star Michelin restaurant in Chicago. It was such an honor!
What is your best piece of advice for others who hope to someday be a business owner?
Don’t forget why you do what you do and your love for it. When you are a one-person operation, there are so many tasks to tackle apart from making that it is easy to loose focus and forget the genuine passion that got it all started. Be gentle on yourself and take a day off from the hustle to nourish your craft and just be enthusiastic about the creative and making process. And most of all, be positive and keep going!