Meet the Maker: Nathan Spalding of SadBoy Ceramics

*photo by Jami Milne

Late last year I walked into the back room at the shop to ask Mallory something. I stopped mid-sentence and gasped when I saw what she was holding (not an exaggeration, but I often stop and gasp at things so take from that what you will). She had in her hand a beautiful stoneware mug, so deep blue it was almost black, not too big and not too small, smooth and elegant, neither delicate nor bulky. It was perfect.

“Where did you get that?!” I demanded.

“SadBoy Ceramics,” she said, telling me she got it as a present for Jordan (her husband). She pulled up the Instagram page to show me and we both gushed and gushed and gushed. Not too long later, I had my own SadBoy Ceramics mug, and it immediately became the favored morning coffee mug.

Now, almost two years later, it’s my honor to introduce you to the human behind our latest retail partnership at Des Moines Mercantile, Nathan Spalding of SadBoy Ceramics. Nathan specializes in functional pieces for your every day, bowls and mugs as beautiful as they are practical.

*photo by Jamie Milne

“I think a lot of my work veers more on the modern side for pottery, but I don’t want it to feel cold,” Nathan says. “I want it to feel soft and approachable but still elegant –  something where the shape and the form make you feel at home with them without feeling like they’re too precious. It’s art for your everyday life.”

As someone who uses Nathan’s pottery in my everyday life, I can absolutely vouch for his description of his work. If I had to describe Nathan’s pieces, the first words that come to mind are “grounded” and “warm.” Like a deep breath. With glaze colors that he’s named Weighted Blanket Beige, Mood Ring Blues and Crocodile Tears (Green), it makes sense that his work evokes calm and comfort.

*photo by Jamie Milne

This feeling of calm and grounding is what drew Nathan to pottery back in 2013 when he took his first ceramics class in college. 

“It came at a perfect time when I was first starting to realize that I had depression,” Nathan says. “I needed that outlet. It gave my hands something to do and my hands somewhere to go. It provided me with a community.” 

*photo by Jami Milne

Working with clay has continued providing that outlet for Nathan, leading to the name for his business “SadBoy Ceramics” and providing a community, or rather, building the community that he wanted to find.

After living in Des Moines for 4-5 years, Nathan experienced difficulty establishing community as a queer person, not finding a lot of opportunities to connect with other queer people in Des Moines. When he launched SadBoy Ceramics, he wanted to use his business as a way to provide space and time for queer people to gather and celebrate together. 

*photo by Jami Milne

Once a month, Nathan hosts a Queer Clay Night at Horizon Line Coffee to the 10 people who’ve signed up. After introductions, each person gets a mug that Nathan has thrown ahead of time that’s firm enough to pick up without collapsing but still wet enough to mold and manipulate. He provides all the tools and paints for everyone to make their mug into their own unique creation. 

“They leave with something they like and can actually use in their everyday life to remind them of their queer joy and remind them of their community,” Nathan says.

Though full price for Queer Clay Night is $75, Nathan is able to offer sliding scale payment to those that need it because of ongoing donations to the Community Clay Fund which you can donate to HERE. Queer Clay Nights sell out FAST so if you’re interested, make sure you sign up for Nathan’s alert list here!

In the meantime, stop in the shop here at Des Moines Mercantile to check out the SadBoy Ceramics ramen bowls, pinch bowls and mugs and treat yourself to some art for your everyday life.

You can enjoy Nathan’s work by eating at Lucky Lotus where they use SadBoy Ceramics ramen bowls, and soon Oak Park will be using his custom creations as well. You can shop SadBoy Ceramics on Nathan’s website (follow his Instagram for shop updates), and Nathan will be making monthly drops of ramen bowls, pinch bowls and mugs here at Des Moines Mercantile.


*All photos in this post were taken and used with permission by Jami Milne.


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