In the Spotlight with Group Partner
If you've ever gone shopping for ceramics pre-internet, then you'd know that the options in existence were limited and oftentimes, less than attractive. Enter Isaac Nichols, the founder of Group Partner and one of the pioneers for the quirkier clay creations we now take for granted today. Disheartened by his inability to find simple terra cotta pots for his plants, Nichols set out to create his own, and by sheer luck (and an abundance of hard work), established the infamous boob pot alongside a plethora of others.
Tell me a bit about your creative background.
Jeez, where do I start? I'm left handed, I grew up in a cobbler shop, and I learn best with my hands. I think what I came to understand was that creativity was really just reapplying how I think with my hands to projects that don't have a previously conceived end point. Like when I started working on things that didn't have a plan to follow.
What was your first job?
My first "real" job was at an architectural salvage yard in Kennebunk, ME. I have always been passionate about antiques, so when I came across Old House Parts, I knew I had to work there. I started with organizing doors (we had 5,000+) and uploading pictures to our website. At the time, we had a camera that took 16 pictures and used a floppy disk to get them on the computer. I would email them to our site manager and he would upload them to the site.
I ended up leaving high school shortly after and working there full-time for three years. We would do everything from demolishing old properties to installing antique floors and windows. I really loved it there and still deal in antiques on the side.
You launched GROUPPARTNER in 2012. What inspired this idea?
I couldn't find pots for my plants. Literally nobody was making anything in that department, and all I wanted were simple poorly made terra cotta pots. One thing lead to another, a series of fortunate mistakes, and here I am.
You focus heavily on body positivity and sexuality in your work. What was your first piece and how did that progress into what we see today?
That's a good question. I was making faces before breasts for what it's worth. The first boob pot was a joke. I realized that what I enjoyed the most was trying to make people smile when they saw the pots. I made a pot with average breasts and it just resonated. I realized that what I was making did make people smile, but wasn't a joke. I was touching on something that brought real happiness and positivity to a lot of people.
From then on, I kept my approach sincere. I think that the boob pot's success can't be divorced from body positivity. When you strip it all down to the basics, and you accept that, then you're working with something real.
What was the initial reaction to your work and how do you think that's changed as you've been in business longer?
I still remember posting the first picture of a pot with breasts on it and thinking to myself, someone is going to tell me to fuck off. Since then, it's been five years and I can still count on one hand the number of times someone has told me my work offends them. I think people's reactions are a mixture of surprise and enjoyment, with a little bit of scandal.
Do you have plans to create ceramics beyond the human form?
Yes, definitely. I wish I was doing it already but production, wholesale, just running a business in general takes so much time and energy. I am looking into changing how I do thinks now and hope I can start producing a ton of other pots in 2018.
What's been the most challenging part of running a business?
What hasn't? Taxes, insurance, payroll, managing other people's time, staying positive and finding time to be creative. Not sweating the mistakes and learning to think about money differently. Making things for a living is no joke, and I'm always impressed by people that make it work.
What advice do you have for young creatives who may be hesitant to pursue their passion full-time?
I think every piece of success in my life has come from the extra time I've put in. Give me a week to do whatever I want and I might not make any progress, but give me a Friday night after I've put a solid 40 hours in and I might stay up 10-15 hours and get a new ball rolling.
GROUPPARTNER came about at night. I was working full-time for an interior design company and I was exhausted, frustrated, and confused with my life. If you have an idea or if you're looking for an idea, my advice would be, start with what's approachable. What is the cheapest, most direct way to jump in? I had so many ideas that required money and skill and connections, but the one that worked was the one that started with me, a bag of clay, and about 14 hours before work the next day.
What's next for your brand?
I want to raise a million dollars for Planned Parenthood.
Photos: Tavish Timothy