Pat attended national conferences in Pittsburgh and Louisville where he got to meet other young people passionate about making art.
Pat Girard ‘09 of Glens Fall, N.Y. arranged his high school schedule so he could immerse himself in pottery. After graduation, Girard had a “this is definitely the place for me” moment when he visited GMC for the first time. He originally enrolled in the K-12 art certification program—“everyone kept telling me I needed something to fall back on in case things didn’t work with ceramics,” he said—but he always knew his first goal was to start his own studio.
In his senior year he switched his major to fine arts and wrote out a business plan as part of his senior project with art professor Jen Baker. It turned out to be more than just an academic exercise.
“Pat has that dual sensibility of discipline and good aesthetic judgment,” said Jen, who contributed her own experience in arts management. “He wrote his plan knowing that he was developing this for academic credit, but also as a guideline to his own business.” Girard says he still keeps the outline of his original business plan as a memento.
Prof. Karen Swyler was his ceramics teacher and mentor for most of his time at GMC. Girard was impressed with her devotion to her craft and to her students. “Karen was a great motivator. She helped me be on task and encouraged me to stay and school to get my degree before starting out on my own,” Girard said.
Karen invited Girard and other promising ceramic students to attend national conferences like the annual National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. He went to NCEA conferences in Pittsburgh and Louisville where he got to meet other young people passionate about making art.
“It definitely raised my sites,” said Pat. “Seeing the level of work being done was a little intimidating but it also helped me understand the commitment necessary to produce good work consistently. Karen gave me a lot of that insight and a sense of discipline.”
After graduation he formed a limited partnership with his cousin, renting space for a ceramics studio and shop on Beekman Street in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Girards did all the renovations themselves, including installation of a studio in the basement, and design of the upstairs showroom.
Pat likens his first few years in business as a real-world MBA. “We’ve learned a lot about business and we’ve learned from our mistakes. We’re working hard on our web presence and online sales, but we still believe it’s the person to person contact that sells our product.”
Pat has since moved the business to Glens Falls. Girard Stoneware offers customized, handmade pottery in an array of ready-made, handcrafted styles of the highest quality form and function.the business to Glens Falls where they can rent a larger space with room for a coffee bar and studio space for teaching—Pat is still interested in passing on his love of creating art.
He is also sure enough in his craft and creativity to develop and create seasonal lines of products.
“When you do something over and over again, you’re more able to bring to life what you see in your head,” Pat relates. “My work definitely comes out of my teachers’ commitment. They’re great at their craft—I’d want to hear them say ‘great job, good stuff.’”