This Is Happiness

Meet Emily Keener of This Is Happiness Studio

Emily Keener lives on Northlawn Drive with her husband, Ish, and sons, Weston and Max.  
Tell us a little about the work do you do?
I am a ceramic artist and teacher with a passion for positivity, spreading kindness, and looking for the little beauties in everyday life. I create functional pottery that is meant to be used and treasured.  My hope is that my pieces spark joy, that you use them, and be reminded of the simple, yet stunning treasures in life.
How did you get started with ceramics?
I have been a maker since I was a child. I was fortunate to have wonderful art programs in grade school and the support of my family. As I grew older, I knew that I wanted to pursue the arts and went to Penn State University to study art education. I experiment with different mediums, trying out drawing, painting, screen printing, and ceramics. There was just something special about ceramics. It was the place I felt most happy. With the clay in my hands, I was calm and focused and it set the tone for the day ahead.
After graduating from PSU, I married my best friend, Ish Keener, and moved to Rolla, MO. There, I taught elementary art for four years. It was a wonderful job and I loved my students. When my husband and I moved back to Lancaster and welcomed our sons Weston in 2014 and Max in 2016, my focus was as a mom first, and then an artist. Through Facebook trunk shows and child nap-time studio hours, I grew my little pottery business.
More recently, I have been spending time deep-diving into the creative process. In 2021, I made a personal commitment to creative growth. I have been making more space in our home for creativity and spending more time in the studio, exploring new ideas and experimenting with new techniques. 
The boys and I have spent a lot of time in the studio together fully immersed in the creative process. Sharing these creative experiences with Weston and Max has transformed our relationships and brought so much richness and depth to our time spent together. 

The song Happy by Pharrell Williams would cycle through our studio music playlist. As Pharrell belts out his lyrics,  my boys would shout out ”What is happiness?! This is happiness!” And the “This is Happiness Studio” was born.
Where do you get your inspiration for new work?
For creative inspiration I look at the beauty in this world, I look at things that make me smile, that make me stop in my tracks. I attribute my playful style to my time working with my elementary students and my two sweet boys. My "blooming beetles" designs were inspired by my son Max. He loves all animals, but bugs are his favorite.
How do you create the pieces that you make?
I start with a sketch and I usually add watercolor to help bring the design to life. Once I have the design in place, I form a lump of clay by throwing it on the pottery wheel. Some of my pieces, like trays, cheese boards, and jewelry, are hand-built using a slab roller.
After forming, I let the pieces dry. Each piece is trimmed to give a clean base to decorate. Next, I sketch out the design in pencil on the clay and then paint it using an underglaze. The whole piece gets painted, even the bottom. 
Next, I do an initial fire in a kiln. The kiln will get to about 2,000 degrees. After firing, it's time to glaze each piece to give it a nice finish. The glaze is what makes the pieces food-safe and ready to be enjoyed.
And finally, the piece gets the glaze fire.  I typically start firings at the beginning of the day and the kiln cools at night. In the morning the kiln is ready to open. It’s like opening a gift on Christmas morning!
If the piece is getting a gold luster accent, I add it at this point and then fire it one more time. 
Finally, after all this hard work these little treasures are ready to go from my hand to yours, ready to be treasured and used by you. 
What are your future goals in pursuing your artistic work? 
My goal is to grow creatively, focus on positivity, spread a little kindness, and inspire others to look for the little treasures in everyday life. I want to continue to pursue creativity and empower others to do so as well. This past year I have taken time to pursue my creativity a little more intentionally. I have shared this experience with those around me and have built deeper connections through this intentional pursuit of creativity.  My goal is to bring this same creative pursuit to others, to empower people to sit down as a family and to create together, to build deeper connections with friends, family, and among our community through the arts.
Where can people view your work and potentially purchase items?