The ceramicist making wet mud go viral
TikTok turned Sarah Luepker’s hobby into her career.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, by Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.
I once put a pottery video on TikTok and it got only 600 views so I privated it out of shame. —Kate
I have a soft spot for ceramic artists on TikTok because, as a casual ceramic artist myself, it was the first thing that actually convinced me to start using the app. “It’s more than just dancing,” a rep for TikTok explained to a skeptical me at VidCon in 2019. “Whatever your hobbies are, TikTok has a video for that.”
As it turns out, TikTok has hundreds of thousands of videos for that. The #ceramics and #pottery hashtags have billions of views, and fall under the larger umbrella of Small Business TikTok that I wrote about last year. TikTok has been a game changer for emerging artists, allowing countless people to go full time with a passion they would not have had the audience for five years ago. Sarah Luepker, a ceramicist and TikTok creator from Chicago, is one of those artists.
I first came across Sarah thanks to one of her many viral pottery videos. There’s the one where she made a 30-pound pot (16 million views), or attempted a 40-pound pot (4 million views), or showed everyone how clay is repurposed (a process called “pugging,” that received over one million views). They have earned her over 400,000 followers—but I was curious how much this success was affecting her career as an artist. The short answer? A lot. The long answer is in this interview for paid subscribers, where Sarah and I talk about the growing pains of going viral as a small business, balancing creativity with the algorithm, and how TikTok can better serve its small business creators.