Gopi Shah’s guide to shaping clay: a Web Story
Gopi Shah began working with clay at age 14, and has now spent nearly 20 years making ceramic cups, dinnerware, sculptures and decorations. From her one-woman studio in Long Beach, California, she crafts designs inspired by Mesoamerican and Andean art, textiles and prints, and her natural surroundings. Recently, the Google Web Creators team teamed up with Gopi to create a Web Story, A Guide to Shaping Clay, about her work.
The story takes you behind the scenes in Gopi’s studio. Instead of just seeing the finished product as you would on Gopi’s website, you explore the whole pottery-making process — starting with the tools of the trade.
You can sit back and watch as Gopi demonstrates the four steps to shaping a cup — and then decorates it in her own whimsical style. Every personal touch, from the tags painted on her studio wall to her rustic wooden furniture, allows readers to better understand the person behind the brand.
The last page of the Web Story features links to her shop and social media so readers learn more and keep in touch.
We recently chatted with Gopi about creating content based on her clay creations, and how collaboration helped her build her brand and her confidence.
How did you first find an audience?
I started finding my audience through the help of others. I honestly wasn't sure what I was doing when I started doing social media, and started picking up followers once brands that liked my work started posting about me. I now use that to my advantage by sharing other people's work I appreciate and collaborating with other brands so that we can market together.
Tell us about your brand. How do you want it to be perceived by followers and fans?
I want my work to be perceived as high quality and unique. My brand is me, which means it focuses on women of color entrepreneurs who had to build from nothing.
How do you stand out in a crowded content marketplace?
The quality and diversity of my work is what sets me apart from others. I've been doing ceramics on and off for about two decades now, which means my wealth of knowledge is deep. I'm also striving for improvement in my work, so I usually am not happy unless I feel like my work can show my skills and talent.
Gopi Shah and her dog, Hanz, in their Long Beach Studio.
How do you come up with ideas for content?
I tend to showcase the day to day of my life in the studio. My content is created by me, so sometimes I stop and think other potters may want to try this technique, or it would be a good way to showcase my process to my greater audience and customers. I think more people are taking ceramics and pottery classes, so they tend to understand how pottery is created, but for those who don't, it's pretty exciting to see how a lump of clay becomes something you use daily.
How do you manage your content calendar? Any suggested tools or resources?
I don't really have a content calendar. I just end up posting what I'm doing in the studio, and if a holiday or a studio sale is coming up, I add that to the mix.
How do you make your content interesting? Keep it short? Add photos and videos? Other?
I like to diversify my feed by showing my process as well as my final products. Making pottery is an interesting subject, and so many people tend to receive benefits from watching pottery being made, [almost like] ASMR or an "oddly satisfying" moment. I just started doing reels this year, so I can show an entire process rather than just small snippets of a process to really engage a viewer with how something is made.
How do you post content across platforms? What types of content work best on each platform?
I like sharing events on Facebook and on my website through my blog, so that when people are searching for an event, my website will also hopefully pop up using SEO and keywords. I also like posting news on my Instagram as well as my website. For example, when I got a new kiln, I wrote a blog post about how and why I decided to go with the kiln I selected. I consistently post about my kiln on my Instagram, and if people ask about it, I can refer them to my website with my blog post that goes into more detail about it.
What advice would you share with your earlier self when you were starting on this journey, based on what you’ve learned along the way?
Stop being scared and believe in yourself. It has taken me a while to have the confidence I have now in my work and my skill, but I'm grateful that I have such a strong and supportive community backing me.