Saturday, November 13, 2010

What's in a name?

by Karen Mahoney of City by the Sea Ceramics

It never fails that at some point every time I show my work, someone asks about my business name, City by the Sea Ceramics. I'll hear "Are you from Manchester by the Sea?", or if they first ask where I'm from they'll reply confused, "But Needham isn't by the sea...". I always have to explain how the name has nothing to do with my actual location. So how exactly did I get my name and what does it mean? I'm so glad you asked!

When I chose to focus on pottery I decided I needed a business name to sell under rather than my actual name, Karen Mahoney. My name is pretty average, nothing flashy or unforgettable. There are many Karens out there and even more Mahoneys. I needed to stand out. I needed a shop name.

Next I decided that it was important that my name didn't pigeon-hole me and my work. I didn't want it to reflect anything specific, should I decide to take a drastic turn with my work at some point. While right now I want to make pots forever, you never know what the future holds. Some day I may just decide I need to make giant sculptures. Karen's Cups wouldn't cut it if that turned out to be the case.

So where did that leave me? I started thinking about what inspires me. While I've always loved Asian art the most, I've definitely been influenced by so many artists, time periods, and cultures beyond that. The Greeks, French, Romans, Inuits, I could go on and on. All of them have offered something notable to art that I enjoy and admire. This idea brought me to the next idea, that all influential cities throughout time have been near some form of water, be it a lake, river, or the ocean. I decided to work this angle into my name.

Using the word 'sea' as a general term for water, I decided upon City by the Sea Ceramics. I was able to honor the art history that the world has offered, keep the name broad enough so it doesn't focus on one specific thing, let people know it was ceramics I was offering, and still make it easy enough and catchy enough to remember. Perfect!

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