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28 Sep 2015

The Maker of Tomorrow’s Heritage: Ceramic Artist Gill Isaac Kaufman

Vox Orbis / 28 Sep 2015 Art

Photo: Gill Isaac Kaufman, owner of Happy Green Merchant, aspires to a green lifestyle “working with the earth as a potter.” Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Clay in hand, ceramic artist Gill Isaac Kaufman leaned low over a whirring, potter’s wheel set up in the airy studio of his Goleta-based business, Happy Green Merchant. Fast but driven, he deftly created a clay coffee cup in a matter of minutes.

“That’s a good-looking cup,” he said, sliding a long wire under the wide base of the vessel to move it from the wheel on to a wooden board to dry.

Photo: Happy Green Merchant is the brain child of Kaufman, artist, potter, surfer, musician, and an aspiring philanthropic activist. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

Kaufman has been working with clay for the past 25 years. He took to it instinctively, he said, “like a surfer takes to water.”

It’s easy to see his passion for it; as soon as the clay is in his hands, he begins calmly and expertly shaping it into art. He creates cups, bowls, vases, sculptures, and—his signature work—custom magnets. Each piece is created, fired, glazed and refired using a unique methodology that is all his own.

Photo: Kaufman makes consignments with simple, custom made clay magnet designs for his business, Happy Green Merchant. Gail Fisher/Vox Orbis

“Ceramics is a process—It’s kind of a sacred one in some respects,” Kaufman said. “You’re making something that’s going to be here longer than you’re going to be here.”

Happy Green Merchant represents an intersection of Kaufman’s passion for ceramics and his interest in the business of art. His most popular products are custom ceramic magnets—each featuring a different facet of the Santa Barbara, Calif. lifestyle.

Giving back is also an integral mission for Kaufman and Happy Green Merchant. Taking a cue from the Torah, Kaufman donates 10 percent of his earnings to local charities. He also plans to partner with charities for fundraising events, educational seminars and other services to help share his success with his community.

Overall Kaufman is walking the line between balancing his artistic vision with the realities of running a business. Thanks to that passion and business-savvy, Kaufman says Happy Green Merchant, like the clay he works with, has “never-ending possibilities.”