What started as a way to pass the time during the height of the pandemic has now turned into a full-blown successful business for Shelby Vanbuskirk, owner of the Pantless Potter based in Lee Summit.
It all started after the former elementary art teacher enrolled in a college level ceramics class in Kansas City back in 2019.
Vanbuskirk was teaching elementary art in Raytown at the time, and her college class was a way for her to expand on her degree.
“I absolutely fell in love, by the end of the class I went and purchased a wheel from a neighbor down the street, I had a kiln within a couple of months,” recalled Vanbuskirk.
After the pandemic hit, Vanbuskirk had the time she needed to fine-tune her craft.
Eventually, a close friend who was an experienced potter encouraged Vanbuskirk to enter her first pottery show.
“I went to Union Station, and I did a show there. I had gnomes made for the holiday season, and I completely sold out,” said Vanbuskirk, “I walked away with an empty table and that was really cool and that’s when I thought maybe this could be something.”
Encouraged by her success and family, Vanbuskirk decided to put her teaching career on pause and focus on starting the Pantless Potter.
So where did the name come from?
Her husband inadvertently came up with Pantless Potter after finding Vanbuskirk inside the family’s garage, without any pants on while working on her pieces.
“It was super hot in there working next to a fire; I had my teaching clothes on most of the time and my husband would come home and see me working at the wheel and ask, "Are you even wearing pants?" to which I would laugh,” said Vanbuskirk.
Vanbuskirk continues to work from home creating pieces that are all hand-built and wheel thrown.
A variety of glazing techniques are used to finish her pieces, but the majority are brushed by hand.
Her shop currently includes one-of-a-kind stoneware that is safe to use in the dishwasher and microwave along with seasonal pieces including her iconic gnome figures.
The Pantless Potter is now one of the most in-demand artisan online shops in Kansas City. As her business continues to blossom, Vanbuskirk doesn’t plan on returning to the classroom anytime soon and sees herself working inside her home studio for the foreseeable future.
“I do these full lines of seasonal gnomes, but I have all of these fun, tiny, sculptural pieces, and a line of work that is everyday use, simple and cute. Someone once told me my work is farmhouse chic meets fun, whimsical and that really covers it,” said Vanbuskirk.