Ed Goldman: Alejandra Magaña wins national honors as ceramicist, businessperson

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Ed Goldman: Alejandra Magaña wins national honors as ceramicist, businessperson
By  –  Contributing columnist

Alejandra Magaña (nee Calderon) is the owner of Manjar Ceramics, which she operates out of a very modest studio just off of C Street in downtown Sacramento. She lives with her husband, Luis, an art handler for the Crocker Art Museum, in an apartment one flight up.

Their live/work space is in a mixed-use area of town that houses Blue Diamond Almonds and, a few blocks away, Channel 3 studios and a new urban community, the Creamery at Alkali Flat. The surrounding area, which may very well be the oldest residential neighborhood in the capital, also attracts artists and inventors because of its fairly affordable apartments and warehouse space: you can sculpt, paint, compose, rehearse and toss clay here at all hours of the day or night with relative abandon. It’s SoHo without the ‘tude. 

Magaña, who’s 28, was recently selected from 3,500 nominations and a clientele of what HoneyBook Inc., a business management software firm, says consists of more than 50,000 “creative entrepreneurs,” as one of its first annual “20 On The Rise” honorees. In all, 100 “wavemakers” were chosen in five categories: designers, makers (Magaña’s designation), image makers, event professionals and creative entrepreneurship experts.

Before devoting herself to the pottery business she started in 2016, Magaña spent a year teaching ceramics at Bear Creek High School in Stockton. “I went into that job kicking and screaming,” she says. She’d been up for two posts — the one she got and the one she “really wanted,” teaching drawing and painting. “But I ended up falling in love with ceramics,” she says.

When the daily all-weather drive to Stockton became too oppressive, she landed a part-time teaching gig with Cristo Rey High School in Sacramento, the Catholic institution that combines schooldays with workdays at companies throughout the region that train the students in real-life jobs and pay the school for augmenting their workforce. She teaches there four times a week, she says. “And now that I do ceramics for a living, and love it, wouldn’t you know it? I’m teaching drawing and painting.”

HoneyBook works as both a backseat adviser and a back-office consultant for the young businesses it helps. “I knew I wanted to form a business but I didn’t know how to form a business,” Magaña says. “The HoneyBook people were especially helpful for me by providing a template for my business plan.” She says the company also holds regular, free webinars and podcasts.(You can also pay them to execute the business documents and collaterals on which they advise.) 

Magaña creates colorful coffee mugs, plates and bowls for various store owners, and online via Wholesale in a Box and Shopify. Their seeming simplicity is deceptive since they take hours to design, toss and bake. She anticipates opening a brick-and-mortar store at some point – but in the meantime, you can see some of her work online at manjarceramics.com. And rest assured she at last loves what she's doing,