Ce­ramic artists ride de­sign’s trend to­ward the hand­crafted

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By Solvej Schou

Lisa Jones founded her ceram­ics com­pany, Pi­geon Toe, eight years ago with an em­pha­sis on pe­tite pot­tery pieces like her three-legged “tripot” bowls and teensy stack­ing bowls.

Her tim­ing could not have been bet­ter, she says.

“I rode the wave of a resur­gence in hand­crafts, and the in­di­vid­ual maker,” says Jones, 32, of Port­land, Ore­gon.

Artis­tic, ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able, small-scale hand­crafted ceram­ics can ap­peal to young sin­gles dec­o­rat­ing first-time apart­ments, or to older folks and fam­i­lies look­ing for a more per­son­al­ized look than mass-pro­duced items pro­vide.

“We have our en­try-price cus­tomers, and as­pi­ra­tional pieces reach­ing a de­mo­graphic of peo­ple with means to spend,” says Jones. Pi­geon Toe’s best­seller is the 3-inch-high, $48 tripot. It has an unglazed, white porce­lain ex­te­rior, and a glazed in­te­rior in a choice of 16 colors.

“In the past five years, smaller ceram­ics have grown so much in pop­u­lar­ity,” says Eugenia Santi­este­ban Soto, se­nior style edi­tor at Bet­ter Homes and Gar­dens mag­a­zine. “They’re func­tional, but they’re also pieces of art. Peo­ple are tap­ping into the no­tion of own­ing some­thing beau­ti­ful and im­per­fect, but that you can use in your ev­ery­day life. You can tell there’s a hand that made it. It feels very soul­ful, au­then­tic.”

Be­sides the ever­green ap­peal of mugs, Soto notes the func­tional al­lure of cups and ves­sels that can hold ev­ery­thing from food and drink to flow­ers, pen­cils and cot­ton swabs.

Mo­ciun, a Brook­lyn, New York-based jew­elry and home goods store, sells mugs, cups, tum­blers, pitch­ers, vases, bowls and plates by dozens of artists from across the coun­try. Prices range from $24 for a speck­led tum­bler to $446 for a set of five metal­lic nest­ing bowls. Mugs sell the best, said com­pany founder Caitlin Mo­ciun.

“I have watched artists grow in their ca­reers, start­ing as a hobby and now cre­at­ing full col­lec­tions of pieces sold in sev­eral stores,” she says. “A lot of our cus­tomer traf­fic at the store is walk-ins or tourists. They are look­ing for gifts or take-away items, which small-scale pieces are great for.”

Jeremy Ay­ers is a ceram­ics artist in Water­bury, Ver­mont, whose mod­ern rus­tic pieces — from a $55 round salt box to a pair of bul­bous, aqua-colored mugs — are car­ried by stores (in­clud­ing Mo­ciun) and his own on­line and stu­dio shops. His stu­dio is in the 1870 car­riage barn where his great-great­grand­fa­ther made wheels and car­riages.

“I’ve been notic­ing more cus­tomers on the younger end who want to add to their home aes­thetic,” says Ay­ers, 41. “Maybe be­cause so many young peo­ple work in an of­fice cu­bi­cle, hav­ing my mug in their cu­bi­cle is a breath of fresh air.”

With pot­tery, rep­e­ti­tion is part of the process. Ay­ers usu­ally pro­duces his salt boxes in batches of 20.

Cre­at­ing each one out of a lump of clay on a pot­tery wheel takes about five min­utes, he said. Then he trims the box, and loads it into a kiln to be fired for 12 hours. It takes an­other 12 hours for the box to cool. Then he puts a glaze coat­ing on it and loads it back into the kiln. The glass in the clay and the glass in the glaze melt to­gether, be­com­ing one glassy ob­ject — stoneware — that doesn’t leak and is dish­washer safe, he says.

For those want­ing to make their own pot­tery, Ay­ers — who teaches classes — sug­gests go­ing to com­mu­nity classes. Jones, mostly self-taught, learned a lot from YouTube and books. Air-dry clay or clay eas­ily baked in an oven are op­tions too, she said. Pot­tery wheels can cost up­ward of $700 to $1,500, and a kiln can run be­tween $1,500 and $3,000, says Ay­ers.

An­other mar­ket for small pot­tery pieces — es­pe­cially those with a min­i­mal­ist, Scandinavian-de­sign aes­thetic — is as wed­ding gifts, as an al­ter­na­tive to large, ex­pen­sive, tra­di­tional china sets, says Soto.

“Peo­ple live more ca­su­ally now, and there’s been less of a need for for­mal china set­tings,” she says. “Peo­ple want some­thing that re­flects the way they live a lit­tle more, day to day.”




Solvej Schou is on Twit­ter at https://twit­ter.com/ solve­jschou


This un­dated photo fea­tures Lisa Jones, 32, founder and cre­ative direc­tor of Port­land, Ore. based ceram­ics com­pany Pi­geon Toe, work­ing in the com­pany’s Port­land pro­duc­tion stu­dio.


This un­dated photo shows Water­bury, Vt. based ceram­ics maker Jeremy Ay­ers, 41, work­ing in his stu­dio, flanked by his sons Fletcher, 5, and We­ston, 4.


This un­dated photo shows three stack­ing thim­ble cups by Port­land, Ore. based ceram­ics com­pany Pi­geon Toe.


This un­dated photo shows mugs by Water­bury, Vt., based ceram­ics maker Jeremy Ay­ers in his stu­dio.

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