Once you start exploring the world of East Fork Pottery, you can't help but fall in love. Connie and Alex Matisse, the duo behind the brand, have taken it upon themselves to encourage people to not just use beautiful ceramics for special occasions, but to make the everyday a special occasion. Combine that with a varied color palette that suits any need, East Fork Pottery's line of wares are the perfect addition to any home and to any life!
WE NOTICED THAT THERE IS VERY MUCH A COLLABORATIVE FEELING WITH YOUR CERAMICS. I READ SOMEWHERE THAT YOUR PROCESS INVOLVES A WHOLE TEAM OF CERAMICISTS THAT ALL WORK UNDER THE EAST FORK NAME. HOW HAS THAT PROCESS BEEN FORMATIVE WHEN GROWING YOUR BUSINESS?
Getting across how our business works through social media has been a bit of a challenge! So here’s the gist of it. My husband Alex started the business in 2009. For the first few years, he made every pot that we sold himself. I did things like help mix glazes, clean bricks, wash buckets, send newsletters, and read aloud to keep him company while he threw for 8 hours straight a day. I also worked full-time outside the pottery back then. In 2013 our friend John joined the business. The two of them made work together under the name “East Fork”, but stamped each piece with their own, individual maker’s mark, and fired all of the work in a 36-foot long wood-burning kiln.
Around 2015 the three of us decided we wanted to start taking things in another direction. We wanted to make East Fork into a real business - one that could provide good jobs to a lot of people and meaningful benefit to our local economy. We also wanted to start making pottery that appealed to people outside our North Carolina folk-art bubble. Together we started to develop the East Fork Collection: a line of highly functional, contemporary dinnerware, that made sense in our own homes, our mom’s homes, and our much-cooler friends’ homes equally.
Now we have 14 folks in the workshop, each contributing to the production of the line. Some are dedicated glazers, others work in the mold shop, some throw pots on the potter’s wheel. We have full-time glaze chemists who work with me to develop new colors and is constantly troubleshooting, fine-tuning, and running safety and fitness tests on our currently available glazes.
When we introduce new forms, I’ll work with our Production Manager, Amanda Hollomon-Cook, to make several prototypes on the wheel. We’ll then kick those around our homes, taking notes, and deciding what improvements can be made. When we land on a form, Alex will render the form in CAD drawing and then work with our Mold Maker, Jessie, to make a master mold of the form. We’re also stepping a toe into slipcasting. Soon, we’ll be using 4 different production methods to make our work!
We’ve been 2x-ing our team every year for two years. Next year we’ll double in size again, and have about 60 people on Team East Fork by the end of 2019!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE SWITCHING OVER THEIR DISH COLLECTION TO HANDMADE CERAMICS? FOR ME, IT IS SOMETHING I WOULD LOVE TO DO, BUT IT FEELS A BIT DAUNTING! WHAT PIECES DO YOU SUGGEST THEY START WITH?
This totally depends on your mealtime habits and household size! For parents of small ones who eat at home and don’t have guests over very often, I’d suggest starting off with an Everyday Bowl for each of the grown-ups and a Breakfast Bowl for the wee ones. It feels really nice to be able to sit down for a meal with everyone eating from their own matching bowls, and these two forms are so versatile; we use both of them several times a day.
But if you love to entertain and have a vision of yourself serving an elegant starter or dessert in matching bowls, I’d start with a set of 6 to 8 of just one smaller, more affordable item, like the Ice Cream Bowl. It’s a sweet sight to open your cabinet to find a big stack of beautiful, matching bowls nestled in on each other.
Whether you mix and match or stick with one color is entirely up to you! At our house, we use Side Plates, Dinner Plates, Everyday Bowls, Breakfast Bowls, and Ice Cream Bowls in our neutral, Classic Collection Palette, but keep the colors consistent between forms. All of our Dinner Plates are Eggshell, all of our Breakfast Bowls are Soapstone, and all our side plates are Utah. I pepper in some of the punchier, seasonal colors in Serving Ware, Mugs, Toddler Cups and Vases. But that’s just us, not you. If your heart says: I want a full table of purple pottery, go for it!
And last piece of advice - even if you’ve already been married, not planning on getting married, make a registry! We have several customers who “register” for East Fork just for the heck of it. Whenever a birthday or holiday rolls around, they just let their friends and family know they can order something from their East Fork registry. We have a handful of people, after 2 years, now have a complete set!
WE LOVE ALL THE COLORS YOU OFFER IN YOUR RANGE, PARTICULARLY THE UTAH COLOR! CAN YOU SHARE WITH US THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE GLAZE?
Ha, I thought Mabo would enjoy our Utah glaze :). As the Chief Creative Officer here at East Fork, one of my roles is coming up with our new glaze colors and working with our glaze chemist to dial them in just right. Last winter, when we were storyboarding our Spring/Summer ‘18 glazes, I was feeling super homesick and kept returning to photos of the Southwest. I grew up in Los Angeles and just about every other weekend my parents would throw me and my 3 siblings in the car and head for the desert. We spent a lot of time camping in Utah and Arizona. To this day there’s never a time my body and spirit feel more in harmony than surrounded by the red rock and dirt of the Southwest. One of our sales team members saw the glaze before we’d named it and immediately said “Utah”. It was supposed to be a seasonal glaze for the spring and summer, but we all loved it so much we decided to keep it around.