Written by Carolinne Griffin
From his renovated barn studio in Waterbury, Jeremy Ayers wheel-throws clay into functional pieces for modern living. (Yes, you can put them in the microwave and dishwasher!) “I’m a utilitarian potter,” says Ayers, who’s been working with his craft for many years. “Making pottery used in daily life—that’s always what I’m thinking about.”
There are two sides to Ayers’ work: creating big statement pieces—serving platters, vases, pitchers—pottery with an impact; and making what he calls the universal object, the mug. “Mugs are always my sketches, the way that I process new ideas about form, function and surface design, how they all fit together.” Last year, Ayers kicked off the Mug Club, a three, nine, or twelve-month subscription where customers receive one of these unique sketches per season.
Ayers is well-known throughout the region’s maker community and co-founded Burlington’s Artists Market more than 20 years ago. The market continues to be an incubator for developing artists, and many have emerged with thriving businesses, including Ayers. “It’s been a great way to demonstrate by example how people make their living and help up-and-coming artists organize their vision.” Ayers has always been a champion for artists and this was never more true than last spring when he found himself in a David-and-Goliath stand-off with retail giant Anthropologie after they ripped off one of his benchmark mug designs. By harnessing the power of social media, Ayers and his supporters applied enough pressure to get the company to remove the rip-off design from their 300+ stores and website. On May 12th, Ayers posted a celebratory update on Facebook stating: “We did it! . . . [Anthropologie] took down the copycat mug last night! Amazing! I am so blown away by all of the people who identify with this struggle of the independent artist vs. corporate greed.”
These days, Ayers has taken on a mentor role, offering assistantships for young ceramicists to work and learn the ropes of running a pottery business in exchange for time in his studio. “I love seeing the light on at night when I am busy with my family. I love that people are out here using the space because that’s an opportunity I was looking for in my twenties.” All are welcome to drop into the Waterbury studio Monday through Saturday to shop the stylish stoneware or pay a virtual visit to Jeremy Ayers Pottery. There you can view the gallery, make a purchase or opt for some art with your coffee and join the Mug Club.