Written by Emily Glaser | Photos by Anthony Harden
Alex Matisse, Connie Matisse, and John Vigeland on East Fork Pottery’s remarkable evolution—and the company’s recent relocation from Marshall to Asheville.
Alex Matisse was posed the question, “How do you take a traditional craft and adapt it into a modern, scalable model?” His answer? “By changing everything.”
Such is East Fork Pottery’s approach to most things these days. The manufacturer—co-owned by Alex, his wife Connie, and Alex’s longtime friend (and fellow artist), John Vigeland—has evolved so much since our last visit less than three years ago that, if it weren’t for that definitively Blue Ridge name, it would be nigh-on unrecognizable.
In January of 2016, Capital at Play profiled a four-person craft operation with a litany of romantic, pastoral trappings like dirt roads and forgotten barns and an archetypal pup—a passion project painstakingly handcrafted in the hills of Marshall, North Carolina. Founder Alex’s ambitions were humble (a forklift, perhaps a retail space in Asheville), and their production modest, some 7,500 pots that year.
Since then, they’ve changed, well, just about everything. A team of 40 now creates, markets, and ships the brand’s quintessentially minimalist dinnerware from a sprawling warehouse on the outskirts of Asheville’s Biltmore Village. Though East Fork’s craft remains rooted in centuries-old tradition, their production facilities and offices are a beacon of modernity: Ladies in culottes and berets carry boxes of clinking pottery to-and-fro through airy white hallways; bespectacled millennials in Canadian tuxedos lean across desk dividers to point at their neighbor’s glowing Mac screens; and everyone—some lipsticked, others clay-spattered—gathers along the length of a 30-foot dining table for lunch, prepared by a rotating cadre of employees from different departments in the on-site commercial kitchen.
Here, in a setting seemingly more befitting of a New York City high-rise than an Appalachian factory, East Fork continues its trajectory of compounded growth. In 2018, they created approximately 70,000 pieces of pottery; this year, they’ll make some 200,000. At 14,500-sq.-ft. in size, the new factory itself is far larger than their old facilities, but already too small for the thriving company: They have plans to move their inventory warehouse, shipping department, and clay making to an auxiliary location by the second quarter of 2019.
The full article continues below. Click to open in fullscreen…