May 20, 2021 Brands We Carry
Brands We Carry : East Fork Pottery
The MINNA team have been longtime friends and fans of East Fork. We have finally made our friendship legit by bringing East Fork mugs into the MINNA store. It feels something like making a relationship Facebook official?! While we're sure you're familiar with them, we thought we'd dive in a little deeper. During Sara and Alex Matisse's (The OG founder of East Fork) weekly chat, we were able to get him to bring it back to the basics so we could get a look at how East Fork came to be. This interview is a must read filled with moments for thoughtful consideration.
By Andiyah Patrick
Tell us a few sentences about you.
My name is Alex and I am the OG founder of East Fork. I am also Connie’s husband, a formally trained potter, and avid fisherman. I grew up in Massachusetts in a family of artists and came to North Carolina to go to college, which I promptly dropped out of after a year and a half to start three years of formal pottery apprenticeships
How did you start East Fork?
After finishing my apprenticeships with potters here in North Carolina, I followed the model of my teachers and bought an old farm outside of Asheville with an inheritance my grandfather left me. I built a large wood kiln and started making pots. I met Connie shortly after moving to the property and she had no idea what she was getting herself into. This was in 2010.
What about your home makes it feel like home? Do you have a favorite memory?
We just bought a house outside of Asheville and it’s the first time that we are in a place that really feels like home. We moved there during the beginning of quarantine and rented it for a few months from our friends (Helen Rice and Josh Nissenboim from Fuzzco) who renovated it. It’s an old log cabin from the 1850s that is perched above a classic Western North Carolina trout stream. It’s small and cozy and has 2 fireplaces which we keep going all winter long. The kitchen is bright and functional and we put it to good use during Covid, cooking elaborate meals for ourselves and friends in our pod.
One of the more ridiculous things I did this year was stock the creek with some fish from a local hatchery. I try to get the girls to come down and fish with me with varying degrees of success. Lucia (the three year old) hooked one and watching her face light up as she ran up the small beach pulling this enormous trout out of the water was really sweet. We also have had so many beautiful evenings around a fire, with wine and oysters laid out on a mossy rock, with the river rushing by.
What are you reading/listening to/watching/looking at lately?
I guess now is as good a time as any to come out and say that I am not a “reader” in the classical definition. Yes, I am embarrassed by that. In my Audible library I am making my way through the following: Moby Dick, Sapiens, The Responsible Company (Chuinard and Stanley), A Peoples History of the United States, and Home by Bill Bryson. I also really enjoyed a business book called Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman.
Something I think about is creativity and how it manifests in different ways when you run a business. How would you say your creativity has changed or evolved as you went from artist to founder?
People always ask if I miss doing my craft. My answer is usually a quick no. The definition of craft (or creativity) for me has changed from the simple definition of craft to a broader understanding of the word. Craft to me now is the care and consideration you give to what lies before you, whether that is sweeping a floor, throwing a pot, or building a business in a way that feels true to yourself. We didn’t do things the easy way when we made pots at the end of Ras Grooms Rd, and we don’t do things the easy way now from the perspective of how we run our business.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
I was visiting my Uncle in Paris around 2002. I was still in highschool and was grappling with a lot of family legacy stuff. My uncle never figured out how to be in the world under the shadow of his grandfather (Henri Matisse). He lived a lavish life of doing very little but was a really, really, sweet man. We had a wild night on the town that ended in a hotel bar on the edge of Neuilly-sur-Seine looking over the skyline. We were quite drunk, but in the middle of our conversation he grabbed my knee with tears in his eyes, and told me not to let this name define my life. Something about that moment, the earnestness and gravity of how he said it, shocked me into a state of almost manic focus on doing something that was big enough it cast it’s own shadow. The majority of people that know East Fork at this point have no idea about my family history. They love it for what it is, not for some accident of fate that put me in a body close to such fame. It’s exactly what I wanted.