It’s no secret that New Jersey is home to countless artists. Many of these creators are inspired by a passion for art that drives them to create; no matter if it’s in the kitchen, a pottery studio, or even their garage. Our series, I HeART New Jersey, is dedicated to celebrating these amazing artists. This month, we’re featuring some of the Garden State’s best ceramic and clay artists.
These creators perfect their craft and sell their wares out of their own boutiques; often through the power of the internet or even in local markets. Here are just a few of our favorite local artisans using clay and fire to create. (If you missed a previous I HeART New Jersey, click here to see even more artists).
Alexandra Vaga of Source and Tradition
Source and Tradition’s shop and studio is set in the former Applegate’s Hardware Store in Bay Head. The building is home to over 100 years of history. Step inside and you’ll find rustic, yet refined slab-pressed and pinch porcelain tableware; all made in-house by Alexandra Vaga (from raw clay to final cooling). Her unique pottery has caught the attention of Southern Living magazine, the Sundance Festival and beyond. This increase in popularity contributes to the high volume of orders she now receives. She made just a few hundred pots in 2007, compared to 35,000 pieces in 2016.
Though she loves to travel, Vaga currently resides in a house boat just two blocks away from the studio; she lives with her three children and boyfriend. Vaga takes inspiration from her life on the water, as well as from the way her family lives. Her mother’s side is a blend of refinement and elegance while her father’s side enjoys making everything from scratch. Her work “sits between these two tablescapes,” with a focus on bringing people back to the table.
Blending smooth interiors with rougher surface contrasts, Vaga’s pieces both bring people to the table, and keep them coming back. When collaborating with chefs, she creates dishes that highlight their meals perfectly. In truth, her love of the table goes further than tablescapes; she also sees a future of building actual tables. But for now, creating her signature bowls – 20-25 inches across – keeps her busy at the studio.
Source and Tradition designs are available online and in-studio (the address is 524 Lake Avenue, Bay Head).
Jodi Sommer of Jodi Sommer Ceramics
Six years ago, Jodi Sommer was working in a specialized hospital as a clay artist. She taught a ceramics program for people with disabilities. Through teaching and working with kind individuals at the hospital, Sommer’s passion for clay was ignited. After five years of teaching, Sommer began pursuing her dream of becoming a ceramic artist.
Sommer’s work includes functional and sculptural forms with beautiful glaze finishes; her shop features items like porcelain cups, stoneware beer mugs and sculptural vessels. Though she enjoys her work as a ceramic artist, her love of teaching remains. She continues to teach part-time, sharing techniques and ideas with others so that they can improve their clay skills.
Jodi Sommer Ceramics can be found online through her website.
Elizabeth “Liz” Lubansky of We Are Clay Studios
It’s hard not to fall in love with any of Liz Lubansky’s We Are Clay Studios sites. Her website and social media pages offer a mesmerizing look at her clay designs. The intricate and textural nature of her sculptural designs are something to behold.
Her passion for pottery was apparent from an early age; she went on to study ceramics at the University of Delaware. Since opening We Are Clay Studios in 2015, she has been able to share her craft with the community. Lubansky also fosters community relationships by openly discussing designs and teaching pottery workshops.
Drawn to the ceramic process itself, Lubansky loves every step and likens it to the human experience. Her main body of work is pottery, especially mugs and tumblers, as well as custom pieces. She also features creative and personal work through her sculptural pieces that she showcases on her Instagram.