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A perfect little water cup. (But carries coffee and whiskey just as well—we won't tell.)

Thrown and fired by East Fork Pottery in Marshall, North Carolina, nestled at the end of a valley on an old tobacco field, between steep green mountains, thirty minutes northwest of Asheville, North Carolina.  Founded in 2010 by Alexander Matisse, the workshop is now home to potter John Vigeland and a growing team of apprentices. 

  • Specs:

  • Dimensions: 5" H x 3.25" W

  • Made by: 

  • Limited edition Collective x East Fork stamp

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About East Fork

Four times a year Alex Matisse and John Vigland throw their work in the fire.

“It was really hard for a while,” Alex Matisse says with a pensive gaze, standing at the mouth of what looks remarkably like a tomb: a six-foot-high by 30-foot-long wood-fired kiln, one of perhaps only 12 of its kind in the United States. “You’ve got all your work in there. You do a certain thing in a certain way. You’re chasing after something, you know?” 

Ceramic is a strange profession that demands entrusting one’s work to the flames. But to potters like Matisse and John Vigland, the unique process is a sacred part of their craft, born of tradition and preserved by preference. Honoring a heritage while finding a voice of your own can be a delicate balance, though. For Matisse and Vigland, that journey has been a refining fire of its own, one that is making a name for East Fork Pottery in North Carolina and beyond.

You see, if the name Matisse sounds familiar, that’s because it is. “The name stuff, it’s been a struggle for me,” he says. Being the great-great-grandson of the famous French painter and modern-art patriarch, Henri Matisse, is a shadow that’s always hovered over Alex Matisse. The potter shuffles a bit, hands in his pockets as he talks about it. It’s a topic he doesn’t love and I’m clearly not the first to have asked. “I mean, it’s been great; it’s an amazing family. But I’ve always felt a lot of pressure. It’s been sort of the central thing I feel like I’ve been navigating my whole life.”

It’s hard not to see a parallel between the potters and their medium: using the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the material mold something entirely new. In many ways, that’s been Matisse’s and Vigland’s stories, and thus the story of East Fork as well.

Standing beside the kiln as the afternoon wanes, Matisse and Vigland laugh about expectations. Do they ever pull something out of the kiln that turns out infinitely better than they imagined? “It happens,” says Matisse. With a wry grin, Vigland adds, “Yeah—just enough to keep you coming back for more.”

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