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Ep. 19 – The Cost of Growing a Creative Business with Alex Matisse of East Fork
New podcast episode with Alex Matisse. We discuss so many things like designing the perfect mug, art vs. craft, and the tensions of leading a creative, impactful, and thriving business.
In 2009, Alex Matisse left an apprenticeship with legendary potter, Mark Hewitt, and purchased a property in Asheville, where he built a 36-foot-long wood-burning kiln. Soon after, Alex co-founded East Fork Pottery with Connie Matisse and John Vigeland with the vision to grow a pottery business that is both impactful and successful. Alex has been shaping East Fork Pottery both literally and figuratively for the past fourteen years.
He shares about the values he holds and how he brings that to the business at East Fork; he’s passionate about his local community, about bringing a human-centeredness to both his craft and the environment he creates for the employees of East Fork, and about not just defaulting to the most traditional approach to something, but doing things differently.
We spent a lot of time with Alex talking about East Fork, but we also talked about a rare or interesting possession that he owns and cherishes. Alex talks more about this on the podcast but here’s an image below of one of his favorite things he owns.
Alex shares with us some context behind these mugs, “Here are two images of a small cup I made when I was an apprentice at Mark Hewitt's pottery in Pittsboro, NC. Making for me was always the pursuit of some elusive perfect pot that was always just out of reach. Today, on the plant floor, we call it continuous improvement. Every once in a great while a potter finds it.
Alex continues, “This small pot was one of those examples out of the thousands of pieces I made, as an apprentice and then on my own. The balance, the weight (this one is feather-light), the volume, and the curves occasionally all come together. One day I will have time to be back on the wheel and continue the search but for now, that spirit is brought to bear in the nurturing, growth, and development of our organization.”
Does the perfect mug exist? Alex and his team at East Fork surely seem to have created it and I’m willing to go on the record to say it is the perfect mug! Above are images of the evolution of East Fork’s mugs. If you don’t have one of these beautiful mugs then you need to head on over and cop one or two or more! You won’t regret it.
Alex and the East Fork team have created more than just the perfect mug. They’ve created a meaningful, creative business that features so many of those beautiful objects both online and in their retail stores in Ashville, NC, and Atlanta, GA.
We were already fans of Alex and East Fork before this interview, but now we’ve reached new heights of fandom. We love their commitment to being a B-Corp, creativity, workplace equity, and pursuing perfection in their craft as the best potters in the business.
Looking for more information on Alex Matisse and East Fork Pottery? Here are some articles that go deeper into their business and creative practice: