Peace Maker pottery enchants with a variety of earthy and swirling vessels

CLAYTIME: Tricia Bennett is advancing her vision of transforming her detached garage into a combined art studio and educational space. (Photos by Victoria Ford)

Tricia Bennett lives in historic Manahawkin, with her accountant husband, Pete, and their mutt, Murph. Behind the house is her ceramics workshop, a charming two-car garage with a buttery yellow door, where she incubates her full-time art business, Peace Maker Pottery.

His work is recognizable by the spell he casts, with swirling and layered enamels that leave a beautiful strip of unglazed sandstone at the base. Her mugs are popping up in the hottest places including Yoga Hive, The Local, Ship Bottom Brewery, and Reynolds’ new Café.

On a recent rainy Sunday, the potter in her workshop was working on a set of small daisy-shaped dishes – perfect for a tea bag, spoon rest, jewelry dish or candle holder, she suggested.

Bennett’s spacious studio is bathed in natural light and outfitted with two electric pottery wheels, two electric ovens and a slab roller, as well as sparse and cool furnishings and media-ready hippie-style touches. social. His 60s-70s counter-culture aesthetic conveys a very bell-bottom-and-flower-power, peace-love-and-happiness vibe.

Her work – with its modern shapes and soft edges, its playful glazes characterized by loose pastels and earthy goodness, its thin-walled beauty, light and airy – is a celebration of kindness and self-expression, in colors ranging from neutral and understated to funky and daring. A glaze makes it possible to obtain a speckled miam-fest that crosses the “sandy beach” with the “Breyers vanilla bean”. She uses glazes from Mayco and Amaco which she mixes with water and layers to add dimensions with colors and effects, she explained.

She hopes that overall this sounds like “cheerful, fun, eclectic and eye-catching pieces” because “a little joy with your coffee makes it extra special”.

Bennett studied literature at Stockton University and taught English for five years, first in Hamilton (Mercer County) and then in Barnegat. In 2019, she decides to change direction. She spent a year regrouping, reuniting; She took a class with Albert Gomez at Makers Station in West Creek, rekindling the love of pottery she first discovered in high school. Art classes at Southern Regional High School gave her the basics of throwing, and she just couldn’t get enough of it. She later took a class with Matt Burton at Ocean County College. Other than that, however, she didn’t touch the clay again until two years ago.

She found a pottery wheel on Craigslist and started building her workshop piece by piece. Everything was on a budget. His two electric ovens were also second-hand finds, one from Craigslist and the other refurbished.

She is obsessed with sustainability. “I’m like a squirrel,” she said, reusing items whenever she could, recycling her clay, using an eco-friendly packaging material for her breakable items called Ranpak.

She started with mugs and branched out into planters (wall and tabletop), vases, tumblers, and fun tumblers (“How groovy are they?”) That call for holding anything from wine ice cream. She loves variety. She’s been showing up all kinds of “sassy” shapes in her vases lately. A new craze is a stackable design inspired by suburban mugs that understand it fits in a cup holder in the car.

“I can’t stick to one thing,” she said.

Next, Bennett wants to merge with the fine arts the skills and qualities she has acquired while teaching, such as organization, self-discipline, leadership and, most importantly, the courage to say, “I’m going to make my own.” thing. “

Its goal is to open its space to students by late fall or early winter.

She wants to bring small groups, even children, for three different types of lessons: pick-and-painting, hand-building and one-on-one wheel throwing. Some may just want to start easy; some may find the wheel a little intimidating; and some may want to start getting their hands dirty.

“I just want to share it because I find so much peace and joy in it,” Bennett said.

Along with peace and joy, there is discipline and self-responsibility, two important skills she cultivated throughout her twenties.

Part of her regular job is selling at pop-up shops, art fairs, and craft shows, which she limits to one per month. The next one is at Asbury Park this Saturday August 14th. Because she’s a DIY girl, she said (flexing her biceps), she built her own pegboard displays to use in her 10-by-10-foot tent booth space.

Plus, there’s an Etsy store to stock and social media accounts to update (her TikTok account is on fire), in addition to managing relationships with her wholesale and repeat customers. Checking out her large wall calendar, she said this week that she will be baking and icing cookies for Asbury and that she needs to start a new batch of mugs for Ship Bottom Brewery.

“I really treat it like a 9 to 5 work week,” she said.

From a manufacturer’s point of view, the ceramic process is rich in tactile experiences and life lessons, namely patience. While each step has its satisfying aspects, she said her favorite part of the whole operation is the moment of truth: opening the oven.

“It’s really like Christmas,” she said – unless some parts didn’t survive the shot, in which case the name of the game is to pull away and let go, she explained. .

Time on the wheel is pure presence. It is meditative (when it is allowed to be) and, like meditation, not without difficulties. The wheel teaches flexibility and surrender; the result is often influenced by the potter’s state of mind.

If that’s true and his designs reflect it, Bennett’s mind is a beautiful place.

-Victoria Ford

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