Meet the Makers: Farmhouse Pottery
Words by Ashley Herrin
Photos by Jenn Bakos & Ashley Herrin
In January, we had the opportunity to meet the wonderfully creative duo behind Farmhouse Pottery. Zoe and James Zilian are the creative force behind the brand that has sprouted up in households and kitchens across New England and beyond. For this collaborative couple, the aesthetic they’ve embodied and the products they sell speak of pride and craft.
Walking into the Zilian’s home is like walking into your dream home. A beautiful farm table designed and made by Zoe and James greets you in the kitchen, while two-tone wooden stumps dipped in that similar organic milk paint that their pottery is, provide a wonderful accent to the seating arrangements. A multitude of Farmhouse Pottery pieces decorate the table. A Beehive salt cellar, a few Silo mugs and tumblers, dinner plates, soup bowls and a milk-dipped cutting board. The neutral tones of the organic milk and the exposed raw clay compliment the interior of the house and the exterior landscape of Vermont perfectly.
Some would argue that Farmhouse Pottery has been a brand in the making for 15 years – that the product's research and development phase began on their wedding day, when these two creative souls decided to collaborate in life, in love and shortly thereafter, work. Though they only officially launched Farmhouse Pottery three years ago, their passion for making was consistently demonstrated through previous endeavors like a bake ware line and a high-end lighting line. They moved to Woodstock, Vermont from Boston a number of years ago when James was recruited to design for Simon Pearce. The move was motivated by the offer, though they admit that it was only a matter a time, as they knew they wanted and needed to build a closer relationship to the land. Finding themselves immersed in the landscape of Woodstock and the rural beauty, they once again found themselves going back to clay. James explained, “there’s something about clay that is so approachable, I think to everyone in the world – there’s some reason that Zoe and I keep going back to clay and sticking with it as our core – because to us, it’s of our heritage.” And so begins the official birth of Farmhouse Pottery, a line inspired by Woodstock, the farm to table movement, and heritage.
During our interview, James worked at the wheel explaining the pottery making process and their process of creating each piece. Wheel-thrown and hand-made in their studio at their Woodstock home, all pieces are unique in their own way. “With the pottery, we try not to control it too much, celebrating it a bit. We believe in pinholes, we believe in iron spotting. Little imperfections are perfections. We let this stuff happen because it creates character and it’s our craft. Without character you’re just like everyone else.” We ducked in and around the shelves of pottery as he crafted a bottle with ease, photographing every little detail we could find. And detail is plenty. Amongst the pottery, vintage farm pieces decorate the shelves. Old tools, bottles, crocks - most objects have been acquired over time at antique stores – but all have something to do with “farm.” All are key elements that inspire them and have a great history and story to tell. This is evident in the items in their shop, the silo crocks, bottles and milk jugs all pull cues from the heritage pieces decorating their studio.
But they also find inspiration in the outdoors and within Woodstock. They frequent Billings Farm, constantly seeking something that speaks to them. And sometimes it’s the littlest things, the grain in a piece of wood or even the pattern in the bark. They find themselves going for a walk down the street, pulling thistle to hang-dry and display in some of their pieces or antique items. Much like the heritage tools, they feel as though they will be informed in some manner.
Zoe and James find beauty in simple, usable objects, and Farmhouse Pottery pieces humbly embody those traits. Their work speaks to New Englanders because it is so wholly influenced by New England and Vermont. Their pieces are made with pride and craft. We left the Zilian’s house that day feeling inspired and refreshed. It’s not often that you find a brand who is so unique, and who fully captures the essence of local.
To learn more about Farmhouse Pottery, visit their website and peruse their store at www.farmhousepottery.com