WE ARE SUPPORTED WITH GOODS MADE BY OVER FIFTY WOMEN, AND TO BETTER UNDERSTAND WHO THEY ARE, WE’RE SPOTLIGHTING ONE ARTIST MONTHLY-ISH TO LEARN WHAT’S MADE HER, THE MAKER.
by Jacqueline Smith, Founder & CEO, FOUND Natural Goods
FOUND’s fifth spotlight of the Make(Her) Series lands on Marité Acosta pronounced MAR-a-TAE, Potter & Chef. Marité and I met earlier this summer at her new gallery and workspace in Tumalo, Oregon, called The Studio: Pottery + Arts Collective. Set inside a red barn exterior, the neutral almost industrial styled interior quickly sets her apart from the neighbors, hinting at her many talents and hats she’s both worn and mastered whilst in New York City.
Draped in natural linens herself, Marité instantly jumps up to greet me offering fresh scones, water, coffee, and volunteers details lost in textile art today, inspired by my vintage jumper with monochromatic florals. Her wisdom comes from once being a fashion designer, colorist and food stylist –– all of which are not unrelated to her present professional roles as a Chef and as we all know, a Potter.
Marité Acosta’s absolutely drool-worthy pottery can be found inside only a select few shops which thankfully includes FOUND Natural Goods and even our online store is now carrying her coveted tiny ceramic dishes in a plethora of custom finishes, all made by hand, by Marité herself here in Central Oregon. Please enjoy the edited transcription below from our hour plus together.
Marité Acosta (MA): Oh, that’s great.
Jacqueline Smith (JS): Isn’t it? My Aunt Carol found this vintage piece in Portland.
MA: Yeah, and that’s clearly a vintage print. When I was a Fashion Designer, I saw so many prints and this is from a really, really long time ago when they did these, almost like French prints where it was first etched that then gets printed. Nobody does that anymore. If you ever see this, it's because it's been taken from a vintage print. The detail is so crazy.
JS: It’s really beautiful. How do you know so much about so many things? I thought I came here to talk pottery.
MA: Well, I do use fabrics in pottery—which, it's funny because it seems so obvious coming from fashion. But, when I was first making pieces and using textiles for texture [on pottery] it really wasn't so obvious to me. I just liked it. And then someone said it to me, “Oh, so your textile background influences…” I was like, oh yeah, I guess so!
JS: You said you’ve been here only about a week?
MA: We've been here a few months now. But in terms of being able to come in and do work––it’s only been about a week, yes. [walking around the studio] We've got the kiln here. I actually had that in my garage for a while while I was trying to figure out my studio worlds. Trying to find something other than the school (COCC), which is such a great school. Thank God the school was there! But I wanted my own space and I was lucky that Heidi (Weiss-Hoffman) and I met on the first day of class and then we just connected and in the back of our minds thought we would get a space together one day and I'm so bloody happy now.
JS: It feels good in here. It's great, it's crisp.
MA: Right? Good energies. Cool. High ceilings.
JS: Raw and beautiful.
MA: Yeah. It's funny because my first formal title in a job as a designer was ‘colorist’. And so everything revolved around color and having to use it, but I tend to go towards neutrals. I used to go to factories and approve colors for huge corporations, for menswear, womenswear, and kids, all fabrics, all fibers. But in my personal life, I need void of color. I like clean simplicity. I know when I go into someone's home where there's lots of colors I'm always very impressed because it’s so bold.
JS: Yes, it's a commitment.
MA: Anything is a commitment. I mean whatever your choice, you're committing to it. But when it's louder, I'm like wow, that's so amazing! Even this space, Heidi and I both agreed to keep it neutral because color always finds its way in one way or the other –– whether it's the blue cup there, or you know, just on a piece [of pottery]. But in this clean space, I can sit in quiet for hours and just make. Especially with pottery, it’s pure meditation.
MA: Even in a group studio, I was always with headphones on and just go for hours without talking to anybody. And in New York, I sought that out because there’s just so much noise. I’d been in New York City since I was 20––actually, since I was 18 I'd lived in cities, big cities. And now here, I'm so embracing being able to sit here quietly and have that [Marité points to the trees outside and we can both hear the birds chirping]. It's so peaceful. It's like shocking. I could sit down and watch the hummingbirds in our garden, for hours. It's such a nice place. It's a nice shift in our life living here.
JS: Sounds wonderful. And what’s this rolling contraption?
MA: That’s a slab roller. What I was doing before that was hand throwing and flattening, tossing down by hand. This is a quicker, more efficient way. Here, right now I'm playing with this really sandy, like it just kind of crumbles, you can mess with it. [Marité hands Jacqueline a ball of wet, grey clay]
JS: Where is it from?
MA: This from Georgie's in Portland. I've been playing with sourcing clay from a lot of different places since I moved here, just trying to sort of seeing what I like. And so it's been an ongoing year, almost two-year experiment.
JS: Oh, it’s really sandy.
MA: Right, so it dries out fast, and you've got to work with it very quickly. Plus we're in a dry environment, but each clay is different. I mean, I'm definitely finding some a bit too dry, but I think I'm narrowing it down now. But I mostly use this –– very similar to what you have inside FOUND. This allows these details to come out. [Marité points to the imperfections and discolorations in color on a finished piece of pottery]
JS: The freckles?
MA: Yes, on certain glazes the iron in the clay raise and pop through as freckles. I like these more muted colors here.
JS: So from my inexperienced perspective… taking the glaze out of the equation, this is obviously a different clay from this one, right?
MA: But you've done some work, yeah?
JS: Well, yeah, but it's been years and years –– actually the last time I threw on a wheel was about three years ago in Japan. I was staying at an Airbnb and had commented on the pottery they had stocked their kitchen with, for us to use, and the woman grabbed my hand and led me to her studio down the gravel road where she basically giggled and covered her mouth for a good hour while I made bowl after bowl. She was actually pretty impressed by my last bowl.
MA: That’s amazing.
JS: It was a little surreal. But, not to digress too much, I'm really curious about the different clays––can you source them back to where the clays are from on the earth?
MA: I probably could if I researched it and called the maker and asked.
JS: Clay Makers?
JS: I love that that’s a job.
MA: The clay that I used back east, it doesn't make sense for me to have it shipped here. It's so heavy. So I'm trying to source something here that is similar and so far they’re pretty close. The clay right there is what's called green. So greenware is the most fragile state actually. It’s just dry clay and it will crumble. And there are so many times throughout the process of pottery where things can go awry. So to me, it's hugely successful to end up in a place where I'm like, oh yeah, I like that. I'm happy where this ended up.
JS: It’s such a process.
MA: When I first started doing pottery I took a class and then I took another class and another. I was spending as much time in the studio as I could. I started turning down jobs. I freelanced so I could take the jobs when I wanted them. [Marité and Jacqueline look over a shelf of her incomplete and finished work] I’ve always been less excited about a perfectly thrown bowl. However, I can really appreciate how the skill that goes into it. It’s less exciting, but it's a beautiful thing. And I can't even throw the perfect bowl––I don't tend to sit and do 10, 12 of somethings. I don't have the attention span. I prefer to visualize the bigger picture.
JS: What’s your bigger picture?
MA: It's more of the lifestyle, the general aesthetic. I guess it starts with my own aesthetic which tends to be more, you know, natural, and organic I guess?
JS: Full of beautiful details like your linen apron and the brass rivets?
MA: But not intentional. It just works because you know, like your store, you follow what feels right to you. You're not thinking about every available decision as it relates to every other decision. You just make your decisions, they pile up and ultimately it's you on a plate.
JS: Literally, you on a plate. [laughs]
MA: Literally, yeah. [laughs] And then so I started doing that when I was at Food Network and I was working on food styling and we had some people in from California ––a photographer and stylist–– and of course they collect pottery and they asked to see my work and they bought everything. I was like, Oh! I have to start making more.
JS: No way!
MA: So that's just how that started. And I love to sell pottery because I just know that it's somewhere being used and loved. I used to sell a lot of it online and then people started collecting and then there was shipping international –– shipping sucks. Shipping pottery specifically. I just shipped the three things this week and fingers crossed. You're just afraid it's going to break so I pack the life out of it. I've shipped all over the world and it's tricky, but so flattering especially with so many good potters in the world. You know, there are so many good people out there. I shipped to Australia once with no way of tracking it. I was having a heart attack. I kept asking, why my work? There are so many amazing Australian potters - what a compliment!
JS: I mean, they must have heard what you were saying?
MA: I guess it spoke to them. I mean it's kind of the ultimate compliment. You know that someone likes what you're making. Yeah. It really makes me happy. It's the one thing in my career that I've designed that I didn't have to design into. The crucial part of the process in clay is letting go of certain amount of control, which was, for me is one of the most wonderful parts of it, just accepting that things happen along the way and most of the time when it comes out different than what I expected, those are the best details.
JS: Happy accidents.
MA: Yes, I think the most exciting part of it is not trying to overly control every step of it because again, ultimately it will be me. It doesn't matter as long as it's me making it, you know, even if that was thrown, to me that lives in the same house or life. Just like your store, everything lives together in harmony because you've decided and so it works. People either get it or they don't.
JS: It's fun to show people that you don't have to have new or it doesn't have to be perfect. Like you're saying, the perfectly thrown bowl. It can be this really interesting shape that has movement and imperfections, or it's old or used or rusted.
MA: Or cracked or chipped even! Even a chipped bowl is okay. I mean it's all right. It still works. If it’s a good break, you know, do a little kintsugi. It’s become so trendy. It's beautiful, but it's become trendy. It's funny to see like some manufactured things that they call kintsugi and they just…
JS: Oh, that’s sad.
MA: Anyone who knows what it is, knows the difference between legit and inauthentic kintsugi. Some of mine aren’t true true kintsugi. Sometimes the gold is just decorative too.
JS: One of my favorite things about terracotta pots is that they get moldy, and they start to grow funky moss––really wild black and white splotches. And, last summer when I was opening FOUND one of my few products were authentic patina terracotta pots that I just adore––they’re fragile and from Italy originally. I went shopping at Target randomly, and there were fake molded terracotta pots for sale!
JS: I was so sad I was almost mad. I wanted to tell them they couldn’t do it.
JS: So, how were you patient enough to find your art in all these different creative careers?
MA: My dad was a doctor, and he was a meticulous guy who made wine when I was a kid and we always had bonsai gardens, and he was also a very accomplished painter. So, I think that kind of creative exposure early on definitely had an influence. That's what you do––you learn from anything and everything. I think you learn how to do something, do it right, and then you could apply it to anything. I think that in pottery, it's all very much subjective, but if you do a technical bowl and you slice it right down the middle and you can see that it was a very well-made bowl, that’s great. It's a good skill to have, but, outside of that, the rest is the details.
JS: Is it important for you to communicate the different types of glazes or for them to know the names or who?
MA: No, not necessarily because it’s likely something I’ve mixed. The only specific that I feel people should know is that the glaze itself is food safe and that when something is a matte finish, um, it can stain. Matte-finished stuff can absorb because it's porous to some degree, but doesn't make it unsafe for food. I don’t love shiny glazes. Sometimes.
JS: These you called test tiles? [Jacqueline points to a set of test tiles on the shelf]
MA: Yes, But, well, anything can be a test tile. Actually, I do a lot of my testing on the little bowls so I don't typically use a lot of those. And truth be told, I'm really lazy about testing glazes.
JS: Or maybe you're just mysterious chemist?
MA: No, I'm a very bad chemist. [laughs] I won't go through a lot of testing. So if I do test, sometimes I'll test on a little bowl and I'm like, okay, that's good. I don't get so retentive about pottery. If it turns out that it's not nice, I just move on.
JS: That's kind of lovely though.
MS: It’s because I needed to be so kind of meticulous in so many other things. Like even at Food Network when I was doing recipe testing, we would test a recipe four times over and over with detailed notes before you publish. You had to be so meticulous and very, very clear and I loved it. It was great. It was a great place, great environment to be in. But, but with pottery, I don't need to do that, which is why I don't do production. That's a whole another type of business.
JS: Do you do custom, I know you've talked about having a custom order.
MA: Yeah, I will, but I always have a very specific stipulate. Like plates. Plates are the hardest thing to make. It’s why you'll probably see more bowls in handmade pottery than plates - plates warp. So to do a flat plate, flat bottom, by hand [meaning via slab technique rather than on a wheel] is difficult. And even on a wheel, those are very hard. But plates can wobble. And so again, when I do a bunch of plates, I embrace the fact that they're not going to be a perfectly flat plate. But if I pick it up and then lay down and let it continue to dry, it'll dry curved like this now because the clay has memory.
JS: What about the clay? I know you work with a couple of different types of stoneware. Do you have any interest in working with other materials like porcelain?
MA: I like stoneware and what I like to do with stoneware, that I think may be a little different, is I tend to try and push stoneware to it’s thinnest. I've lost a ton of work because of this. You have to employ a lot of patience with clay and know it can go wrong. If something breaks it’s devastating and then after a few minutes you're like, well you better get used to that because it’s going to happen.
Marité Acosta’s pottery is available on her website and inside FOUND Natural Goods downtown Bend, Oregon. Follow Marité on Instagram, @mariteacostapottery and @ingredientstudio to witness her obvious past career in food styling —and— the next time you’re driving through Tumalo, stop by and say hi to Marité. Meet her, see her work, The Studio and maybe even book a private cooking class with her and her partner, Candy through their cooking business Ingredient Studio. Thank you for reading another FOUND Make(Her) Q&A Conversation — we truly appreciate your interest and support.
The Studio: Pottery + Arts Collective
19875 8th St.