Community begins at the kitchen table. Enlightenment begins at the kitchen table. These are not empty words, but a radical vision of betterment embodied in the thoughtful pottery of ZPOTS and Vnoelle. It is only natural: daily rituals promote internal cycles. We eat every day. And with the cups, plates, and bowls of ZPOTS and Vnoelle, every day is positive reinforcement. These objects hold intention, and wear it on their ceramic sleeve: beautiful, blessing, clarity, courage, grace, gratitude, and strength are some of the many words (or prayers) written in ZPOTS and Vnoelle’s distinctive handwritten style. This is an aesthetic mission.The magic comes from the wife-and-husband team of Noelle VanHendrick and Eric Hendrick. Their story is about love, support, and pottery. They met across the table at a pottery class in college. It was Noelle’s first pottery class, Eric’s last. Eric was due to graduate with a focus on pottery but was forced to stay back to complete the mandatory entry-level class. This cosmic coincidence was all it took; it did not take long to know their journey would be together.Just out of college, Noelle and Eric started their business together. The date was January 2nd, 2001. They were working out of a tiny studio in West Virginia. They were also recently married and had used their wedding money to buy studio supplies. At the same time, they were starting a family. Well-meaning friends and relatives thought they were crazy.
The early days were tough. They didn't have money. They paid their dues. They lived show-to-show while working side-jobs. Throughout it all, they were committed to preserving family. They heard more than once that they couldn’t make it. But they had learned from potters who had raised families by making pots. They knew they could make this dream work.Heritage is important in Noelle and Eric’s story. Their dedication has been supported and encouraged by master potters who have carried the tradition of handcrafted pottery forward. One mentor was Bob Anderson, under whom they studied at West Virginia University. Another mentor was Bill van Gilder, who taught in Virginia but had spent years building kilns and establishing pottery studios in Africa. When Eric wanted to continue his learning, Bill introduced him to a friend he had met in Africa, Joe Finch, whose father, Ray Finch, had taken over the legendary Winchcombe pottery studio. This was how Eric found his way to Wales. Under Joe, Eric learned an old-world respect for craftsmanship.Ray Finch had been taught by the renowned Michael Cardew, who was the brightest student of Bernard Leach, the undisputed father of British studio pottery. Leach, along with his friend Shōji Hamada from Japan, had founded the now-legendary pottery studio in St Ives, Cornwall. There they pioneered a new style of beautiful, functional pottery. Joe Finch maintained this rich history, but Eric noticed its rigidity. Joe was in the grip of tradition, which Eric respected but chose to combine with his own experimentation and playfulness.
On the other side of the world, in China, Noelle also explored pottery’s rich and multifaceted history. Through a program instituted by Bob Anderson, Noelle had the opportunity to travel to the ancient pottery town of Chen Lu, where she was put into contact with a culture and aesthetic sensibility shaped by fifteen hundred years of continuous pottery. The town itself is an artifact, with the walkways made from pottery shards, and the walls made of old saggar. Ancient kilns become houses for the potters. Noelle recalls one day seeing an old woman sitting in a kiln, hand-painting pots. This lady would pick up the waiting pots, and, without looking, paint perfectly executed elaborate designs. With an unwavering steadiness of hand, she moved intuitively from pot to pot, decorating each without pause. She would paint a thousand every day, so Noelle was told. This stuck with Noelle. You haven’t made one until you’ve made a thousand. This truth is now at the heart of the ZPOTS and Vnoelle philosophy, where the reiteration of intention – of good energy – is committed to every day in the studio. The pottery tells this story.Noelle and Eric each have over twenty-five years of experience, for a combined half-century of dedication to their craft.
For Noelle, the work is a personal vision of healing. Eric has the courage, trust, and strength to support that vision. This combined commitment is realized in works of integrity and purpose. Supported by a fantastic team of artisans, each with their own value to add, the ZPOTS and Vnoelle studio is united by an unwavering commitment to making art that matters. Their work is a meditation.The pots of ZPOTS and Vnoelle have taken different shapes, but twelve years ago they came into their current form. The thread connecting each piece is a belief in the healing power of words. Words express, and this expression – of intent, of positivity – has the power to effect change, especially if consumed daily. Words adorn the pottery, and at the same time, the pottery embodies the words. Noelle’s words gently remind us that we belong and are in this together. Grounding this message is the integrity with which the objects are made. From the throwing of the pots, to their organic shaping, the intentional thumbprints, the drips preserved, the spontaneous handwriting and decoration, each careful step of their making results in an object lovingly crafted.Now, ZPOTS and Vnoelle is thriving. People around the country, and the world, have connected with the pottery and the message. Noelle and Eric are preserving a handmade tradition and training a studio of potters to move the message forward. They have been thinking about their own legacy, as well as the tradition from Leach and Cardew. Noelle’s distinctive handwritten aesthetic is resonating with many, even large corporate brands whose new lines are looking suspiciously similar to ZPOTS and Vnoelle’s. This surely is the ultimate compliment, alas one that now requires the couple to employ the fierce protection usually reserved for their family.Noelle and Eric have come a long way from their early days. They have moved from West Virginia to Vermont and are raising three spirited boys. In her free time Noelle also paints, writes poetry, sings and dances.Combining philosophy and craftsmanship every day, Noelle and Eric are walking their talk. As Noelle says, "The ‘art’ of our work is not the work itself, but the experiences and moments cultivated around the pieces, the genuine feeling that happens when you are with them, give them, and receive them… that is the art.”