When I launched Pottery by Eleni at the start of this year, I was ready for a new challenge. Of course, the challenges mounted for all of us in 2020. But my rustic, elegant, handmade pottery company is thriving and I’m profoundly grateful I get to do what I love.
Born and raised in Seattle, at 18 I moved to Los Angeles to attend the prestigious Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), where I graduated with honors. Over 12 years, I built a career as a noted Costume Designer, working on feature films, television, music videos and numerous commercials. While I was deeply fulfilled by the work, I missed my close knit, Greek American family in the Pacific Northwest and decided to return. It was a difficult decision, but art is what I have to give to the world and I was excited to create in a new realm. Pottery by Eleni is the culmination of that creativity, excitement, a whole lotta tenacity, and a bit of serendipity.
Driving up to Washington, I was a little nervous, but even more hopeful. I imagined the green trees, clean air, and magical vistas I grew up with. I’d be close to my family again, could relax a bit, and perhaps even experiment with this thing I’d heard about called “self care”. Everything came to a crashing halt when the pandemic swept the world, coinciding exactly with my arrival. Hardship hit quickly. I had to abandon my original plans and didn't even know where I would live. I knew I’d sort it out, but witnessing others’ deep and vast suffering broke my heart. I needed an artistic outlet, a way to stay sane. I asked my mother, a longtime ceramic instructor and my first and constant teacher, if I could work in her garage if I maintained my distance. She agreed and allowed me to play with clay in the garage while I considered my next step and what was happening to the world.
I spent hours experimenting with the clay in that cold garage. My dank surroundings prompted me to dream of luxury and I thought of my last purchase before stores went into lockdown: a small 2 gram bottle of 22k gold luster. Unsure what to expect and hoping $50 wasn’t an absurd amount for a bottle that didn’t even measure over an inch, I carefully brushed it on the edges of a little plate I’d made. When I opened the kiln and saw how this blood red glaze turned to bright gold (a moment that still brings me to awe), my hope returned. In these dark days, I could take mud and turn it into shiny china pieces that glisten with gold. I felt like maybe I could feel sparkly again, too. I knew I would prevail and wanted to bring this sparkle into everyone’s homes. Everyone deserves to feel uplifted; everyone deserves a little sparkle.
I named the resulting company Pottery by Eleni (pronounced Eh-leh-knee). The name “Eleni” sprawls through four generations of women in my family, including my great grandmother, who survived the Great Depression, and my mother, who first put clay in my hands. These intelligent, determined, generous women—along with so many others!—inspire me to create, inspire me to keep going. In Greek, “Eleni” means “light” and it’s reminiscent of the sparkle and gold that refueled my hope. With Pottery by Eleni, I work to share this hope and light.
I name each piece in the Pottery by Eleni line after the amazing women in my life; it’s my thank you for their inspiration. And by design, my creations are a modern interpretation of traditional wedding china. The pieces, such as The Ellie Platter, The Cindy Dinner Plate, and The Peggy Bowl look lovely in combination with existing sets or on their own as a full collection. They’re crafted from high quality and locally sourced materials and are as strong as they are elegant. I imagine them being enjoyed for decades and passed down as timeless additions to holiday tables. Each piece is finished with the same 22k gold that first illuminated that dark garage. When customers bring Pottery by Eleni into their homes, I want them to revel in the luxury materials and rustic, elegant design. I hope that when they see the gold sparkle it reminds them to keep sparkling too.