Those who know me well know how much I love hand-made pottery of all kinds from all parts of the world, and most of all from right here in California. Which brings me to how I got to visit potter Bob Pool in Berkeley, CA.
About a month ago I went to see my friend Jo for tea. Along with a delicious selection of pastries and cheese and crackers, she served coffee in a gorgeous pottery mug with flowers. Jo loves pottery just like me, but her pottery comes from parts of America that I have not visited – like Tennessee, Boston, New England, and Ohio. So I was hesitant to ask her where she got the mug mainly because I thought it was probably from a place that I wouldn’t be visiting anytime soon.
But I couldn’t stop admiring how beautiful this mug was. I finally asked Jo where she got this gorgeous mug. Wouldn’t you know it, to my surprise Jo said she got it from Berkeley, CA! I was thrilled. Berkeley is an hour drive from Los Gatos, so if I wanted to, I could go and check out this potter. Jo said she would really enjoy going back to see this potter’s work and that we could go together. She dug up the potter’s contact info and made an appointment to see potter Bob Pool. We agreed to carpool to Berkeley, as it was a long drive. Then on a Wednesday we headed out early in the morning, as I had to be back by 3pm to pick up the kids from school.
The building that houses Bob’s pottery studio is very unique. You can see in the pictures below how unusual the architecture of this building is. The triangular roofs that flank the brick building all the way down the road are actually windows that allow light in for the artists who have studios here. Multiple artists such as ceramic artists, painters, and jewelry designers, all rent studio space in this beautiful warehouse.
This brick building is divided into sections called Bays. Each Bay has a directory of the artists in that area of the warehouse. Bob Pool was in section Bay 2. Because we had made an appointment, he was waiting for us in his studio.
I was in pottery heaven when I walked into Bob Pool’s studio! Pottery of all kind, in various colors, in all shapes and sizes. There were platters, mugs, bowls, and serving dishes; everything was gorgeous.
So much beauty made by hand so carefully by one potter. It was humbling to see how an artist can take something as simple as clay from Mother Earth and transform them into such works of beauty for us to enjoy. Of course I had to buy what I had come there for in the first place – those beautiful mugs with flowers.
All of Bob’s pottery is food safe, microwave safe, and dishwasher safe. Jo and I saw many pottery pieces that we thought looked very unique. Some were more art pieces than functional pottery.
Bob is a very sweet gentleman. He showed us some pottery that were made with stamps (ceramic stamps), and some pieces that were influenced by his stay in Korea and Japan.
What is interesting about Bob is that he has a PhD in Biology. He was working as a researcher when he decided took a class in ceramics. He got hooked. He decided to go into ceramics and has made this his passion and work. Pretty cool story.
Meeting Bob the potter was a wonderful experience. I love meeting artists. Many times I have better appreciation for the hand-made items I purchase when I have met the artist at work and realize how much effort goes into each piece. It is a labor of love – love for the art that they are producing. Seeing an artist doing their craft has also given me appreciation for how complicated it is to make something by hand.
After our visit to Bob Pool’s pottery studio, Jo and I stopped by Emeryville to a pottery shop that sells planters for the garden. Beautiful glazed pots in all sizes imaginable can be found at this pottery shop. I picked up a couple of small pots.
Our last stop on this trip was a lovely cafe for lunch. Delicious Panini, salad, soup, and coffee was our lunch at Ruby’s Cafe in Emeryville. This was another unique building completely surrounded by camellias that were in full bloom. It was just beautiful.
We even made it back in time to pick up the kids from school at 3pm! It was a perfect day with my dear friend Jo. I will be going back with the family in June. Bob Pool mentioned that in the first two weeks of June, all the artists have open studios on the weekend so we can see all the artists at one time.
If you are planning on going, check on the Internet for Berkeley Artisans and Open Studios. There are many artists with studios here, but you have to make appointments to see them, as they don’t have a retail store on site.
The best thing about pottery artists is that they like to sell their pottery at art fairs. So you don’t have to go to Berkeley, CA or any place far really. Just look for art festivals in your area and you will find local potters selling their wares.
I have great respect for artists, they practice what they enjoy and what gives them joy. There is something special about buying a piece of hand-made jewelry, pottery, or a painting directly from the artists. Because they are handcrafted, no two are alike. Many artists even have stories that go along with the items they sell, and that’s what makes that purchase so memorable.