Farmhouse Pottery bowls, pitchers, tumblers, and crocks are finished in a uniformly neutral milky glaze, letting the handmade quirks of each piece shine.
Photo Credit : Corey Hendrickson
Every piece on display at the Farmhouse Pottery store—the ceramic bowls dipped in milky-white glaze, the satiny maple rolling pins, the stoneware pitchers carved to resemble rough-hewn beams—looks like Vermont. A streamlined, art-directed vision of Vermont, yes, but also organic and austere in the way of birch trees, church steeples, and old barns.
Farmhouse Pottery’s retail store and workshop opened in Woodstock just last summer. But owners Zoe and James Zilian have been designing and crafting products together for more than a decade.
Five years ago, while James was working as the design director for Vermont glassmaker Simon Pearce, Zoe began making a line of candles with scents like “birch,” “pine,” and “maple,” and selling them at shows and fairs, calling on skills she’d learned in earlier sales and marketing jobs. Then to her own products she added a line of maple syrups and Maine sea salts, plus garden accessories and wood pieces. When James agreed to add his pottery—hand-dipped in a glaze called “organic milk”—it quickly became the heart of the brand.
“We use Old World techniques,” James says. “It’s all wheel-thrown. This is one of the few handmade-pottery places of this scale in the country.”
Made in Vermont
Zoe and James met in Maine and always knew they would settle in northern New England. “We love Vermont—the farmers’ markets, the weathered barns, the mountains,” James says. “We were interested in slowing down and living in a less-is-more way. We have kids running around, and we’re making beautiful things by hand. People can’t believe we get to do this.”
After outgrowing the basement of the Zilians’ Woodstock home, the business spread to other rooms and then “took over half our garage,” James says. They moved the business into a former Bible bindery on the west side of town and carved out an inviting retail space, design studio, and workshop with three potter’s wheels and three kilns. Today, visitors can see into the windows of the workshop from the store—or go right in and talk to the potters. There’s even a table for kids who want to play with clay. In back, Zoe says, “we have an espresso maker, beer on tap, and a wine fridge—so everyone stays happy.” As the couple’s business grows, they’re gradually taking over more of the large building.
“Running the retail store is a whole new dynamic that we’re just learning,” Zoe says. She’s the jack-of-all-trades, running the store, coordinating the potters, organizing orders, managing social media, answering phones, and loading the kilns—along with working on her designs. For James, it’s about his hands. “I spend about two-thirds of my day making things,” he says. “I love making pots and practicing my craft. When I put my apron on, it’s the most exciting thing.”
“We’re both from New England, and we’re inspired by the values and aesthetic of this place,” James says. He hails from Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Zoe is from Camden, Maine. “My hometown is a huge part of who I am,” she says. “It’s where the idea came from for our Arcadian canvas collection,” a line of table linens, bags, and accessories. And chances are, the couple will be returning to open more stores in (or near) their hometowns. “We’ll pop them up in places where we’d want to live,” James says. “Places where people go to relax and get away from the fast pace of their lives.”
Farmhouse Pottery. 1837 West Woodstock Road (U.S. Route 4), Woodstock, VT. 802-774-8373; farmhousepottery.com