Kettle & Brine Chats With Lindsey Wohlgemuth of Foxwares Pottery
Written by Elvia Medel I’m curled up on Lindsey Wohlgemuth’s quilt-covered bed, sipping a yummy homemade cold-brew from a brown hand thrown mug. The mug rests comfortably in the curve of my hand. We’ve been sitting around her house sipping joe and talking about things like evolution, basic human needs, functional design, and the relationship between all that stuff and art. You know, the usual.
It’s practically a slumber party, if your slumber parties include a pottery wheel in the middle of the bedroom. I watch with admiration as Wohlgemuth molds what was once a nondescript hunk of clay into an elegant, clean-lined bowl. With an undetectable movement of hand, she shows me how she can change the lip of the bowl from open to closed, and explains how you must consider these things when making bowls for soup, salad, ice cream, or other uses. Of course, I’ve thought of that before.
Okay, maybe I haven’t. After all, I’m a user...not a maker. Lucky for us, Wohlgemuth spends a large amount of her time considering such things intensely, so that our ice cream doesn’t end up sliding right out of our bowls. In fact, she and her husband, Dimitar Karaytchev (with whom she also partners) make it a practice to live with each new prototype they collaboratively create. Using the pieces in their own daily lives for everything from cooking simple weeknight meals to hosting fancy dinner parties in their cozy bungalow in central Austin, the pair are able to analyze what works and what doesn’t, refining design along the way.
Wohlgemuth doesn’t make showpieces. Although any one of them evokes artistic admiration, she wants to know her pieces will be well used and integrated into the domestic lives of their owners. “I want to know that each piece really works for what I intended it to be used for,” she says. “We’re not making pottery that lies around just to be decorative.”
This kind of thoughtfulness about the relationship between design and functionality is of course, not a new one. But when you purchase a piece of Foxwares pottery, you know that not only did the artist’s hands shape the bowl, but also her philosophy, design sense, and even artistic journey. You get a part of the artist herself. In fact, the clean lines, subtle earth tones, and adept artistry that define her pieces reflect Wohlgemuth rather distinctly. She is soft spoken, thoughtful, and intelligent all at once. Meeting her for the first time, you might not assume that she is one of the most talented potters in Austin.
Wohlgemuth actually began her art career as a painter, and pursued it through college. One ceramics class, however, was all it took to plant a seed. She found herself drawn to the process of creating ceramics, more concrete than painting. “Painting became too open-ended for me. I liked the prospect of a definite finished product.”
She’s found an enjoyable pensive state brought on by the repetitiveness of replication, too, which gives her time to think. She brings the looseness and open-mindedness of painting to potting, a craft that tends to attract the OCD crowd. She also pays distinct attention to the finish, decorative touches, and the effects of glaze, all of which you can readily see in her work.
On a trip to Tunisia last summer, where the craft of potting has been passed down for thousands of years, she and Karaytchev were impressed by the work of a local Berber maker named Sabiha. After locating Sabiha, they were graciously invited to spend a day at her homestead. “She spent the entire day showing us everything. It was amazing to see how she collects the clay she uses from the surrounding mountains once per year, and fires the pottery in dung produced by her own cows. I loved how everything that goes into producing the pottery is from right around her home. I keep thinking about what creating pottery authentic to Austin means in the modern society we live in.”
As she holds another heavy ball of earth in her hands and prepares it for the transformative effect of the wheel, she divulges to me that she sometimes whispers sweet nothings to the clay like, “You will be a cup.”
I find this endearing; it’s the way it should be. If only everything that touches our lives could be born with such specific intention. Gladly, some things still can be.
Author: Elvia Padilla-Medel
Photography: Gabriel Medel
AUTHOR NOTE: The name Foxwares refers to an earlier time in Wohlgemuth’s career when she was firing pieces in sawdust pits she dug herself in her backyard. The name of her company will change to Era in the coming year.