Because this site focuses on news, businesses that have been around awhile—and that make this neighborhood special—don’t get the coverage they should. The photographs are by Claudine Williams, who specializes in head shots for actors, business professionals, or anyone looking to be photographed. She also dabbles in street photography for fun. Originally from Philadelphia, she has made NYC her home for the past seven years with her husband and son.
“At some point, I realized I’m a better host than I am a potter,” says Amanda Mathews, who founded Chambers Pottery on the second floor of 153 Chambers nearly two decades ago. “Just look at the people here—they’re happy. They’re in a happy environment. They feel at home. And the experience has made me more confident, because I made that.” For details on Chambers Pottery’s classes, see chamberspottery.com.
How did Chambers Pottery get started?
I had been teaching pottery uptown and teaching second, fourth, and fifth graders at the Trinity School. The Trinity job changed, so my husband and I thought, why not open our own place? This was in 1995, early 1996. Nineteen years! It’s shocking.
I wanted to be near a school because I thought children would be a bigger portion of the business. My husband could see it in here. I couldn’t. This place had pigeons in it.
I was surprised not to see kids’ classes on the schedule.
That’s the summer schedule. We do have some kids’ classes during the school year, and we do kids’ parties. If you’re here long enough today, you’ll see a class come in. Our spring semester actually got extended by two weeks to match the school year. It’s easy to add classes when you like the kids and you won’t see them all summer. We don’t have more children’s classes because I was having a hard time filling four classes. I think a lot of kids are programmed with other things. And it was more important to have open studio time for adults.
How has the business changed?
It’s more stable. And we’re busier in the daytime now. I thought we’d have more daytime classes with mothers, but we have more night classes with people who work. Retired people often come during the day, along with people who just make time during the day.
What are you known for?
I think I’m known for being flexible. I have very generous studio hours: If you’re taking a class, you can come whenever you want when the studio is open. It’s very relaxed here, which suits some people more than others. I try not to discourage people from trying things that haven’t been tried here before (and I mean playing with glazes). But I’m careful about not harming the kiln or other people’s work.
Do you still make pottery?
I sometimes make pottery. I’m more likely to do it with children in a playful kind of way. I have too much else to do here. I’ve taken a workshop at other studios now and then, but I’d find myself drifting, feeling like I was better off doing something besides pottery when I’m not here.
The most popular class?
Wheel classes, which also happen to be the most challenging.
Is that as a result of the famous scene in Ghost?
When I opened, a lot of people wanted to come in alone with their girlfriends. That didn’t happen, of course.
But I bet something came to mind.
No piece comes to mind. It’s a day-to-day thing. And the most delightful piece may not be the most beautiful.
Should I even bother asking about the ugliest piece ever made?
What do you wish every student knew before coming in?
That it looks easy but it isn’t. It takes along time before you satisfy yourself. There are people for whom the spinning of the wheel is hypnotic—so even if they find it difficult, they get something from it. For others, the wheel is just not worth coming back to. If you can get those people to hand build, they’re much happier.
How many students have taken classes here?
I have no idea. I also can’t tell you how many students are registered this term.
Tribeca has obviously changed a lot. Any changes that have surprised you?
I think I had more kids here before 9/11 than now. I don’t know why that is.
Tell me a crazy student story.
I have had to fire very few students, but there was one who threw a pot out of the window because he was unhappy with it. He had to go. I didn’t throw him out of the window, though it was tempting. Later he told me that he had taken classes in every studio in the city.
Where do you eat/drink/shop around here?
I like Edward’s a lot. Sometimes Gee Whiz. I was really sad when Petite Abeille closed. After 9/11, it was the only place open for a long time. It was nice to go somewhere normal.
What does the future hold for Chambers Pottery?
I don’t see it changing. It’s almost just right. I’m sure there’s something I could do. I am getting a new air conditioner….