Spotlight: Chambers Pottery

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.

Why here?
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.

Chambers Pottery8 by Claudine WilliamsI 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.

Chambers Pottery13 by Claudine WilliamsWhat 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.

Chambers Pottery4 by Claudine WilliamsDo 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.

Chambers Pottery3 by Claudine WilliamsWhat’s the most beautiful piece ever made here?
That’s like asking my favorite color!

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.

Chambers Pottery12 by Claudine WilliamsSo what’s the most delightful piece recently made here?
Today, I love this owl. Its wing broke so we’ve glued it back on. And I love that octopus on the shelf. It’s kind of scary, but also fabulous.

Should I even bother asking about the ugliest piece ever made?
No.

Chambers Pottery9 by Claudine WilliamsWhat 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.

Chambers Pottery7 by Claudine WilliamsWhat percentage of your business is local?
Maybe a third.

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.

Chambers Pottery1 by Claudine WilliamsTell 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….

Chambers Pottery6 by Claudine WilliamsPreviously in this series:
••• Square Diner
••• Langdon Florist
••• Tribeca Upholstery & Draperies
••• Double Knot
••• Philip Williams Posters

7 Comments

  1. Amanda and Chambers Pottery are amazing. I have taken classes there for a good long time and brought my daughter and now god daughter there. Everyone should play with a little mid now and then. Brava for her staying and making us all so happy.

  2. I love this place. If you’ve ever had any interest in pottery, I urge you to check it out.

  3. How lucky we are to have Amanda and Chambers Pottery! A dear friend brought me to Chambers Pottery. Learning to throwing pottery had been on my “Next to Conquer” list for many years. I’ve had a wonderful experience, Amanda attracts interesting fellow students and incredible teachers. I’m looking forward to the Fall schedule and already have an idea of what I want to “throw” next!

  4. Chambers pottery is an amazing place, and Amanda is the most welcoming and delightful person you will ever meet. Thirteen years ago, when I moved to New York, Amanda was the first person to make me feel like New York was actually my home. The flexible hours and welcoming environment of the pottery studio meant that I had a place to go to where there was a supportive and creative community. To this day, it is still one of the places that makes me feel the most at home in New York City.
    It is hands down the best place to learn ceramics and the most welcoming pottery studio in the city.

  5. I wondered around to look for a studio after the one I was going closed. This was the right place for everything.
    Amanda makes the wonderful atmosphere of the studio along with great instructors and good equipment. I’m also just so happy to have spacious place to work in middle of Manhattan, which is becoming rare nowadays.
    Long live the studio!!

  6. I cannot recommend Chambers Pottery enough. Amanda’s open, resourceful mind and discerning eye impregnates the entire studio. I feel very lucky to have found this special place!

  7. Amanda has created and grown a vibrant, inspiring, nurturing community of new and experienced potters, teachers and hobbyists from across the city. One might even say the environment is electric. A strong leader and advisor (and instigator), Amanda brings people together in a sort of concentrated positivity that is difficult to find elsewhere. Lucky to be part of it all!

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