clay lounge studio

Embracing History, Culture, and Community through Clay: A Conversation with Jesse, Founder of Clay Lounge


Meet Jesse, the talented potter and visionary behind Clay Lounge and J.G. Clay in Boston. From a corporate career in Los Angeles to a transformative Ceramic Sabbatical across Asia, Jesse’s journey led to the creation of a community-driven pottery studio that blends ancient styles with modern creativity. As we dive into Jesse’s story, we’ll explore the welcoming environment, diverse classes, and artistic evolution that make Clay Lounge a cherished space for pottery enthusiasts!

Please introduce yourself and your pottery studio. What inspired you to start a pottery studio?

I’m Jesse, a Boston-based potter and the owner of Clay Lounge and J.G. Clay. I use ancient pottery styles as a foundation for my work, bringing history to the present, fusing man-made geometry with the natural to bring unique and lasting tableware and home decor.

In 2019 while working a corporate career in Los Angeles and moonlighting as a potter I decided to quit my job and focus full-time on pottery. I coordinated a five-month “Ceramic Sabbatical” across Asia knowing that when I returned home, my goal was to open my own studio.

Clay Lounge is a community-driven pottery studio and gallery located in SoWa Arts District in the South End of Boston. It is a creative space welcoming beginners and experienced potters to journey into clay. When I opened the studio in 2021, I set out to build a community around the joy and beauty of making pottery. Clay Lounge is now a flourishing community of artists and students with multiple classes every day covering instruction at all levels.

clay lounge pottery class

How did you first get into pottery, and what sparked your passion for working with clay? Can you share a bit about your artistic journey and the evolution of your pottery skills?

I started messing with clay in high school. It was a perfect escape from my tough class schedule so I would steal away from classes to make. I lost touch with the craft for a number of years but came back to it when moving to a new city. I wanted to reconnect with a hobby that brought me so much joy. From there I was hooked!

What does it take to run a successful pottery studio? Any challenges you’ve faced along the way?

So much of running a successful pottery studio comes down to trying to always be a step ahead of yourself while also being present in the current moment.

From hiring and training teachers, to staying on top of materials, firing kilns, and planning for the future of the business and community, thinking in the present moment and future simultaneously is essential in keeping things running smoothly. Beyond that, focusing on the community and not just the clay has been key to running this studio. I recognize that as much as our students come for a creative outlet, they also come to meet people and be in a casual, social setting, and to ignore that would be naive.

We are so lucky to exist at a time where pottery is growing in popularity and people want to learn and be a part of this community, but a major challenge over the past few years has been balancing growth with experience. We always want to be able to welcome new students into classes and create space for everyone who wants to be here, but making sure that that doesn’t mean sacrificing the experience of our currents students has been a constant balancing act, and something that requires creative thinking and reimagining of our business model.

Could you describe the range of classes and workshops offered at your studio? 

We offer a few styles of classes at Clay Lounge, for everyone from beginners who want to drop in to give it a try to more advanced students who are selling their work or building a business.

Our one-time workshops are a great chance for first-time potters to unplug, get their hands muddy, and get creative while trying something new. They make a great date night or family outing. We also offer fun, one-time private events for team building outings, birthday parties, and more! These classes are always a great experience for the whole group.

For students looking to dive into the full process, our 8-week series takes students through making pieces on the pottery wheel and hand building techniques as well as glazing, decorating and finishing your pieces. Our weekly mixed-level classes are a great opportunity for artists with any level of experience to work on their own projects and join this creative community with guidance and inspiration from our teachers.

What teaching methods or approaches do you find most effective in helping students learn pottery?

I find that giving students space to try things is one of the most important aspects of teaching. I’ll show a student how to approach a specific shape or challenge, but it’s hard to really learn with someone hovering over you, so leaving space for them to practice and succeed (and fail!) a bit before talking it through further is almost as important as the instruction itself!

How do you create a welcoming and creative environment for your studio members? What makes your pottery studio unique in terms of atmosphere and community?

Community is at the heart of our studio! We know that people come here to meet people, and catch a break from the stress of life as much as they do to create things and learn about pottery. For all of our teachers, creating a welcoming environment is at the heart of what we do. In our classes, it’s all about helping bridge the space between what we’re doing creatively and what we’re doing as a community, from planning class demonstrations around students’ curiosities to pointing students to one another for inspiration.

We also maintain studio initiatives to bring the sense of community and creativity to everyone at the studio. Our Inspo of the Month is a monthly theme or technique that serves as an inspiration for students and teachers alike — we love featuring inspiring artists while also bringing different techniques into our teaching. The monthly theme is a great opportunity for students to learn something together wherever they may be in their creative and learning process and to link what we’re doing at the studio to the broader artistic community. Other studio events and workshops featuring local artists are a great chance to bring the community together around a common learning goal. We also love social media as a community connection tool. Showing student work on Instagram is a great way to bring our students together through creative wins and bring even more people into the Clay Lounge community.

clay lounge potter at wheel

How has your pottery studio evolved since its opening? Any significant changes or expansions?

We’ve grown so much as a studio and community since opening in 2021! When we first opened, we had just a few classes each week, with 6-8 students in each class. We now offer as many as 20 classes in a week, with more wheels and students than when we first started. Our classes feel so much more lively and exciting as our students learn more and begin to form their own style and curiosities, really shaping the environment and direction of classes.

WIth the growth of our community, we’ve added new class types and grown our team of teachers at the studio as well. It’s always exciting to develop new materials, systems and initiatives within the studio with the creative minds of our team coming together.

What are some of the most rewarding moments or achievements in your pottery journey so far?

Opening Clay Lounge in 2021 was easily one of the most rewarding achievements. Having spent months through the pandemic building out a studio set up in my parents’ basement and planning for this community studio, opening the doors to students and creating the Clay Lounge community was such a rewarding payoff.

Beyond the opening of the studio, planning my “Ceramic Sabbatical” and spending five months traveling and studying in China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan was such a rewarding experience. Learning from artists while touring studios and participating in residencies and home stays enriched my understanding of the craft and community around it on a global scale, while also fundamentally shaping the way I think about my own work. From learning about the history of porcelain mass-production in China to loading a wood kiln in Taiwan and participating in my first full wood firing in South Korea, I learned so much and experienced ceramics in a new way while traveling.

Any future goals or projects you’re excited about for your studio?

We are currently working toward the opening of a second location in Somerville’s Union Square! This has been a long time goal and we cannot wait to have more space to bring more students into the studio and offer new exciting opportunities to our current students. Having more space for classes and a new community in the surrounding area is a total dream for the business!

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to start their journey in pottery?

The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. Have a thirst for knowledge!


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