For Jesse Golden, pottery was always the plan.
Maybe the path which led him there wasn’t completely straight, but it was still the final destination. After ditching his corporate marketing job in Los Angeles, Golden set his sights on Asia to pursue his passion of pottery, embarking on a five-month “ceramic sabbatical” through China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. His program, led by Jingdezhen University, exposed him to different pottery styles and techniques which helped him develop his own stylings.
The culmination of his pottery efforts is the Clay Lounge, a beginner-friendly pottery studio he opened in March this year, located in SoWa’s Art District and tucked away on Thayer Street. Golden was informed the previous lease-owner had used the area for a pottery studio, so he said it felt fitting to keep the potter’s wheel spinning there.
“The goal of Clay Lounge is to make pottery accessible to the urban dweller, but also everyone. You don’t have to study for 10 years to want to make something and be able to make something,” Golden said, sitting on the couch in his studio, the studio’s name glowing above him in cursive lettering.
Clay Lounge offers a variety of classes, including one-time-only options, multiple weekly classes, private events, and kids classes ranging in skill level from beginners to more experienced ceramicists. In addition to workshops, the Clay Lounge also sells local artists’ products.
Art is scattered all around the studio, sitting neatly atop shelves with creator’s names scrawled on tape beneath each item. In the center, potter’s wheels and stools are situated together for creators. The back room door is covered with different glaze swatches — glossy white to jade green to J-G blue, named after Golden for the first glaze he ever made. Behind that door are sludgy mounds of clay, two large electric kilns, and other ceramic supplies.
Before he started Clay Lounge, Golden sold his ceramic work in fall 2020 at SoWa’s farmers’ markets. Golden said he received such a strong response to his products and the idea of an educational studio that it reaffirmed his dreams of opening his own place. In addition to SoWa, Golden has had his own Etsy shop since 2016.
He started learning pottery in high school through a friend who was taking the class as an elective. Once Golden tried the potter’s wheel, he said he immediately fell in love. Sometimes, he would even skip Spanish class to go to pottery class, he added.
“There’s the people who get into the spiritual side of clay and the Earth and being one with nature. Other people use it as a way to relax and just unplug ... it’s a way to really kind of zone out and let their creative side take over,” Golden said. “I want people to come into the studio and get out of it what they want.”
Ian Lee was Golden’s first Boston student; his first class entailed sitting besides Golden in his parents’ basement, chatting and learning the basics. A Somerville resident, Lee has been learning pottery for almost a year and is always impressed with Golden’s teaching attitude. He is also glad that Golden “has a home for clay now,” Lee, 25, said in a phone interview.
“It is incredible to me how positive he stays with his students because you look at everyone’s first time pieces and, not to put it bluntly, but they’re never great. No matter what, he’s always like, ‘This looks great, you’ve accomplished so much since last time,’ and that’s the most important part,” Lee said.
Lee introduced Clay Lounge to one of his co-workers, Angelica Messana, who also took up pottery around a year ago. Messana, 29, was another one of Golden’s first students before Clay Lounge officially opened. She remembered seeing the behind the scenes of Clay Lounge, like toying with name possibilities with Golden, hearing about when he acquired the lease, and seeing the space before the public could. Messana plans to continue making pottery through the years, hoping to make bowls and mugs long into retirement.
“It’s one of those things where I just want to spend more time at the studio, practicing and learning things because I think that every time I go, I am improving,” Messana said.
For most beginners, the hardest part is the first step: centering the clay on the potter’s wheel, Golden said, a feat which took him months to master. Digging into the spiritual side of ceramics, Golden elaborated on how the clay often reflects its creator.
“People say that to center the clay, you have to center yourself, right? So I see it firsthand when someone is struggling. Students that are able to make some beautiful work, they’re having an off day,” Golden said. “You can really tell when someone’s mind isn’t into it, the result is right there, which is incredibly interesting to see as well.”
Further, it’s not an activity for the impatient, Golden advised, noting it can be a monthlong process for customers to get their first pieces out. A single pottery class at the Clay Lounge lasts 2½ hours, two hours spent throwing shapes and 30 minutes slotted for cleanup. Kids’ summer classes tack on an extra hour. After, the clay is glazed and goes through two kilns before going home with its maker.
Golden recognizes the growing prominence of pottery, especially throughout the pandemic where he noticed celebrities like Seth Rogen took up ceramics, and believes there is something in it for everyone. Golden considers himself a dexterous person and loves all the possibilities of what clay can be made into. There are also its simple pleasures, like the gratification of using what he makes on a daily basis.
“It seems to be becoming more and more a thing for everyone, whether they’re buying ceramics themselves, or wanting to make it themselves,” Golden said before raising one of his own creations. “There’s nothing better than every morning I’m drinking coffee out of my own mug, you know?”
Riana Buchman can be reached at email@example.com.