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  • Writer's pictureAlex Eaves

An Interview with Lyndsay Dean AKA The Vegan Potter

You can't reinvent the wheel, but you can reuse it!


Today, I’m launching a new interview series. The goal is to show you how reusing is the more effective solution for our waste problem, by connecting you to people from all walks of life. The people I feature will vary, because I strongly believe that reusing is for everyone, and that we are all in this together. The short series of questions will give you a look at who that person is and learn some unique things about them. And the interviews will show people how reusing is effective, easy and fun. To kick off the series, here is my interview with Lyndsay Dean, AKA The Vegan Potter.

Lyndsay Dean, The Vegan Potter, stands in her studio

Two summers ago, I brought The REUSE! Box Truck to Compassionfest in Hamden, Connecticut. The event organizer had told me that she put me near her friend Lyndsay because she thought we would get along because of a shared passion for bettering the planet. Well, "get along" turned out to be an understatement. Over the past couple of years, Lyndsay and I quickly become good friends and cohorts, doing numerous events around New England together. I even helped Lyndsay and her husband work on their house for a day. And recently, Lyndsay figured out a way that I could enjoy one of her handmade mugs, even though I don't buy "new" mugs. And that's one of the things you'll learn here. Enjoy!

1. In the age of mass produced, cheap kitchenware, you make some incredibly unique, durable items. How do you do this? 

 

Every piece I make is individually hand crafted from stoneware clay. Stoneware is a fairly durable clay body when crafted with longevity in mind and handled with a bit of care it can last generations. I’ve been making pottery for nearly 3 decades and many of my early customers comment that they still use their mug or bowl or serving piece that they bought before I was in a retail space and I was making work in my parents garage back in 2000. All of my work is intended to be used everyday and become part of the home. The worst thing I could hear someone say is “I’m too afraid to use it so I have it on the shelf.” I want my work to become part of the fabric of everyday life and I think having hand crafted things enhances our lives in so many ways. Connecting us,


2. What was your inspiration to get into pottery?

 

I always loved 3D art and I never felt that I was good at drawing. I grew up the daughter of a fine furniture craftsman and I spent countless hours watching my Dad sketch custom furniture and then create it in his woodworking shop. I was fortunate enough to go to a really amazing high school called the Norwich Free Academy in the town where I grew up. They had a robust art program where I took everything from photography, airbrushing, and metalsmithing which I really latched onto (again because of it’s dimensionality). But when I decided to take a pottery class in my senior year, I dropped it the following week because I didn’t like “getting dirty." The instructor, who years later became a bit of a mentor to me, called my parents who were taking an evening pottery class with her and told them I dropped her class and encouraged them to get me to reconsider. Needless to say, I finally found my way to working with clay again about 4 years later in Montreal, where I went to college for English and Creative Writing. I believe strongly in “Divine Timing” or fate, or whatever you want to call it because once I took my first pottery class (I think it was around 1998), I was 100% invested before I could even figure out how to center clay! I knew I had found what I wanted to do with my life and the rest was just YEARS of practice and figuring out how to make a living at it and honestly I’m still doing both of those things!


3. I know that you've been able to involve reuse into your work in some unique ways. Can you tell me about that and how else reuse might be involved?


I’ve always felt very strongly about reusing, as many things in my studio practice as possible. I ran a community pottery studio for 17 years and we went through hundreds of tons of clay in that time. Clay is a manufactured product that comes from mining materials out of the Earth, mixing them in various ways and mass producing potters clay in factories. I am driven to reuse as much clay as possible because it is not a renewable resource. From the plastic bags and elastic bands that the clay comes packaged in to the cardboard boxes right down to the clay itself, everything gets a new life in my studio, often many times over. When a pot cracks or dies in the making process, it begins the process of recycling which means I first dry it out completely in order to rehydrate it. The rehydration is done using water that I use for throwing so that is also being reused. Once the clay is a wet slurry I scoop it onto a plaster table where it sits to dry out for a few days and is then put through a machine called a pug mill that churns it into a useable material again. I can then throw or hand build with the recycled clay and I’ve done that for my entire career. It then gets stored in the reused plastic bags with reused elastic bands. 

 

A few years ago after having a discussion with you about how I could make something that you’d be willing to use that would be entirely recycled/reused products, I began keeping a separate bucket to wash out all of my glaze brushes, containers and palettes. That bucket has become ‘mystery glaze’ and at the end of the year, I sieve it and mix and it has become part of the 100% recycled clay and glaze mug collection. 



A handmade mug with arrows and a vintage Matchbox bulldozer toy from the 1980s.
The reuse mug that Lyndsay made for me and the vintage toy bulldozer that I gave to her from my dad's collection.

 Here’s a partial list of other things I reuse in my studio:


  • Dry Cleaner plastic: (I have people bring it to me because I don’t personally dry clean my clothes) used for covering pots after throwing them. This type of plastic is incredibly thin and flexible and makes the least amount of marks on the wet clay and for some reason provides the best “damp” environment for pots. 

  • Paint Brushes: I’ve collected so many watercolor and acrylic paint brushes over the years mostly from folks giving them to me when they no longer paint and I use them for glazing and painting my pots. 

  • Plastic jugs from vitamin powder to glaze containers: they get new life when I mix up new small batches of glaze or colored slip

  • 5 gallon buckets: All of the drywall compound buckets from an initial studio build back in 2006 are still in rotation for larger batches of glaze 

  • Glass jars from vitamins or other foods: these become storage for small tools like alphabet stamps 

  • Old Kitchen tools: from rolling pins to cookie cutters, spatulas to whisks they ALL become part of the making process in the studio

A woman stands in her pottery studio and shop, Glaze Handmade, in Stonington, Connecticut
Lyndsay in her studio and retail shop, Glaze Handmade, in Stonington, CT

 

4. So, while I'm certainly a solutions guy, we do have to address the problems. Where do you see the most waste in your daily life?

 

Growing up, my Dad was always a stickler about shutting off lights and turning off the water and I’ve very much become that way throughout my life. Water usage is by far the biggest waste I see on a daily basis. I’m always disgusted when I see people watering their grass and although we don’t live in an area of the country where we have water bans on a regular basis, I think the ways in which we waste water are outrageous. 

 

Garbage collection day is always a very telling visual. Every week as I drive to work and pass each house with it’s garbage can, recycling bin and most recently compost bin on the sidewalk, it’s really alarming to consider just on one little neighborhood block the vast amount of waste that is created in just 7 days.


5. In your personal experience, how do you think recycling has worked and NOT worked as a solution to waste?

 

I think ‘recycling’ became the tag word to end the worlds waste problems back in the 80’s but all that did was give us a false sense of security that we were doing our parts to rectify the damage we’d done. In reality I know only a small percentage of the recycling that is actually put out on the curb actually gets recycled and the REAL issue is our consumption but ALSO companies continuing to ‘over-package’ products which just creates more waste. For instance a glass jar of vitamins might come in a small cardboard branded box, WHY do we need that extra layer of waste? 

 

My biggest pet peeve is the organic section in the grocery store. Most often, it has small bundles of produce packaged on foam plastic trays wrapped in plastic wrap!  I cannot resist expressing my disgust to the folks who work in the produce aisle anytime I see this and I refuse to buy overpackaged products like this whenever possible. It really feels like we are moving backwards in many instances.

 

I also think the greenwashing comes in the form of language like when I was a kid we called it the town Dump, but now they are called "Transfer Stations." I think this type of language can be incredibly powerful in manipulating people’s minds when they picture the garbage situation in their very own town.


6. How do you think the U.S. could step up the solutions to our waste problem? Have you seen or heard of anything anywhere else?

 

This is the kind of question I really don’t have answers to, as I have not done the research nor do I have the knowledge of how things already work. I try to consume as little news and politics as possible because I feel it’s just as bad for my mind as consuming animal products is for my body and spirit. Suffice to say, I do think that real change happens from a grassroots efforts and consumer demand FIRST. We as consumers need to make good choices with our dollars and if we all switched away from plastic wrap , plastic bags and paper towel usage for instance, what would happen to those manufacturing companies? Making changes in our own homes and businesses can be just as powerful in my opinion. 

7. It's funny. I always tell people that reusing is nothing new. It’s been going on long before we were here. Do you have any memories of your parents or grandparents reusing in unique ways?

 

My Dad is the King of saving things for reusing or repurposing years later. From nuts, bolts and screws to wood scraps, fittings, electrical wire and everything in between, if you need something, you ask my Dad FIRST. More often than not, he has something that will work OR he can figure out a way to manipulate it to make it work for the intended purpose. He learned this from his Grandfather who lived to be 103 in his own house in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. My Great Grandfather filled his garage with well organized stacks of magazines, buckets of tennis balls (the strays that would roll across the street from the neighboring tennis courts) containers of used nails, screws, and an endless array of parts and pieces for anything you could imagine. He prided himself on not buying new, but reusing what he had saved and my Dad is exactly that way.

8. Do you have any notable stories about saving money on something because you bought it used instead of new?


The very first pottery wheel that I ever owned, I bought used from a woman who had saved it because it belonged to a potter friend of hers. It was a motorized kick wheel which is a manual version of the modern day electric wheels and it had a huge tractor seat and you had to kick a heavy metal disc to make the pottery wheel spin and then you could engage a foot pedal to keep the wheel going at a single speed. I had that wheel for the first two years I was making pots in my parents garage. 

 

Years later a friend of mine was offloading his home studio equipment and I was able to get a really large electric kiln, a potters wheel and stool and a large heavy duty slab roller for rolling out flat pieces of clay as a package deal. I never would have been able to afford any one of the items new and I estimated that I saved myself well over $10,000. I resold the wheel recouping some cost but the kiln worked great for me for nearly a decade and the slab roller is still in use in my studio today nearly 2 decades later.


9. Have you ever taken anything out of the recycling bin or trash to reuse somehow or maybe found something on the side of the road?


My husband and I make it a point to peer into any dumpster that’s on a job site or road side to see if there's anything worth salvaging. I’ve certainly acquired the odd outdoor patio chair or coffee table from folks who put free signs on things outside their house over the years. 


10. And lastly, what’s the best thing that you ever got used and why? Got a photo?

 

The kiln I purchased used was by far the best thing as it helped me make more money in my business over the decade of using it. 


A woman stands with her pottery and her reuse kiln in Connecticut.
Lyndsay with her reuse kiln before it fell out of commission.

 

To learn more about Lyndsay, her pottery, and maybe even visit her retail shop,

head over to The Vegan Potter website here. To order the "I Seed Change" T-Shirt that Lyndsay is wearing in her profile photo,

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2 Σχόλια


Marisha Moreno
Marisha Moreno
11 Ιουλ

Thank you. The interview with Lyndsay Dean was insightful and inspiring. It underscores the profound impact of community engagement on promoting self-reflection and raising awareness. Thank you!

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Alex Eaves
Alex Eaves
11 Ιουλ
Απάντηση σε

She is an inspiring one for sure. And constantly growing as a rad human.

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