Local Shopping Spotlight: Merry Farm Pottery

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The famous Cliffs of Aquinnah (formerly Gay Head) are not the only place to find clay on the Vineyard. The Island is actually rich in clay, which is frequently dredged up during construction projects. Local artisan Micah Thanhauser has taken advantage of that abundance of waste material — often using clay unearthed during construction in the work he creates for his business, Merry Farm Pottery. He notes that the excess clay would otherwise have to be carted off-Island for disposal. 

“Martha’s Vineyard happens to have very diverse and interesting clays,” says Thanhauser. “Nantucket doesn’t have any clay. Neither does most of the Cape.” 

Thanhauser tries to keep the product as bare-bones as possible. He strains out pebbles and twigs, unless he is using the clay for a sculptural piece that might benefit from a rougher look: “My aim is to change it less and try to use more of a whole clay, without removing all of the impurities, and to find the beauty in that natural state.”

Thanhauser also sources some of his material from a North Carolina arts-centered community called STARworks, which describes itself as “the only ceramic supply company in the U.S. using local wild clays.”

The Island-born and -raised artist also mixes all of his own glazes, often using ash from his own wood stove. 

This very organic approach to ceramics is reflected in Thanhauser’s simple designs, which are influenced by the time he spent studying in Japan. “The underlying philosophy in Japanese pottery is using materials that are unique to a region,” says Thanhauser. “Work is all designed around food and use. The main characteristic of Japanese ceramics is the emphasis on place and material.”

Merry Farm Pottery is located at 79 Merry Farm Road (off State Road) in West Tisbury. The studio and shop is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 to 5, or by appointment. You can also order online — shipping is available — at merryfarmpottery.com.

For more holiday shopping ideas, see our Local Gift Guide.

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