Meet the ‘potheads’ who are hypebeasts for pottery — not pot

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Stacy Hyatt and her East Fork pottery collection. Stacy Hyatt

Meet the new potheads.

They’re hypebeasts, but for pottery, and their Supreme is East Fork: a shop devoted to handmade ceramics in Asheville, NC. Founded in 2013 by Alex Matisse — the great-grandson of painter Henri — his wife, Connie, and their friend John Vigeland, East Fork’s wares have inspired the kind of cult following that’s usually reserved for limited-edition sneakers and streetwear collabs. Their bowls, plates and mugs — which range in price from $10 to $120 — are prized for their sturdy minimalism and unique glazes. Desirable items often sell out in less than an hour.

Jen Nathan, who lives in rural North Carolina, sips her morning coffee from an East Fork staple product — “The Mug,” an earthenware cup that weighs an entire pound — in a beloved discontinued glaze called “Big Sky,” a periwinkle hue, meant to evoke “powder blue butterflies” and “clear summer mornings,” according to the brand’s website.

“Then, I had a piece of cake on a plate in ‘Pollen’ and breakfast, eggs and toast, off of an old wheel-thrown plate in ‘Soapstone,’” added the 39-year-old writer who made her first East Fork purchase in 2015.

“Before, I just had hand-me-down plates and Target sets,” said Nathan. Now, she estimates that she owns roughly 50 pieces from the Asheville company, including dinner sets, vases and serving bowls. Still, she said, “There are much bigger collectors out there.”

Andrea Zimmerman can attest to that.

“I started buying vases for my office to bring some joy and color a few years back,” said the 45-year-old criminal defense attorney, who lives in Missouri. “At the time I couldn’t dream of dropping the money I do on their plates and vases.”

She’s got more than 28 items from the brand, but when asked how much she’s spent in total, said, “I try not to think about it.”

The limited-edition pieces are so in-demand that there’s a booming resale market online; Zimmerman says she spotted a set on eBay selling for over $1,000.

Less official methods have become back channels for the worthy wares.

Medical receptionist Catherine Ureña from Ypsilanti, Michigan, scours fan accounts on Instagram to find like-minded potheads to trade with or buy from, especially for hard-to-find secondhand items. When she scored a used breakfast bowl in “Malt,” a beige color that retails for $22, Ureña said, “I almost fainted.”

Sellers and fans stalk East Fork’s Instagram for news of upcoming releases and seasonal colors and show off their collections with artful social media “shelfies.” And they are careful to package their trades with museum-quality precision.

“It’s a little bit of a flex if you send your trade with the original packaging materials and the box to trade in,” said Nathan, who keeps a closet full of the crinkly brown wrapping for her USPS parcels.

“We package it up like we’re sending an egg, all nestled in the middle so it won’t move,” said Zimmerman.

Stacy Hyatt, who is currently on the hunt for a “lidded jar of any size,” said she herself is “an obsessive and meticulous packer.” She has a 12 full dinner sets, mostly purchased directly from East Fork and secondhand online, and 35 other pieces.

“In fall 2019, they released ‘Night Swim’ and that color sorta blew my mind,” said the operations manager, who lives in Clinton, Washington. “It was dark and moody and romantic in a way my white dishes were not.”

Taylor Marie Kromer, a 29-year-old massage therapist from Asheville is currently lusting over pieces in “Amaro,” a terracotta shade. “I mostly buy directly from East Fork but I am making my first trade this weekend,” she said.

East Fork bigwigs find the attention worrisome.

“There’s wild price jacking of rare or limited and past retired glazes … it’s getting totally out of control,“ said Connie Matisse in an Instagram Live posted on “East Fork Flea,” an account set up by the brand for trading their products that has since gone on “hiatus.” “First, it was fun and exciting, but it’s starting to feel really yucky,” she said, asking fans to stop contacting “our sales associates and their mothers, and their mother’s sisters” to buy their old dishes.

But superfans insist that trading the goods is harmless — and shows just how deep their love goes.

“My two favorites are also the only ones I got entirely secondhand,” said Hyatt of the punchy “Poinsettia” and dreamy “Big Sky” sets. “It took a lot of time and effort, but it paid off.”