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Weaver Street Market: Rooted in the Community since 1988
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logo_055smaller.jpgLocal Potter: Snowhill Tileworks, by Emily Buehler, Contributing Writer

mug_tops_098smaller.jpgIn 2011 we began selling custom-made ceramic coffee mugs bearing the Weaver Street Market logo. The mugs are made two doors down from our Hillsborough store by Laura Johnson of Snow Hill Tileworks.*

Laura’s pottery business officially started around 1999, but she is a lifelong potter. One of her earliest memories is of a pine tree overturned in a storm. “There was all of this clay stuck in the roots of the tree,” Laura remembers. “I sat down and started making little pots.” A north Durham native, Laura fell in love with Hillsborough’s small town charm and moved her shop to Hillsborough in 2010. She shares a building with the Hillsborough Arts Council, among others; look for her small sign out front of the building with the turquoise blue door at 220 South Churton Street.

laura_120smaller.jpgHalf shop, half studio, Laura’s room is filled with colorful tiles with motifs of geometric shapes, art nouveau flowers, or animals. White plaster tile molds are stacked under a table, while encrusted plastic tubs line the shelves, reminiscent of a grade school art classroom. On the day of our visit, rows and rows of new coffee mugs filled a rack and several shelves. The mugs illustrated each step of their creation: some smooth and white, some with applied patterns, some pasty with unfired glaze, and some shiny and brightly colored. Laura took us behind the building to a cavernous garage space where 100 finished mugs of all colors cooled in the kiln.

Originally Laura made only tiles. She creates a design in clay, casts a pottery-plaster mold of it, and then uses the mold to press more clay into the shape of the tile. She added jewelry to her product-line and in 2011 got the idea to make coffee mugs. As a self-proclaimed coffee freak, Laura saw commercially-made reusable coffee cups and thought it would be fun to make some by hand, with a fun and funky look. She plans to produce dinnerware, too.

street_126smaller.jpgTo create the thin mugs, Laura uses “slip,” a liquefied suspension of clay particles in water. Slip has a consistency like buttermilk; she pours it into a mold, lets it dry, and removes the plain cup, which is bisque fired (i.e., fired the first time) to remove water. She uses more slip to apply decorative dots or squiggles. Then the cup is glazed and fired again. Creating the cups this way keeps the size consistent, which is necessary so the rubbery lids will fit tightly. Since they are fired to almost 2000 degrees, the cups are dishwasher safe and microwaveable. (Avoid sudden temperature changes that can crack the ceramic.) And, the clay comes from a supply company near Asheville, who uses local materials.

The functional coffee cups save paper and brighten your morning coffee. They make great gifts (perhaps with a bag of locally-roasted coffee beans). Watch for new designs and colors as the seasons change and Laura makes us new batches. “It’s hard to visualize what the finished cups will look like,” Laura says as she paints pastel-colored glaze onto a cup. Once fired, the color will have changed to a bright hue.

You can see more of Laura’s creations online . Visit her studio during its business hours, or stop by on Last Friday when merchants in downtown Hillsborough stay open late.
 
 
*Laura and Snowhill Tileworks has moved to Seagrove, NC.

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Weaver Street Market has built a close relationship with our community, responding to its needs, and keeping profits in the local economy.