Carrying On The Family Business: Rubyanne Calderwood’s Unlikely Path Back To Pottery
BREWSTER – When you grow up in and around a well-loved pottery studio like Clayworks in Brewster, will you decide to become a potter yourself? If you had asked Rubyanne Calderwood that question when she was growing up, she would have answered "100 percent no!"
But life has a way of taking interesting turns. With the retirement of her father Clay Calderwood, owner of Clayworks, Ruby has now happily taken over the business. And with the business renamed Wildflower Pottery, Ruby is making art that continues her father's traditions while adding creations of her own.
Although her dad grew up in New Jersey, at age 19 he moved to Cape Cod, apprenticing with renowned potter Harry Hall at Scargo Pottery in Dennis. "My dad had a real love of ceramics," Ruby said. He went on to study at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design before going out on his own.
Clay's first studio was in the family home on Route 6A in Brewster. When Ruby was young her dad built a barn in the backyard, "a beautiful post and beam building with hand-planed wood," she said. That barn became the studio and gallery and "my playpen was back there," Ruby recalled with a smile.
As she got older, Ruby helped out in the studio, and by the time she was a student at Nauset High School she was helping to make her dad's signature fish platters. "They are big," she said, "about 35 inches long. They take time and work and became what he was known for."
After graduation in 2011, Ruby was ready to try something else and she moved to Boston. She became certified as a nurse's aide and worked for a year at Winchester Hospital thinking she might perhaps pursue a nursing degree. But she found herself drawn back to the Cape almost every weekend, and when her father was thinking about scaling back, she decided to help out in the studio again.
"I started to fall in love with it!" she said with a smile.
In addition to helping with the fish platters, she began to make her own artwork. Using the scraps left over from making the patters, she started to make tiny minnows and took her pieces to craft fairs to sell.
She recalled her dad working with her to develop her craft and making sure she completed a full apprenticeship. It was a nine-year journey to build her skills. During that time she also worked as a gardener, specializing in flowers. She used her gardening skills to create a 40-by-50-foot flower garden behind the barn and she uses flowers liberally to help demonstrate all the possible uses of her pottery.
It was her love of flowers that inspired the name Wildflower Pottery, bestowed when she took over in 2018. Her dad suggested it and "his energy is still here," she said. "There is a ton of love in the shop."
In addition to continuing Clay's popular fish platters and wall hangings, Ruby has added her own work, including oyster plates. She gets her oysters from the Cable Creek Oyster Farm in Eastham. Impressions of the oyster shells are made in the plate so it holds the bivalves without dripping, Ruby said. Oyster plates come with a hand-thrown bowl and spoon. "They are really fun to make and popular," she said.
She is also continuing to incorporate Nauset Beach sand into her clay pottery, following a tradition that Scargo's Harry Hall taught to all his apprentices, including Clay. After a rainstorm, Ruby scrapes black sand from the beach and recently gathered about a cup of it. The sand gets turned and folded into the clay to create the look she wants. "Sand bleeds through the glazes and that's how we get the speckles."
Ruby loves working with the community of potters on Cape Cod, many of whom are also located along Route 6A. "There are potters in both directions!" she said. "I don't know anywhere else that is like that. Our potters work together, teaching each other, sharing glazes."
Ruby has found the career she always searched for right at home.
"There is so much I can do," she said. "My style may change but pottery lets that happen." She credits beach walks with her pups Layla and Saffron for giving her new ideas. "The beach inspires me every time I am on the sand and the ocean inspires with colors for our glazes."
Wildflower Pottery is closed for the season as Ruby works to create the inventory for the shop's upcoming season. She expects to open for two weeks around Valentine's Day and then open fully for the season in April. The barn housing the gallery and studio is located at 3820 Main St. in Brewster. For more information go to www.wildflowerpotterycapecod.com.
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