Oxide Pottery: An Ancient Art With a Modern Touch

Justin Rice had no interest in pottery until he took a class during his final semester of art school. He connected with the medium and didn’t look back.

“I caught the bug,” he says.

When he eventually found himself freezing in his garage one winter, boiling water just to continue working, he knew he needed to pursue his passion professionally.

Justin Rice and his wife Chatham Monk own Oxide Pottery in Downtown Lynchburg where they offer one-of-a-kind bowls, plates, vases, and other wares. Chatham, a Lynchburg native, and Justin both attended the Cleveland Institute of Art where they met in 2002.

Today, they sell in their own storefront at 1337 Main Street. They also sell through several wholesale channels to museum shops and at large national shows.

Though he never expected to be a potter, Justin enjoys the diversity that clay offers.

“Every time you sit at the wheel, it’s a new adventure,” he says. “It’s an ever-evolving process.”

A normal day might involve wedging clay, creating the right size and weight for different projects, sitting at the wheel, adding handles, loading, glazing, and firing. 

“It’s really a labor of love,” he explains. “To break even and have some handmade pieces at the end of the day feels like success.” 

Justin loves the history of pottery and the idea that human touch has been a part of creating things out of clay since ancient civilizations first discovered the craft. 

“There are department stores and big box stores that offer this stuff, and it’s [all] very designed, but it’s the same piece you could buy anyplace,” Justin says. “We’re interested in offering something that’s had a human touch, evolved, and became a unique piece.”

Whatever is part of Justin’s life influences his art, whether it’s the music playing in the studio or the latest graphic novel he’s reading. He loves the idea that music may be a part of the piece—like the grooves in a vinyl album. 

“Chatham and I try to address every inch of that pot. We want you to see the profile, the surface decoration, the glaze … and then when you flip it over, that it’s been addressed on the bottom too. There’s nothing that hasn’t been taken into consideration.”

Justin and Chatham choose to keep their business in Downtown Lynchburg because they like the community.

“It’s an incubator for people to do something new. Downtown provides that spot to do it together.”