Before purchasing a bowl for my own kitchen, I followed East Fork pottery on social media for years. I joined up for their email after seeing their Instagram Live videos on how to prepare napa kimchi, liking their purposefully flawed photographs of precariously stacked breakfast plates that reminded me of how I organize my own pantry.
I felt like I was officially part of a group of like-minded individuals when I finally acquired a mug with an enormous handle and terra cotta “Amaro” finish. I love to get creative in the kitchen, but sometimes all I want to do is eat take-out fried chicken off a good plate.
When the firm first began in 2011, it presented a 21st-century take on Southeastern folk pottery, providing a welcome counterpoint to other well-known domestic dinnerware brands like Heath Ceramics’ renowned mid-century-modern-informed style. East Fork now-famous mug went on sale for the first time in 2019, eight years after the company experimented with different styles. East Fork was virtually always mentioned in shopping guides throughout the year, from the New York Times to Bon Appétit and Architectural Digest.
Since the success of “The Mug,” the company has expanded, moving to a 16,000-square-foot production facility, hiring additional people, and even raising their beginning wage to $20 an hour (in a state where the minimum wage is $7.25).
In addition to the brand’s four main glaze colors, Amaro, Eggshell, Morel, and Panna Cotta, East Fork creates seasonal limited-edition colors that sell out in hours, if not minutes, as was the case with Peachy Keen and Orchard, made in cooperation with Momofuku. The color choices, like many of their collaborations, are based on what their collaborators “feel excited about having in their own home kitchens,” rather than following the latest color trend forecast, whether it’s with David Chang or the Pinto collection created with Samin Nosrat, the chef and NYT bestselling author of Salt Fat Acid Heat.
East Fork dinnerware has a distinct surface appearance thanks to the particular blend of regional stoneware clay they employ. Because the clay is high in iron, the gas in the kiln takes oxygen from the clay, causing the iron molecules to rise to the surface when the pots are fired. This creates the distinctive speckled appearance that has become synonymous with the pots and has been reproduced by many. Because photographers and stylists utilize dinnerware “as a tool to transmit context, story, and emotion,” East Fork glaze may be essential in the way food is staged for books and magazines, according to culinary photographer and author Joanie Simon.
Form and function, unlike color and texture, can be difficult to communicate in a photograph. The size of your hands, the temperature of your drink, how clumsy you are before your morning coffee, and, occasionally, the mood of your cat or the curiosity of your children all play a role in whether or not a mug will work for you.
As a result, the brand has reaped significant benefits from chefs, writers, and food editors who have personally praised the product because it is a mainstay in their own kitchens.
It’s no surprise that Molly Baz, a chef and former senior assistant food editor at Bon Appétit, is a big fan of the brand, presenting her meals in East Fork containers for her 673k Instagram followers to sample at home. East Fork’s bold, blue Lapis-glazed bowls hold inventive recipes cooked up for average folks eager to better their home cooking, whether one is browsing through her Instagram or reading through her new NYT bestseller Cook This Book. “What I appreciate about East Fork is the closeness of the brand,” Baz says.
When Matisse publishes an Instagram Reel about how her Lexapro is the backbone of her kitchen pantry or a video of a bunch of youngsters arranging insects on variously colored plates, this driving force is on plain display. “I believe it appeals to so many home cooks because, even if you don’t relate to me, you can relate to one of the hundreds of other people who are demonstrating how they utilize our products.” Even if you’re a bug collector’s kid.
The company’s brand identity, according to Matisse, is a dynamic depiction of the broad mix of people that work there. “We are all fully realized humans with very diverse tastes and like to eat very various foods,” Matisse adds, assuring me that this is true whether someone is eating homemade cereal or Lucky Charms from a breakfast bowl, or a cucumber salad from a plate, or a fatty slice of pizza from a plate. “We’re not tying our work to a wellness, cooking, or specialty food ideology. East Fork is a celebration of self-expression in whatever form it takes.”