Stroll to the end of The Alley in Virginia Beach’s ViBe Creative District to Jars of Dust, a pottery studio and shop handcrafting functional ceramics for everyday life. You will be greeted with the warmest welcome from the owner and potter Mallorie and her regal pottery pup, Brown.
Glowing with natural light, the shop is adorned with Earth-tone ceramic mugs, plates, planters and wall hangings—each handmade for your hands and your home. A doorway at the back of the shop leads to the pottery studio where she spends hours wedging, throwing and trimming clay to create these beautiful, practical works of art.
Mallorie opened the brick and mortar earlier this year, which was a renovation project she and her husband teamed up on. She says, “the dream was so sweet and so awesome.” But she also shares the nerves and questions that came with the risk of opening her own shop. Open-minded and optimistic, she trusted it was going to work out. “I would not be doing this if I was not okay with failure.”
She chased her dream and man are we are so glad she did.
How It All Began
This purposeful journey did lead to something so sweet.
Mallorie started Jars of Dust five years ago after graduating from UNC Wilmington with a major in Studio Art. While at school, she was first on a path to study photography, but she could not picture herself doing that every day. She was exploring other artistic and creative avenues and added a ceramics class to her course load. “It was so challenging. It was the first time I had really been challenged artistically.” She explains how painting and drawing always came naturally, but everything clicked when she was challenged to tears by pottery making. “It gave me the drive to get better and achieve something,” Mallorie says. A mug was the first piece she made. She says the creative and artistic process put a lot of purpose behind pottery. “That led to the Jars of Dust journey.”
Mallorie was a senior in college when she started Jars of Dust. Over time, she became comfortable making pieces and had the desire to keep making more. She launched the Jars of Dust Instagram channel and posted pictures of the pieces she was making. Before she knew it, she was receiving custom orders from friends and family.
After graduation, she knew if she was serious about continuing to make pottery, she would need to get her own wheel, clay and kiln. She was feeling the commitment and thought, “If I do it, I do not feel like I can change my mind.” She followed her passion and “kept doing and kept making.” Her parents gifted her a pottery wheel for graduation and she worked a full-time job to purchase the rest of the equipment.
Mallorie and her husband, PJ, moved to the Outer Banks after getting married. It was a great season of growth—one where she took an apprenticeship under a local potter—but it was not their forever home. When they moved to Virginia Beach, she knew this was the time to invest in Jars of Dust full-time. She describes the transition, “It fell into place. Virginia Beach was really receptive to having a potter in town.” She showed up at farmers’ markets and craft shows and the local support began to grow organically.
The first couple of years, Mallorie built the Jars of Dust brand and craft out of her brother-in-law’s garage. She explains, “We made everything work. It was the perfect way to start out.” Her online and local sales began to grow and she was often getting questions about her location. She says, “People began wondering where the pieces were made and wanted to visit a shop.”
After six months of renovations, she opened the Jars of Dust storefront in the ViBe Creative District of Virginia Beach. Her husband, a woodworker at Benevolent Design, handcrafted the wood doors, shelves and tables, adding a personal touch to the shop’s dreamy aesthetic.
The name Jars of Dust was inspired by the creation of clay. Mallorie explains the process of how clay is made: it starts as dust from the Earth—it is dry, delicate and fragile—and as you add water, fire and heat, it turns into stoneware. “It starts as delicate fibers and turns into a strong stone,” Mallorie begins. “It mirrors how we were created, starting as dust and returning to dust. And, we have the potential to be as strong as stone.” She continues with this notion and shares how this is a humbling reminder of life’s simplicity and to not let things get too complicated.
The Craft: Making Handmade Pottery
Mallorie skillfully talks us through the steps to making pottery, a beautiful reminder of how meticulous and thoughtful each phase of the handcrafting process is.
- Wedging: gets the clay prepped to be thrown on the wheel. “This is an essential step to clay preparation. It works out the air bubbles and creates a homogenous clay body, ensuring consistency is the same throughout.”
- Throwing: the act of making something on the pottery wheel. This includes several steps such as centering, opening and pulling up the walls of the clay as well as defining the rim of the piece.
- Day of rest: let the clay sit for one day after you throw until it becomes “leather hard.”
- Trimming: trim the bottom of the clay on the wheel; place upside down to smooth down the bottom. “The philosophy for well-made pottery is the bottom should be just as good as, if not better than, the piece as a whole,” Mallorie explains.
- Shelf life: one week drying on the shelf. After trimming, the clay needs to dry out completely. “If there is moisture in the clay, it can crack or explode when it is in the kiln under intense, dry heat.”
- Bisque firing: a lower temperature of about 1900 degrees which pulls any remaining moisture out of the clay. Afterward, Mallorie stamps the Jars of Dust logo before glazing.
- Stamping and Glazing: Mallorie stamps the Jars of Dust logo. Then, the glaze, a liquid finish, is applied to each piece. The glaze is the color on the finished product and it seals the stoneware to make it water-tight and food safe.
- Final fire: after glazing, it is fired for a second and final time at approximately 2,300 degrees, which turns the glaze to glass and the clay to stone.
In a one-day pottery session, Mallorie makes at minimum 50 mugs. She says, “Last week, I threw 100 mugs in a day.” And, they do not stay on the shelf long!
The Jars of Dust Experience
When asked what she hopes someone takes away from their experience, Mallorie says, “I hope they take away knowledge and a greater understanding of what goes into the pottery-making process, whether it is peeking into the studio to watch me make something or seeing the workspace where everything is handmade from start to finish.”
She continues, “I hope they receive a simple joy from using something on a daily basis that will last forever. Also knowing when they pull their mug out of the cupboard, it was made by hand specifically for them.”
Proudest Moment & Biggest Obstacle
Her proudest moment and biggest obstacle are one and the same. “My proudest moment was when we finished the space. Days before opening, I stood on the sidewalk and saw the Jars of Dust sign. I thought, ‘Woah. I did it.’ At that moment, I felt really proud that I took the risks I needed to take. Through moments of fear and doubt, I pushed through and saw it to this point.”
At the same time, this entire renovation process was her biggest obstacle. “Leading up to [opening the shop], I was cautious and playing things safe. I signed the lease, and in order to get the building to a functioning shop, it was going to require time and money. Locking myself into this trajectory was my biggest obstacle.”
In just two months, words of affirmation and sales poured in supporting Jars of Dust. Mallorie knew then that this was right. Much like we did, she shares how often people walk through the doors and exclaim how beautiful the shop and ceramics are. As a one-woman potter, each batch is considerably small and one-of-a-kind. “We cannot keep certain things in stock. They go so fast.” Our words to the wise, if you see the perfect planter for your living room or jewelry dish for a friend, get it while you can.
Advice for Aspiring Business Owners
“Be okay with starting small and starting slow. There is a season [along the entrepreneurial journey] to recognize if you want to do what you are doing without taking too many risks,” Mallorie explains. She continues and describes how easy it is to want to take out a loan and start the business with all the bells and whistles. Speaking from experience, she recommends starting with what you have to save money and stress. Bring it back to the basics. “This will also help you refine what you are trying to do or create.”
Future Goals & Favorite Things
Running a business takes dedication and time commitment. Currently, Mallorie does not have a lot of time spent outside of her business, but she looks forward to the growth and expansion of Jars of Dust and uncovering what her future is in the company. She strives to eventually be more hands-off and allow time to travel with her husband. “It is really exciting to think about how Jars of Dust can fuel a life for us that we love.”
As for Mallorie’s favorite things, she loves being able to bring Brown to work every day. She also loves being face-to-face with customers. “I get to hear their stories. They share the aches and pains for their current setup in their home and I am able to help them bring their vision to life.” Lastly, she enjoys having everything under one roof in a space she designed to be her own.
How to Experience All That Jars of Dust Has to Offer
Stop in to the Jars of Dust shop and studio (607 19th Street, Unit C) to meet Mallorie and Brown and pick out your new favorite stoneware setup or morning coffee mug. The shop is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Or head over to the online shop to scroll through the collection.
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