Alexandra Vaga drew on her family heritage to create a line of handmade porcelain tableware that harkens back to the old country of her grandparents and, yet, fits seamlessly into the décor of her houseboat docked at the Jersey Shore.
Vaga, a studio potter from Bay Head, handcrafts a line of slab-pressed and pinched porcelain tableware. Each piece - from tiny dipping bowls to large, free-form vessels - shows the markings of natural linen on its matte exterior.
“I have an incredible love for food, cooking and bringing people to the table,” Vaga explained, adding that much of her inspiration comes from her family heritage. Her father, a physicist, grew up on a dairy farm in Estonia where they made prize-winning butter. Her grandmother set her rustic table with utensils made from juniper wood, and there was always a homemade cardamom raisin bread, butter, honey and salt within reach.
Her maternal grandfather emigrated from Poland as a teenager and built a successful parachute company that’s still based in Trenton. His wife, who had impeccable table manners, set her table with fine ironstone china and silver.
“I sit comfortably in both worlds, and I want my work to do the same,” Vaga said.
Vaga, who grew up in Brielle, attended Speos Photographic Institute in Paris in 2000 and graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 2004. She studied ceramics, fine woodworking and bronze under master craftsmen before returning to her first love, clay.
She began handcrafting clay pots in a tiny garden studio in 2007. She has since expanded her business with the help of her studio partner, Shayne Boyle, a self-taught painter and sculptor. Together, they make every piece to order in an historic building nestled between Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.