Artist as Designer: Q+A with Georgia and Jeremy Ayers
The weekends of summer are limited, but take heed—there’s something special brewing in Waterbury and it’s not another world-class beer. It is the all-day Artist as Designer event happening this Saturday at the historic 18 Elm Street in the heart of Waterbury’s downtown. Simply put, the 14th at 18 Elm is not to be missed.
While the prominent yellow house and three barns on the corner of Elm and Randall have been around since the 1800’s, their transformation into an event space is a new undertaking. This is year two of Artist as Designer, hosted by Georgia and Jeremy Ayers, which coincides with the Waterbury Arts Festival. The Ayers’ event brings together artisans to showcase a collection of functional design-forward products and welcomes the public to watch as artists demonstrate their process. All the handmade wares will be available for admiring and for purchase, and there will be good eats, strong coffee and libations to be had along the way.
Last July, State14 was invited to attend the first annual Artist as Designer event where we took our enthusiasm for people watching and process watching to gratifying new heights. We watched as a steady tide of spectators gravitated into the open courtyard of 18 Elm to observe vignette after vignette of artists at work: the torch-wielding carpenter, the textile artist hand-block printing onto linen, the jewelry designer sketching a new look into a leather-bound journal, and Jeremy Ayers, sitting at the pottery wheel outside of his studio, throwing clay. It was part artisan craft market, part workshop, part foodie party; a microcosm of the creative community we are often drawn to learn about and write about, here.
Jeremy, a master potter who's a fixture at the Burlington Farmers Market, manages the property with his wife, Georgia, a food and beverage maven and the event coordinator at 18 Elm—where they live, work and now offer a series of unique events. I’ve sat in the couple’s kitchen on many occasions as the beneficiary of their friendship, nibbling on apps with a classic cocktail in hand, stopping only to laugh or greet the next set of friends who walk through the door and into one of Georgia’s warm hugs. The two have a knack for hosting and are deeply tied to the artisan and food communities in Northern Vermont. With their combined skills as artist and event curator, along with their commitment to building community, 18 Elm is poised to be a very interesting venue, indeed.
I spoke with Jeremy and Georgia about Artist as Designer, what we can expect in year two, and other upcoming events in the works.
Can you tell us a little about the history of 18 Elm?
J.A.: My great-great-grandfather Orlo Ayers owned 18 Elm starting around 1870. He was a wheelwright and a had a shop on the property where he made wheels and carriages. Orlo died in 1936 and the property was rented until my grandparents renovated it and retired here in 1980. They lived out the rest of their lives in the house—we came into the picture in their elderly years—my family asked Georgia and I if we would move in and take over the running of the house and barns, and support my grandfather after my grandmother died. We moved in, started our own family—we have two boys close in age—and supported my grandfather in his final years. Hurricane Irene came in 2011, and we spent all of 2012 recovering from the flood. In 2016 I established Jeremy Ayers’ Pottery studio and shop in Orlo’s carriage barn that we had renovated. In 2017 is when we hosted our first Artist as Designer exhibition and Waterbury Breakfast Club pop-ups.
How did you come up with the idea to hold events on the property? What was the inspiration for the Artist as Designer event.
G.A.: I guess it all really started with Jeremy’s experience at the Burlington’s Farmers Market. When he throws pottery at the market, he attracts people to his process—they are mesmerized by watching it from start to finish. They’ll look at his table and say, “You made all of these, like this?” It really connects people to the artist and gives people more of an appreciation for how things are made. I wanted to bring that to our property, not just with his pottery but other artists working in their process, too. And I wanted to turn the base of the barn into a space that would showcase that. But we didn’t know how feasible that would be long-term, with artists coming and going in the barn . . . would it be a three season barn? There were lots of questions. And so I thought, what if we just hosted an artist event that had all of those components and see what transpires from it. I wanted it to differ from a traditional crafts show and have it be about the artists up front creating, and then behind them, having the work for sale. I also thought it was important to have a cohesive collection of work for home and lifestyle—things that had the same aesthetic. I see a lot of Vermont artists making more high-design artwork and that’s what I wanted to showcase in a collection.
Last year was the first time you held the event and as a participant, it seemed to be met with great success. How will year two be the same or different from year one?
G.A.: This year we’re going to have even more demonstrations of the artists' process including wheel-thrown pottery, glass torch work, screen printing linen, hand sewn leather bags, handmade leather notebooks, fine gold and silver jewelry design, and watercolor painting.
(For a full list of participating artists, see below.)
What's the line-up for food?
G.A. Carte Blanche—they are two former chefs from Misery Loves Company and their food is incredible! I was at a dinner party recently and my friend Grace told me about them—they’re brand new—she gave me their contact. They will be at the event from 10-2. It’s a perfect fit. Also, we have our friends from Petit Noir Coffee, and libations from Farmers and Foragers Booze Cart.
Anything planned for the littles?
G.A.: Yes! There’s going to be a kids’ watercolor station, a clay station, the lego play station, and Vermont Farm Table is bringing woodblock prints for kids.
What other events are coming up at 18 Elm?
G.A.: The Jeremy Ayers Pottery Studio hosts the Waterbury Breakfast Club; a Sunday brunch food truck pop-up from 10a-2p seven Sundays between June and September. This is a family-friendly brunch event in collaboration with Petit Noir Espresso and Coffee Mobile Cart. We host four to six rotating food and beverage vendors in the brunch theme: coffee and espresso, baked goods, lunch, and spirits. We also have art and play stations set up for kids all day. The next one is July 22nd featuring Petit Noir, Ms. Weinerz, Bobber’s Seafood Food Truck, Silo Distillery, Savoure soda, and Udder Guys Ice Cream Mobile Cart. Open Community Acupuncture will be there, as well, offering one hour, $20 treatments. And this year we’ll also have live music!
We’re also really excited to be hosting Salvage Supperclub on Saturday, August 11th. This is a ticketed dinner that showcases the untapped potential in our underused foods and highlights the impact of food waste in our culture. Salvage Supperclub was founded in 2014 by Josh Treuhaft, out of NYC. SS now hosts multi-course, communal, dining events all over the world and they’re coming here to Vermont, at 18 Elm! Local chef Frank Stellato and I are sourcing food scraps and unmarketable produce from farms, restaurants and co-ops to prepare a six-course vegetable-focused dinner served in a fine dining fashion inside a 30 cubic yard dumpster! UnEarthed Spirits Distillery (upstarts) out of Vergennes will be pairing salvaged cocktails throughout the dinner. Proceeds will benefit the Waterbury Food Shelf. Tickets are limited to 16 guests.
18 Elm also welcomes travelers from all over the world to stay in our two newly renovated guest apartments. Each private apartment has a story, you can see the history in the space but it’s all contemporary and very comfortable. We want to give people an experience of Waterbury, with a balance of the historic and modern. Apartments can be booked through Airbnb and VRBO.
Artist as Designer Participants for 2018
Soor Ploom women and children’s clothier by Marissa Buick
Vermont Farm Table by Jessica and Dustin Glasscoe
Made of Cloth textiles by Marta Sulocka
200 Lemons watercolor paintings by Megan Weaver
Mustache and Mohawk handmade leather bags by Tony Cobb
Unbound handmade leather notebooks by Andrea Cerrilla
Alluvial Forms sculptural glass and ceramic art by Alissa Faber
Lunch, Espresso and Libations:
For inquiries into any of the upcoming events at 18 Elm, contact Georgiayers@gmail.com. For more info on the Breakfast Club, including upcoming dates, go to www.waterburybreakfastclub.com.