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September 27, 2017

Faces of Fauquier: Potter produces art that works

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Annalisa Reavis has a kiln and two potting wheels in her studio — half the garage of her family’s Bealeton home.
I wish there was some type of artists’ community or co-op that was really pushing the arts for the youth in Fauquier, so that they could see that it’s actually a feasible way of life.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Bealeton woman’s pottery “journey” began about 10 years ago.

When Ahnalisa Reavis started at Virginia Commonwealth University, the fine arts student had her heart set on studying photography.

“At VCU, they make you do one year of foundation art, where you do everything and then apply to the different schools within the school of arts,” Mrs. Reavis explains. “My first choice was photography and the second was ceramics.”

The school plugged the freshman into the ceramics track.

“I was very disappointed,” recalls Mrs. Reavis, who grew up in the Southern Fauquier village of Sumerduck. “I planned to transfer out (of the ceramics school) after the first semester into” the photography program.

But, she soon learned that sometimes things unexpectedly work out for the best.

“I took my first wheel class, and I was exactly where I needed to be. And I’ve never looked back.”

While Mrs. Reavis produces some decorative pieces — Christmas tree ornaments and pumpkins for a client’s Thanksgiving Day table, for example — the 29-year-old potter remains steadfastly pragmatic about her art.

“Everything I make is functional,” says Mrs. Reavis, who in 2011 started her business, Dirtworks Ceramics. “It all has a purpose or use, which I feel is really important, because I think there’s a lot of stuff in the world. And I don’t want to necessarily to add to that — just bringing in more and more things that don’t really do anything.

“I just feel it will end up in the landfill someday.”

Hard-pressed to pinpoint influences that inform in her work, Mrs. Reavis says: “It’s kind of like everybody I’ve met in my whole life has made some type of impact on me, which makes an impact on my art.”

Through trial, error and “a lot of experimenting,” her style has evolved into one she describes as “drippy and fluid, because the glazes that I use — I let them flow however they’re going to. They make these incredible drips down the piece.”

Mrs. Reavis’ home studio occupies roughly half of the family’s two-car garage. Tall shelves containing supplies, works in progress and completed pieces line the walls. A waste-high cabinet contains about 70 bottled glazes.

A large, L-shaped work table provides some separation between her and her husband’s side of the garage, where he keeps tools.

Mrs. Reavis has two potting wheels and a new kiln, which cost about $4,000.

“The equipment is very expensive, but once you get it, you’re pretty much set for life.”

Her pieces can be purchased at two Fauquier businesses — Messick’s Farm Market near Bealeton and Virginia Bee Supply in Remington — and through her Etsy page. Mrs. Reavis also sells her work at area festivals.

Individual item prices range from $10 to about $200.

Mugs, which cost $25 apiece, top her best-seller list.

Mrs. Reavis offers private lessons at her Bealeton home studio on weeknights and weekends and teaches evening pottery classes through the Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Department at the Marshall Community Center.

• Age
29

• Home 
Bealeton

• Work
Studio potter, founder/owner, Dirtworks Ceramics, Bealeton, 2011 to present; pottery instructor, Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Department, 2016 to present.

• Why do you do the job?
I am a maker, and makers gotta make. We have a lot of artists in our family. My father’s a woodworker. I actually taught him how to make pottery. I have a cousin who’s a writer. Ever since I’ve been a kid I guess I’ve really been driven to make things. It’s really taken over my life.

• Family
Husband, Matt; son, Oliver

• Education
Bachelor’s degree, fine arts, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, 2011; Liberty High School, 2007.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
Pretty much my whole life.

• Why do you live here? 
It’s great for me, being a young woman starting my family, because my family all lives in Fauquier, my husband’s family all lives in Fauquier.

We have the country; we have the town; we have our families; we have a great community. So, we really have everything that we need.

I think a lot of people leave Fauquier looking for something. And then they come back and realize it was here all along.

• How do you describe this county? 
It’s home. You have this incredible sense of belonging in Fauquier. When you cross over (the county line) into Fauquier, you breathe this sigh of relief. It feels good to be home.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I would want Fauquier to have more of an arts community. There are so many working artists in Fauquier. I wish there was some type of artists’ community or co-op that was really pushing the arts for the youth in Fauquier, so that they could see that it’s actually a feasible way of life.

• What do you do for fun? 
I am a workaholic. With having a small child and a husband, pretty much any free time I get is spent in my studio. I make pottery for fun.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
In Sumerduck, there’s a Phelps Wildlife preserve access on Sumerduck Road. If you walk down the trail to get to the river, there’s this little beach area with a pit, where you can have a fire and camp. It’s really beautiful and peaceful.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years? 
Pretty much the same as it is now. I think Fauquier is really committed to keeping itself rural and there for agriculture. Hopefully, they keep going on that path and keeping it nice and beautiful.

• Favorite TV show?
“Game of Thrones.”

• Favorite movie? 
“When Harry met Sally.” I can really relate to it. My husband and I were friends for years and years and years and we met at work. We were friends forever, and then one day — just all of a sudden, out of nowhere — we both realized that we were supposed to be together and we were engaged six months later.

• Favorite book?
“The Art of Racing in the Rain,” by Garth Stein.

• Favorite vacation spot? 
Homer, Alaska. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It has the mountains and the sea, so you don’t have to pick between them. You can have it all.

• Favorite food? 
Mushrooms.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom? 
My Uncle Todd. It was when I was younger, and I was out doing things that weren’t really constructive. I was out going to the bars and that whole nightlife scene. And he told me that I was never going to get where I wanted to be doing those activities, because good things come from constructive behavior.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My grandmother. I’ve never met anyone stronger, more patient, wiser than her. She grew up in Norway. She lived through Nazi-occupied Norway. She survived that. She came to America with her husband and left her family behind and created this new life for herself. Her husband — my grandfather — died when my mother was 8. She lived her whole life as a single woman and made an incredible life for herself. She made sure all her children and all her grandchildren were never without anything they needed. She touched so many people’s lives in so many ways. It’s just incredible.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I would open an artists’ cooperative in Fauquier County, because I don’t think there’s anything like that here. I think that could be a really great thing to showcase the people that are making art, as well as bring in more people as far as tourism into the county.

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Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at cbrown@fauquiernow.com, Don Del Rosso at don@fauquiernow.com or Editor Lou Emerson at LKE@FauquierNow.com.
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jdobbins · October 2, 2017 at 2:47 pm
I agree with Annalisa about an artists coop. I live in Goldvein and I also make functional pottery in my home studio, yet I never knew about Annalisa. I took one lesson at the Marshall Community Center and I was hooked. I then taught my wife, son, and daughter-in-law. I wish there was a business willing to offer products from local artists, like potters and painters, on consignment.
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