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August 3, 2020

Faces of Fauquier: Artist makes “functional” pottery

Photo/Don Del Rosso
It’s just so rewarding to be able to pull your work out of the kiln and then be able to use it every day,” Jane McGee says. “That’s what kind of draws me to pottery.”
Her coffee mugs sell for $25 to $30 apiece.
That’s what really draws me back to ceramics over and over again. It’s not just something you can frame and just put on the wall. It’s something you can use to give you nutrition — to eat and drink out of.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Take it as given that the Warrenton ceramicist tries to make her pottery look pretty.

But of comparable importance, Jane McGee believes it also should serve a purpose.

“I like to describe my work as functional artwork, with a ‘Patuxent River Aesthetic’,” said Mrs. McGee, 35, owner of Blue Cypress Ceramics.

The aesthetic dimension applies to the blues and greens that today inform many of her pieces.

“Growing up, I spent every day down by the water,” recalled Mrs. McGee, whose family lived in Saint Mary’s County, Md., along the Patuxent. “And that water changes tone based on the light. Sometimes it’s blue, sometimes it’s green. It’s like this interchangeable hue.”

And “just down the river was a cypress grove,” she said. “You really don’t see those trees there anymore. I would get in my canoe and hang out. It was a really special place.”

In some ways, the work lets her hold onto and re-interpret that world, Mrs. McGee suggested.

“I wanted to give it some permanence in my mind, pay homage,” she said of the river and all of its riches. “It just seemed right.”

The potter produces practical, durable pieces for everyday use.

“That’s what really draws me back to ceramics over and over again,” she said. “It’s not just something you can frame and just put on the wall. It’s something you can use to give you nutrition — to eat and drink out of.”

Her work includes mugs, bowls, dishes, platters, trivets, vases and wall art and can be purchased on Instagram. Mugs cost $25 to $30 apiece. At the high end, a four-piece “nesting” bowl set sold for $125.

Not by choice, Mrs. McGee discovered a talent for making pottery at an early age.

“I started when I was 13 years old,” she remembered with a laugh. “I was a moody teenager, and my parents wanted to get me out of the house and also to give me some sort of an outlet. So they signed me up for a class. It always stuck with me.”

As a University of Maryland art history major, she took an “intensive” ceramics class.

“That was the turning point in my pottery-making career,” Mrs. McGee said. “I’d never been enrolled in an art class that demanded me creating a major project every week.”

After a series of post-college nonprofit jobs, she resumed making pottery about three years ago.

“I was really restless and kept thinking about pottery, because I hadn’t done it for years. I really wanted to get on the pottery wheel, for whatever reason.”

In September, Mrs. McGee started to rent studio time at Big Dog Pots Pottery in Marshall to find her groove again.

There she became good friends with Big Dog owner Lori Langford, who gave encouragement and talked about ways to market and sell her work, Mrs. McGee said.

“I think Lori was the one who planted the seed that I could actually make a business out of this. So she really started to coach me.”

Converting the family’s one-vehicle garage into a kiln- and potter’s wheel-equipped studio, Mrs. McGee launched home-based Blue Cypress Ceramics in April.

• Age
35

• Home 
Warrenton

• Work
Owner, Blue Cypress Ceramics, Warrenton, April-present; studio assistant, Big Dog Pots Pottery, Marshall, September 2019-March; parish administrator, Trinity Episcopal Church, Upperville, 2017-18; services and events manager, Kreeger Museum, Washington, D.C., 2011-16.

• Why do you do the job?
It’s just so rewarding to be able to pull your work out of the kiln and then be able to use it every day. That’s what kind of draws me to pottery — over painting canvass or making purely aesthetic pieces.

What keeps me coming back to it is the intense fulfillment when you finish a piece.

• Family
Husband, Mike, 33; children, Jim, 3; Ellie, 18 months.

• Education
Bachelor’s degree, art history, University of Maryland, 2010; Leonardtown (Md.) High School, 2003.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
About five years.

• Why do you live here? 
Before we moved here, we had pretty much lived all over the D.C.-metro area. After a while, I felt like I wanted to find a place with a sense of home. My husband felt kind of the same way.

We both grew up in rural areas, where in the middle of the night you could walk outside and you wouldn’t hear a single car go by. You just heard the animals. And I started to miss that.

Fauquier is close enough to the metro area that you still have that connection with other people, other cultures, other events. But it’s far enough away that you can really connect with nature.

• How do you describe this county? 
People are really conscious of what makes this place special — the rolling hills, the big fields, the amazing forests preserved.

But they’re not overly isolationist. Everyone’s very friendly. And it’s almost like living in a little city, where everyone kind of gets to know one another.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve been here long enough. We’re still in honeymoon phase with Fauquier County. We’re still in love with it.

• What do you do for fun? 
Making pottery, gardening, cooking. I like to take my dogs and kids to the Warrenton Branch Greenway. It’s perfect for our situation, because it’s not along a busy street. So I can let the kids sort of run around. It’s paved; it’s shaded; it’s flat.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
The Warrenton Branch Greenway.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years? 
I see urban sprawl happening (in the region). So I’m sure that will make its way to the area.

Fauquier will be more developed, but I have faith that the people in charge make sure what makes it special will be preserved.

• Favorite TV show?
“Rick and Morty”

• Favorite movie? 
“Interstellar”

• Favorite book?
“Just Kids” by Patti Smith.

• Favorite vacation spot? 
Destin, Fla.

• Favorite food?
Fresh-picked cucumber and tomato salad with olive oil and lemon juice. 

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
Right before I had my daughter Ellie, I worked about a year at Trinity Episcopal Church, in Upperville. Before I left, one the parishioners asked me how I was doing. I gave her the usual answer: “Oh, great. It’s fine. I’m tired but fine.”

She could tell I had a lot going on. And she said to me: “At this point in your life, the days are long but the years are short.” That so perfectly sums up what life is like when you’re starting a family that it sticks with me every day.

It helps remind me to enjoy the hectic moments as much as I can. I know that very soon there’s going to come a day when my kids are like, “I don’t need you to help me with this. Go away.”

So I’m trying to soak it in as much as I can right now.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My husband. Since Day 1, he literally has been the knight in shining armor. He’s this incredibly selfless person. He’s always been someone who has been right behind me to help me take a step forward when I needed it — even before I realize I need it.

He’s so intelligent. But he’s also very humble. Especially in this world, you don’t see that very often.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery? 
I would pay off all my family members’ debt and them make sure that my kids had a nest egg to start using when they get older.

Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? Email Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or Lou Emerson at LKE@fauquiernow.com
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ronjhon · August 6, 2020 at 11:13 am
This pottery is a great piece of art. The windstorm inspection has been made easy by us. Keep up the good work.
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