Jill Hinckley Pottery: Weird as You Want to Be

Jill Hinckley. Photo by Robert Devaney.

From the moment you walk through the door, the lighthearted atmosphere of Jill Hinckley Pottery engulfs you. Located along Blues Alley, the new studio boasts a large open space, perfect for aspiring potters.

Exposed brick and bright walls enclose the room. Hundreds of beautiful handcrafted pots line shelves throughout the store, showcasing work created by potters who have come to learn at the hands of the master, Jill Hinckley.

Hinckley teaches five of the 15 classes offered by the studio, where she focuses on teenagers as well as on adult potters. The studio also runs summer-camp lessons for children aged 9 and older, and will soon expand the instructional space to the building’s upper level. “They’ll start out not knowing much of anything,” says Hinckley, who loves to watch students develop into skilled potters.

Hinckley’s passion comes from living in New York City and working in art galleries. Many of the artists she encountered there were potters, which intrigued her. She and her business partner set up a shop in Georgetown in the late 1960s. They were in Adams Morgan for decades, returning to Georgetown this year.

DSC_0597“I found quite a few really good potters in Washington,” she says. Having grown up not far away in Gaithersburg, Maryland, “I felt comfortable here.”

Hinckley’s knack for sharing her knowledge of the techniques and joys of pottery making came naturally. “I hung out in the pottery studio all the time,” she explains, “I wound up teaching everybody.”

One of the most noted characteristics of Hinckley’s studio has to do with the relationships formed over the years. “She and Suzie have built a community,” says Sarah Waybright, a student-turned-employee of Hinckley’s. “She makes you feel like you can be a better person, but you’re also fine as you are.”

Another student, Annie Binger, who’s been coming to the studio for a few months, expressed her respect for Hinckley’s teaching style, which encourages beginning students “to relax and let the piece evolve.”

Along with fee-based classes, the studio offers a work-study program in which potters can have free use of the workspace in exchange for working at the store.

Hinckley’s humble commitment to her work and to the people around her are part of what draws students in. “All I do is sit here, throw pots and try to get people to be better potters.”

Last month, Hinckley was featured in a live Washington Post video, in which she showed off her skills for thousands of viewers. “I was proud of the fact that a lot of people saw it … I didn’t know what I was getting into,” she says.

DSC_0592Young or old, new to the craft or highly experienced, all are welcome at Jill Hinckley Pottery. And when a member of the studio family is referred to as “weird,” it’s meant with affection.

“I love the weirdos,” Hinckley says. “This is a place where people can be as weird as they want to be, and that’s okay.”

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