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Petaluma Ceramist Creates Stunning Stoneware Mugs and Vases

Heather Fordham converted her garage into a pottery studio a few years back to focus on improving her craft. “I am a perfectionist, and that probably shows in my work,” she laughs.

Heather Fordham converted her garage into a pottery studio a few years back to focus on improving her craft. (Paige Green)

Her creations bring joy to our everyday rituals. “It’s nice to think of people starting their day with one of my mugs. I get to help them get caffeinated,” laughs ceramicist Heather Fordham. “Or have a cup of tea when they need to calm down.”

The Petaluma mother of two converted her garage into a pottery studio a few years back to focus on improving her craft. But when looking at her work, including elegantly glazed matte-black mugs and dinnerware, it’s hard to imagine even a hint of artistic struggle. “It looks so much like cast iron. It just feels strong — and it goes with everything,” says Fordham.

With a focus on form and shape as opposed to decoration, if Fordham isn’t happy with something, odds are good it won’t make it to the final firing. She doesn’t hesitate to recycle clay, working with it again and again until she gets exactly what she wants. “I am a perfectionist, and that probably shows in my work,” she laughs. “I just want to get better. That’s my main goal, to improve my craft, and it’s fun to see that happening over the years.”

Stoneware vase by Heather Fordham. (Paige Green)
Stoneware mug by Heather Fordham. (Paige Green)

As her kids head back to school this fall, Fordham is excited to have more time to indulge in the creative process and make use of a newly acquired kiln with even more capacity. Mugs may be her favorite thing to make, but she continues to branch out, working with weightier pieces of clay to create larger plates, broad serving bowls, and taller vases —which have a knack for finding their way to friends’ and neighbors’ homes filled with flowers from Fordham’s own garden.

Heather Fordham works at the potter’s wheel. (Paige Green)
Tools in Heather Fordham’s Petaluma studio. (Paige Green)

Interest in Fordham’s work on is the rise, as locals see it in use at nearby restaurants, including Table Culture Provisions. Fordham is thrilled by the attention but remains focused on investing that success back into her maker community. A passionate supporter of fellow small-business owners, she collects mugs made by other Sonoma ceramicists. The stockpile comes in handy on a daily basis as she indulges in her morning ritual at Petaluma Coffee & Tea Co.

“I like to think I’m supporting my fellow potters when I drink out of their mugs, when I purchase theirs, so I think it’s just supporting the makers I know. It’s a nice connection to them.”

Buy Fordham’s ceramics directly from the artist on Instagram @heatherfordhamceramics. You can also find her work at area restaurants and design shops, including Penngrove Market, Table Culture Provisions, and Herb Folk.

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