By Jessica Graybill

Here at the shop, we hear many of the same sentiments repeated day in and day out by our customers; mostly kind adoration for our products and store (which never gets old!) but every once in a while, I hear “It’s so pretty, I would never want to use it!”. While I absolutely understand the desire to squirrel away “the good stuff” for special occasions, I think it bears repeating that life itself is a special occasion! If we never use our favorite dishes, they sit in a cabinet where no one can even appreciate them – and that is a terrible tragedy. Someone took hours (possibly even days) out of their life to create these beautiful, functional pieces of art – they are meant to be seen, meant to be loved, talked about, and certainly meant to be used!

From the New York Times – Fragments of ancient pottery found in southern China date back 20,000 years, making them the world’s oldest known pottery.

Pottery is something of an anomaly in the housewares department because it is at once both fragile and long-lasting. Examples of ceramics (see above) from some of the earliest civilizations are all we have left to prove those civilizations ever existed; and yet, one false move in the sink and we’ve taken a chunk out of our favorite dish. It’s a perplexing duality, but one we can handle with grace if we remember some key insights.

Chips happen to pottery and people alike. Every one of us has had experiences that have shaken us, maybe caused a scar. On a human this scar can be emotional or physical, but in pottery, it’s always visible. If the dish survives the blow the glaze chips away to show the beautiful red clay underneath, a reminder that your favorite dish is multi-layered and made of the earth. Some folks consider chips unsightly, but I’d like to shift the perspective; instead of looking at the flaw, decide to look at the overall piece. It still exhibits the same beautiful handiwork that drew you to it in the first place, but now it’s just been “around the block” a little bit – nothing wrong with that! If you think of your favorite person, there are probably some qualities about them that might drive you a little nutty, but it ultimately doesn’t detract from your overall love of them.

Liz, our weekend manager and merchandising MacGyver (she’s the reason our store looks so dang good all the time!) is fond of telling customers that she turned the corner on chipped dishes when she found herself at a restaurant in Northern Italy that served its food on dishes that were “just beat to hell!”. The signs of wear and use, accumulated presumably over decades, made the dishes so much more interesting – and I totally understand why this would make an impression on someone. Well-worn is a quality that seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years as it’s become easier to manufacture things cheaply and replace things as they show their age; but poor imitations never exhibit the same joie de vivre that their well-loved, well-made counterparts do. I’ve made a personal resolution to make sure only to buy things that will look just as good if not better as they become worn in. Quality handmade items always make the cut!

Despite all my philosophizing about the resilience of handmade ceramics, alas, sometimes our favorite pieces break beyond repair or reasonable traditional use. Adele, one of the owners here, has created a beautiful garden of earthly delights featuring chipped, broken, or otherwise funky but still completely lovable pieces that she’s accumulated over the years.

This fruit-faced Bacchus is missing a few leaves, but still makes a beautiful addition to the garden!

As you can see, the Bacchus above may be missing some leaves but he’s still out there living his best life hung in the hedge, overlooking picturesque views of downtown Santa Barbara and the Pacific ocean! These creative arrangements add a touch of bohemian ambiance to your home and will continue to inspire you as they evolve.

Give your well-loved pieces new life – retire chipped, broken or otherwise unusable ceramics to your garden!

This philosophical approach might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but hopefully these reflections have inspired you in some way!

We love to learn and share new ways to display pottery collections; if you have photos of yours and want to showcase your creativity, please email us at!

These handmade ceramics have become beautiful decorative accents and provide shade for lizards on hot California days.