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Studio Series

A Window into the Ceramic Studio of Jono Pandolfi

As part of our recent Ganza, the Keap team visited local master-craftsman  Jono Pandolfi in Union City, NJ. We were lucky enough to receive an extended tour of his ceramic studio and wanted to share our behind-the-scenes look.

Blooming rogue sunflowers wave in greeting as you approach the old Yardley Soap Building in Union City, New Jersey. It’s a fittingly festive welcome, hinting at the artistry taking place inside where Jono Pandolfi’s bustling ceramic studio is located.

Sunflowers wave hello before entering Pandolfi's studio on the palisade's edge in Union City, NJ.

Upon entering the studio we were welcomed into the sun-drenched space by a framed, black-and-white still of Patrick Swayze embracing Demi Moore from Ghost’s most iconic scene.

In fact, posters of Patrick Swayze seemed to be a constant companion when moving throughout the main studio, blessing those inside with his presence. 

The centerpiece of the studio is undoubtedly the wall of east-facing windows, arms swung open to the Hudson River and Manhattan’s remarkable skyline beyond.

A wall of east facing windows showering the studio in late-morning light.

The window sills in the studio showcase moments of joy, and gorgeous views of Manhattan's skyline live just beyond the windows. 

Jono began making ceramics in 2004, and his studio has grown rapidly in recent years, with his notoriety rising. Despite a feverish appetite for his work, the mood in the studio was calm and casual, exemplified by Jono’s vibrant t-shirt emblazoned with a kitten wielding a lightsaber. He and Nick, his brother and business partner, guided us from station to station, explaining the many processes that unfold in an average day at the studio.

Get an inside look into how Pandolfi's dinnerware is made from start to finish.

Jono explained to us that, “each piece he has designed has its own unique production process, which can entail as many as 15 individual steps, and use methods such as slip casting, jiggering, and good old-fashioned wheel throwing.” 

We witnessed many of these steps in action — from the "pugging" of clay to remove air, to the "jiggering" of forms, through to the bisque and glaze firing of final pieces in the studio's new and impressive kilns.  

Jono inspects the pieces loaded into the studio's glaze kiln the previous night.

As we continued our tour, we saw Jono's team of sixteen artisans handling different areas of production moved seamlessly around their stations and each other, fluently completing the day’s tasks and production needs.

It was mesmerizing to watch. From throwing, bisquing, and glazing individual pieces, we were treated to a true insider's look at the many hands and care it takes to create a finished Jono Pandolfi piece.

Stacks of second-life ceramics in dialogue with stacks of ceramics that passed all their quality tests wait patiently in their ship stations.

Since the beginning of 2022, we've been working on an exciting collaboration with Jono in the form of — you guessed it — a ceramic candle! Stephen, one of the co-founders of Keap, met Nick Pandolfi a couple of years ago, and the two bonded over their shared approach and ambition to create local manufacturing jobs right here on the East Coast. These shared values evolved into plans for a collaborative small-batch edition candle, merging the two business's emphasis on handmade processes.

Our Wood Cabin scent burning in the window at the Pandolfi studio. 

We’re excited to be working with such an esteemed local company, and moreover, one with whom we share an appreciation for the quality, love, and care that go into crafting a hand-made product. The candle will be available for sale at 8 am EST on Saturday, November 12th, 2022, so mark your calendars if you want to claim yours. Each ceramic candle is being made-to-order and will ship in 2-3 weeks.

“[Keap + Jono] share an appreciation for the quality, love, and care that go into crafting a hand-made product.”

Nick and Jono were incredibly gracious with their time and transparency about the business, and we couldn’t help but leave with our own handfuls of beautiful ceramic heirlooms to add to our homes and cherish for years to come. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them and to tour their space, and we hope you are just as excited about the result. Head here to shop Jono’s entire range, or head over here to learn more about the small-batch edition candle.

Order your Small-Batch Edition Ceramic Candle Here:

Jeff, Nick's sweet pup and Pandolfi's mascot, signs off.

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