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Throughout her life, Jess Cheatham’s artistic pursuits have involved a variety of mediums: ceramics, bookbinding, sewing, and photography, to name a few. But it was a chance encounter with a box stuffed with old wares that caused Cheatham to remember how much she had once enjoyed spinning a pottery wheel. She enrolled in classes and soon found a studio to dive into her work anew.
Today, Cheatham creates modern, minimalist clay creations under the name Salt Ceramics, in a North Nashville studio; the revitilized area is now a hub for local, creative talent. At Salt Ceramics, you’ll find spouted cups perfect for pouring cream, small salt bowls with accompanying spoons, unique wine glasses, and a variety of vessels that fulfill any number of cooking and home-décor needs.
“I’ve always been a collector of little cups and bowls,” Cheatham says. “I like having different containers for specific uses.”
The artist loves to cook and toil around in her garden, professing a love for food and drink, which means inspiration comes easy. When she’s not making a dinner bowl, she’s likely using one to serve up something tasty. And her experience in the kitchen applies to her trade: She creates stalwart staples that can tolerate a little abuse and klutzy behavior. Her tableware and accessories are all wheel-thrown, coated in a food-safe glaze and fired in an electric kiln set to 2,200 degrees.
“I like having a general idea of what I want to make,” she says. “But, often, I end up changing course and winging it.”
To start her process, Cheatham takes large pieces of clay and wedges them by hand to remove air bubbles. Then, she weighs and measures them. In total, the process takes about two weeks—including time for throwing, drying, trimming, firing, and glazing.
When she isn’t at the wheel, Cheatham works part-time as an art assistant to studio neighbor and building owner, artist Alex Lockwood, or she works on commissioned projects for restaurants like The Catbird Seat, or retailers like Goodwin. And, for those looking for a unique wedding idea, Cheatham also offers registry services. —Emily Davidson Nemoy
1411 Buchanan St., 615-243-4654; saltceramics.com