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A couple’s journey from Ceramics 101 class to their own studio, Round Trip Clayworks

Host Ray Hardman interviews ceramic artists Erika Novak and Drew Darby for CT Public’s original series ‘Where ART Thou?' in Farmington on November 16, 2023. Erika and Drew are life partners and co-owners of Round Trip Clayworks.
Dave Wurtzel
/
Connecticut Public
Host Ray Hardman interviews ceramic artists Erika Novak and Drew Darby for CT Public’s original series ‘Where ART Thou?' in Farmington on November 16, 2023. Erika and Drew are life partners and co-owners of Round Trip Clayworks.

Erika Novak and Drew Darley met randomly in a basic ceramics class at Central Connecticut State University. It was a moment that would shape their lives.

“So we met in the basement of the art building, which is the ceramics program at CCSU,” Novak told CPTV’s “Where Art Thou?” host Ray Hardman. “Down there, it’s a cool place, with a bunch of kilns, all clay, dusty, dirty, very creative.”

Novak said she and Darley were friends at first, two people committed to learning more about ceramics.

“We graduated, and Erika was like, ‘let's just take a road trip.’ I was like, ‘okay, cool. Let's take a road trip,’” said Darley. “By the end of the road trip, it turned into, ‘let's open a studio full time.’”

They came home and opened Round Trip Clayworks. The name is a homage to that first road trip.

Despite learning the craft together in college, their styles are quite different. Erika carves patterns into her colorful earthenware. She is inspired by art deco and mid-century modern forms.

“I just love landscapes,” Novak said. “I love looking at the different colors of nature. That's kind of where my work comes from. It's bright patterns and colors. I will see different things in nature, and that translates to my art.”

Darley’s vases and bottles are sleek, with attention to form. He uses a crystalline glaze on most of his pottery.

“So, on that original ceramic form, I'm mixing and formulating the glazes to grow crystal structures,” said Darley. “In the most basic terms, it's a thin layer of melted glass over the ceramic form. And in that thin layer, those crystal structures can grow. And then you pair that with a really specific firing schedule, and you can get all kinds of different results.”

“I think we're super lucky at this point in our artistic careers,” said Novak. “We get to make what we want to make, right? I am so fortunate that I want to carve these patterns and paint and people are responsive to it, and they are supporting it. And Drew gets to make crystalline glazes, and people think that's cool enough they want to buy one.”

LEARN MORE:
Watch the full segment on “Where Art Thou?”, Sunday at 7:30pm on Connecticut Public Television, and streaming online.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.