A Note on Soapstone's Departure

Jul 09, 2020 • Connie Matisse

A Note on Soapstone's Departure

A Note on Soapstone's Departure

We're going to be pausing the production of our Soapstone glaze later this year, in preparation of refreshing and expanding our year-round, core colorway. When we made the announcement on Instagram a couple of days ago, people had a lot to say!

Below, I've taken a stab at answering, in one place, some of the questions we've received so far.

If you have more questions that aren’t answered here, leave it in the comments and I'll add the answer to this post.

Soapstone FAQs:

Why are we removing it from our Core Collection?

To put it plainly, as the executive in charge of creative direction at East Fork, I felt it was time. Soapstone has been with us since we first launched the collection in 2015, when we were just beginning to define our aesthetic point of view and getting familiar with the materials available to us. The glaze has gone through lots of phases as our materials and processes have changed and as we've become better at what we do—starting off bluer, sometimes even appearing sagey, until settling into the soft, subdued, water blue-grey it is today. It’s drifted so much over the years that it sort of lost its way and place.

We love the glaze on its own, but it's always been a bit of an outlier in hue and gloss-level. It rarely works with our more saturated, seasonal colors. It’s so close in tone to Eggshell that it can feel redundant. And in certain, bright light, the two are almost indistinguishable.

We've been working on expanding our year-round color offerings over the past year, so that they would be as thoughtful and cohesive as possible, while also being edited down enough to not overwhelm our Production team. 5 was about as many as we thought we could handle offering at a time, so Soapstone is taking a break.

What are you going to offer instead?

We will continue to offer Eggshell and Morel, and later this year, we are also planning to add two new colors to our Core Collection.

We hadn’t planned on sharing these colors this early, but chose to do so because many members in our community gave the feedback that it’d be helpful to know what colors were coming to make decisions during this first pre-order go-around.

Panna Cotta and Amaro, East Fork's newest glazes, coming this fall

If I've been building a collection in Soapstone slowly but it's incomplete, will I have a chance to purchase everything I need to?

Short answer: yes. We will be opening up pre-orders one more time at the end of July. Check our shop updates and Instagram for finalized announcements on that date.

Why can't your team just make more colors at a time? Why can't you expand the Core collection and keep Soapstone?

Simply put, every additional color we offer adds operational complexity for our Production and Fulfillment teams. It would be a dream come true for our Production, Finance, and Operations teams if our Sales, Marketing, and Creative teams could figure out how to sell pots only in Eggshell!

What will be available after the summer? When can I buy the “new core”?

We’re going to do the very best we can to wrangle releases into a proper “schedule” with real launch dates, but we hope you understand that COVID-19 is really messing with us. Again, please take these plans with a grain of salt. We promise we’re not just trying to make your life harder! Here’s the current plan: [updated July 9, 2020]

  • Last two weeks of May you will be able to pre-order:Eggshell, Morel, and Soapstone

  • Late June or Early July you will be able to pre-order: Lapis, Eggshell, Morel, and Soapstone

  • Late July you will be able to pre-order: Soapstone and Lapis.

  • In the fall, you will be able to pre-order: Eggshell, Morel, Amaro, and Panna Cotta.

  • Later in the year you will be able to pre-order: Limited-edition colors we are currently developing with some very special co-conspirators whose names you are likely to recognize and be very excited about. More info soon!

  • November and December: Hopefully, you will be able to purchase “on-hand”/”ready-to-ship” inventory in Eggshell, Morel, Amaro, and Panna Cotta.

Will it ever come back?

As this spring has taught us, all plans should be made very tentatively. There's no way I can in good faith tell you that yes it will come back or no it won't, but my hope for the future is that we eventually expand our core collection from 5 to 8 colors, with 4 warm colors and 4 cool colors. If and when we do this, one of them would be Soapstone. This is a big if! Our production team is not currently in a place to deal with the added complexity of having to make pots in 8 colors right now.

I want to complete my Soapstone collection but my financial situation has been impacted by COVID-19, and I can’t afford to purchase pottery right now.

We hear you. We want to make it clear that limited product availability is a by-product of our own financial and operational constraints—made ever more complicated by this pandemic and not fueled by a desire to cultivate “scarcity marketing tactics.” This is something we’ve gotten accused of in the past and I just have to say it hits me where it hurts because the thought of it is so wildly against our values.

We know that this isn’t a fix for everybody, but we hope it’s helpful for some to use Affirm to break up the payments in interest fee installments.

We’ve already heard from plenty of customers who plan on swapping out their Soapstone for new colors, so we anticipate quite a bit of it being available on the secondhand market. Be sure to follow @eastforkflea for folks who will be posting Soapstone pots for sale. Our buy/sell/trade feed is paused for now, but we’ll pick it back up again when more states lift shelter-in-place orders.

If you have any other questions in this camp, send an e-mail to care@eastfork.com.

What does Soapstone look like with other glazes?

Warning: some of the glazes pictured below are retired. We photograph past, present, and future glaze pairings to help those who already have these glazes in their cupboards and plan their place settings!

Soapstone with other glazes

Soapstone with other glazes

Soapstone with other glazes

Soapstone with other glazes

I’ll leave you with this though, which I shared on Instagram earlier:

I knew that announcing the color's hiatus would be disappointing news for many, but I truly wasn't anticipating the reaction we've gotten so far. A theme I've heard repeated is that with so much change and unknown in the world, this change in our offerings was somehow unfair, manipulative, or mean.

I want to first acknowledge plainly that East Fork does not exist in a vacuum. We, too, are facing unprecedented change and confusion. We are trying to do right by as many people as we’re able by still being true to ourselves and our values.

American manufacturing is in a tough spot. We all know the story by now—factories in the US having to shut their doors and send production overseas, where labor is cheap, factories are big, regulations are ignored or unwritten. The West hungers for more, faster, cheaper but we outsource the nasty by-products of that for other people to deal with. American manufacturers were already struggling. This week the Lenox factory in Kinston, NC shut down for good, leaving 150 people unemployed. Companies we admire so deeply, who we look up to, are having to downsize, pivot, furlough, lay-off, lay-off, lay-off. What we’ve learned since entering this business is that if we’re going to have any chance of building a healthy company that will still be here in 10, 20, or 100 years, we’d have to get really comfortable with changing and adapting.

We are tired but we are lucky, we are grateful, and we are proud. We are proud of the work that we've done to guide our company and our employees through this unprecedented moment in history. We are proud of the work we make and sell. We are grateful for our team working from home with toddlers to answer customer emails or photograph pottery. We are grateful for our team that's shown up to the factory with gloves and masks and safety glasses ready to put their heads down and make your pots. We are so privileged to be in the position to make and sell this work. We are tired, we are grateful, we are proud, and we aren't out of the weeds yet.

Here's what you can expect from us: that we will own up to our mistakes when we make them. That we will make the highest quality objects we're possibly able to, with the materials available to us in that moment, rooted in a tradition of Southern folk pottery, but adapted to our ever-changing lifestyles. That we will be honest and clear in our communications with you. That we will treat the people who help us make and sell this work with the respect they deserve. That we will make decisions based on our core values—compassion, sincerity, equity, accountability, and adaptive tenacity.

Comments (44)

  • Nancy

    I’ve just received my first purchase of your pottery, a soapstone Mug and soup bowl. The color is so pretty and I look forward to purchasing the same items in future colors.

  • Jackie Stewart

    Just a word of appreciation and praise for your attitude, thoughtfulness and wonderful product. I’m a new East Fork collector, having moved to Asheville just a few years ago and being unaware of East Fork pottery until just before the pandemic. I love your pottery and am so impressed by the way you’re dealing with the unforeseeable ways the pandemic has affected and shaped your business. Building my collection from scratch, leaving room in it for colors that come next, and getting acquainted with the size and usefulness of the different forms, have made have made this an adventure in long-distance retail for me. The anticipation of finding out what’s next is sort of fun but sparks my impatience. Thanks for your smart and thoughtful way of making your way through what has to be a scary time for any business. Keep up the good work!

  • GK

    Thank you for taking the time to thoroughly explain the thought process behind the decision to stop producing Soapstone. I love that your company is so transparent!

  • Kerry Smithwick

    I love all the colors! Can not wait to see what is next – I preordered the Lapis and am very excited about that color for sure.

    Love what EF means to our community and what generous souls you all are. Blessings and Hugs!

  • Drudy Sullivan

    I think Soapstone is your best color. I hate to see it go. 😔

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