The Outer Banks Voice – How OBX’s ‘Pottery Family’ came together

How OBX’s ‘Pottery Family’ came together

By Maggie Miles | Outer Banks Voice on December 12, 2022

Left to right, Maggie Wilson, Lauren Evans, Skyla Lamberto-Egan, Melanie Westheiden and Genevieve Stewart

It might be fair to say the Outer Banks “Pottery Family,” was born in Robin York’s pottery class on the Dare County campus of the College of the Albemarle.

Four members of the “Family”— Skyla Lamberto-Egan, Genevieve Stewart, Lauren Evans, and Maggie Wilson — who each own a ceramics business on the Outer Banks, got to know each other in York’s class, fell in love with the craft, and went on to build their own style, followings, and businesses.

The fifth member, Melanie Westheiden of Swell Ceramics, was already making a name for herself as a ceramics artist on the Outer Banks when the other women took the class and started their businesses. While she didn’t take York’s class at COA, she did take it back in Manteo High School, which inspired her to go on to try it in college.

Rather than act as rivals, these artists view each other as family, sharing work online, picking up clay in far off cities for each other, buying each other’s pieces, lending each other equipment and having get-togethers to discuss different techniques and talk about wins and struggles in pottery, business and life.

“It’s amazing. I love them all. I can’t say enough about all of them,” said Stewart.

“I think what makes this so special is that we’ve all been so supportive of each other and there’s no sense of competition. There’s space for everyone.”

Recently they got together over at Swells’a Brewing, and this month Lamberto-Egan is having all of the women over to have Hilda Bayliss, a well-known Outer Banks ceramics artist, teach them how to do a special technique of pottery that is done over a fire pit.

“We’ve had nerdy conversations like what fire temperature do you use, or what clay do you buy or how do you know when to change your thermocouple — just things that you don’t really have in your everyday conversation. But with your pottery friends you’re like this is so fun, we are so like-minded together,” Evans noted.


Lauren Evans of Wana World Market

Lauren Evans (Photo courtesy Lauren Evans)

Evans signed up for the pottery class at COA when she was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2017. Working in the restaurant industry at the time, she said the doctors told her the seizures were caused by stress. “I really wanted to create something, not only to get a creative outlet, but to do something that was really just for myself,” she explained.

She started her business, Wana World Market, that same year. It was originally intended to be pop-up shops featuring home goods from her travels around the world. She set out some of her pottery as decorations, but people started asking if it was for sale. “So I thought, ‘oh maybe next time I’ll put a price tag on it,’” Evans recalled. To her surprise, people started buying. She had an idea to create small, colorful ceramic magnets, the most popular being tiny vases that you can put flowers in.

“That idea just went wild and now my…tiny display turned into this huge one this year,” she said.

This past March, Evans went full-time as an artist, selling her pieces wholesale at five shops from Currituck to Ocracoke, including Carolina Charm, Seagreen Gallery and Down Creek Gallery. She also continues her pop-up markets and has an Etsy shop online.

As for her personal style, Evans says she loves the perfectly imperfect.

“I love the little details that somebody would say ‘Oh it’s kind of wonky here,’ because you can buy perfect things at home goods and so many different stores because you know they’re manufactured,” said Evans. “But something perfectly imperfect makes me happy because it reminds people that it’s handmade and that it’s made at my dining room table.”


Maggie Wilson of MagJag Pottery

Maggie Wilson (Photo courtesy of Maggie Wilson)

After taking the COA class, Wilson started by doing a few pop-ups and posting pieces on Instagram. Then Lindsay Dilworth started carrying her pieces at ALTwood in Duck. “Lindsay carried my work at her store before anyone else was even interested, which showed me that making and selling pottery was actually an option for me to make money,” said Wilson.

She spent the first two years of her career working out of her laundry room and driving all over the Outer Banks and Virginia Beach to rent space in people’s kilns to fire her work. Then she and her dad spent a few months building a tiny-house studio together.

In August 2021, she was able to quit her restaurant jobs and go full-time as a ceramics artist. Though social media is a large part of her business, you can now find her mugs at Treehouse Coffee Co. and Swells’a Brewing with their logos on them and her original pieces at Ashleys Espresso Parlour.

According to Wilson, her style is “wavy, color pop, functional, fun stuff.” Her favorites are the creative and useful pieces she makes like taco plates, hanging pendant lights and her new “alien-like” folded vases.

One struggle for Wilson was finding the confidence to put herself and her work out there. But now her goal is to show people that pottery can be for everyone.

“Pottery should be fun and available to anyone who wants to try it. I’m happy with my business right now,” she declared. “But my long-term goal is to open a co-op on the beach where anyone can come get their hands dirty.”


Skyla Lamberto-Egan of Laughing Sky Ceramics

Skyla Lamberto-Egan (Photo courtesy Skyla Lamberto-Egan)

Lamberto-Egan signed up for the COA class when looking for something fun to occupy the Outer Banks winter hours. Aside from making pottery, Lamberto-Egan is a certified massage therapist and a full-time firefighter for the Town of Nags Head. That schedule may sound hectic, but Lamberto-Egan brings a laid-back surfer mentality to the way she approaches Laughing Sky Ceramics.

“I’ve never had a business plan for pottery or life,” she explained. “When I see the pieces I made a few years ago — most of these my parents embarrassingly still use and love — I wonder how I got from that level to having people actually asking me when and where I’m selling.”

She finds time for pottery in between firefighting shifts, massage appointments and her favorite thing, being outside in the sun. When people ask for pottery, she invites them to her house to look through her creations or she offers to meet them somewhere. In the winter when she has time, she sells at markets.

“My motivation to keep making is solely for the enjoyment,” she says. “When the wheel is spinning, my hands and arms are covered in clay, and a nondescript chunk of mud starts to form into something under the guidance of my hands, every other thought leaves my head and I’m just there, breathing, creating, and at peace.”

With a laugh, she characterizes her style as “random,” adding that “there are a few constants I’ve learned over time. But it’s really just one big experiment and I’m constantly learning from friends, watching videos online, or just going for it and seeing what happens.”


Genevieve Stewart of Soundside Road Creative

Genevieve Stewart (Photo courtesy of Genevieve Stewart)

Stewart signed up for the COA class at the beginning of 2019. “I had no plan. I was just doing something creative that wasn’t work, and I just loved it,” she said.

By December 2019, she decided to invest in a kiln and wheel of her own. She planned on experimenting with it in the off season when her wedding photography business slowed down. Then COVID hit and weddings were canceled.

With a growing following on Instagram (now at more than 10,000 followers) and receiving orders from as far as California and Washington during the pandemic, Stewart, who has a few rental properties, was able to replace her wedding photography enterprise with her ceramics business.

Stewart stands out from the crowd by using a technique called Sgraffito, a ceramic decoration that involves painting a coat of color onto a piece and then carving a design to reveal the color underneath.

“I saw that you can dip a piece in glaze, but for me I wanted to push it farther,” said Stewart.

With a predominantly nautical theme, her black and white carved designs are meaningful to Stewart, inspired by her childhood on the Outer Banks, her children, and causes that she’s passionate about.

Stewart says pottery was also an essential piece of her being able to move on with her daughters after her divorce.

“Pottery for me represents a path of growing into alignment with my truest self and teaching my daughters to do the same. Always a work in progress.”


Melanie Westheiden of Swell Ceramics

Melanie Westheiden (Photo courtesy Melanie Westheiden)

In 2014, Westheiden transferred to UNC Wilmington to study wedding photography. She signed up for a pottery class as an elective and switched focus, graduating in 2017 with a degree in studio art with a concentration in pottery.

She moved in with her parents on the Outer Banks with a five-year plan to go full-time as an artist. She was able to borrow studio equipment from a friend and keep it at her house. But soon, her three side jobs were taking up all of her time.

“It got to a point where I was turning away orders to go work at the animal shelter,” says Westheiden.

Her parents sat her down and said it was time to make pottery a full-time effort. So she quit the other jobs, and with the encouragement of her family, was able to do what she thought would take five years in just one.

“I think they’ve been my biggest supporters since day one,” she says. “When I had the studio at their house, it was in the corner of my dad’s wood workshop. And then my mom sacrificed her pantry for my kiln.”

Soon after that she was able to move into her own place, and in 2020, she opened her first brick and mortar shop at the antique mall in Nags Head. At that time, she had already become a pioneer on the Outer Banks for harnessing Instagram to sell her art, gaining a large following through posting beautiful pictures and fun, instructional videos of her pottery. She now sells pottery in her shop, at Dowdy Park markets and on Instagram, where she just hit 30,000 followers.

According to Westheiden, her favorite thing is when women come up to her and tell her that they started doing pottery because they saw from her and others that it’s possible.

“It gives me all the warm and fuzzies,” she declared.