Kiln to Table
by Remy Tumin
When Lainey Fink Scott sat behind the pottery wheel for the first time, it wasn’t pretty.
“It was so frustrating, but I was determined to make a piece that I liked. I went into the studio and completely fell in love,” Lainey recalled. “I don’t even remember my first successful piece. Everything was really heavy and pretty bad.”
“But I kept thinking about it,” she added. “I loved the idea of working with my hands. I was definitely missing that from working on the computer.”
Lainey was a graphic design student at the Rhode Island School of Design at the time and a friend had encouraged her to try ceramics. After her first class, she was hooked.
Ten years and many broken pieces later, Lainey runs her own pottery studio, Lainey Fink Scott Ceramics, out of her Oak Bluffs home.
“It was a struggle at the beginning. It’s something that takes a lot of practice,” Lainey said. “But every second that I could be, I was in the studio. I was drawn to working with my hands, working the dirt and feeling connected to nature.”
Lainey grew up in Rhinebeck, N.Y. “in the middle of the woods,” she said. After graduating from RISD, Lainey and her now husband, Ben Scott, moved to Boston where they both worked in design firms. But after seven years, the couple was looking to relocate somewhere more aligned with that “in the middle of the woods” feeling. Ben grew up on the Island, and she was a summer kid.
“I always had a strong connection with the Island, but didn’t know I wanted to live here,” she said. “We moved here [in 2014] and it was everything we were looking for.”
The couple now owns and operates a popular design firm on the Island, Bluerock Design.
Lainey didn’t touch clay during the years she lived in Boston. It wasn’t until she moved to the Vineyard, and found the Featherstone Center for the Arts, that she was reintroduced.
“It took me a while to get back into it,” Lainey said. She didn’t want to take any classes; she preferred to “get back to it on my own.” She watched YouTube videos and other people in the open studio.
“I think I wanted to connect back to nature and it was a creative way of doing it. It hit on a lot of different levels,” she said.
When her friend Nathan Gould, then chef at the Beach Plum Inn, commissioned her to create ceramic pieces for the Chilmark restaurant, Lainey outgrew the community kiln at Featherstone.
“He got me started, and it was such an amazing start to have this beautiful food plated on my plates,” Lainey said. She bought her own wheel, bought her own kiln, and took over the basement of her home.
It was just the push she needed.
“With pottery you have to be on top of it all the time – drying, trimming, glazing – I have to keep track of all these little guys,” she said. “Having my studio right there, I wake up in the morning and go down and monitor everything I need to.”
Lainey looks to a Scandinavian midcentury design for style inspiration, but balances it with Vineyard touches like beach stones and wood grain. The names of a few of her glazes include galaxy blue, tangerine ice, barnacle white, and cucumber.
And don’t forget that ceramics is technically a before-and-after-work and weekend hobby, a hobby that has landed her in stores around the Vineyard including Morrice Florist, Behind the Bookstore, Scottish Bakehouse and Vineyard Decorators.
Though her work has a lightness to it, that kind of feel good mug that sits perfectly in your hand, for instance, Lainey wants her pottery to be useable, something you reach for again and again.
“What makes me really happy is when people use my pottery,” Lainey said. “I want people to pick up the mug I made and use it for their coffee every morning. I don’t want people to be nervous to pick my stuff up or worry that it’s going to break. I use mine on a daily basis.”
From clay to coffee, ceramics are a part of Lainey’s daily routine. But the art form has also served as a therapeutic outlet. Lainey was diagnosed with Lyme disease when she was 11 years old, long before much was known about the tick-borne illness. The chronic disease has come and gone over the years, usually resurfacing when she’s stressed, and Lainey developed anxiety in her teens.
She’s returned to the wheel again and again for comfort.
“It’s one of those things that is very meditative,” Lainey said. “It puts you into your body and outside of your head.”