Anyone who creates is an artist. Now, the thing one creates can be as small as a conversation or as big a building. It can be as spontaneous as belting out a tune in the shower, or as tedious as programming software.
The point is, the label of ‘artist’ can be applied to many more people than convention dictates, and trying to bring out the artist in everyone is the mission of The Turquoise Cup, a pottery studio located on the banks of the Delaware River in Burlington City.
“We always have people who come in and are like, ‘I can’t draw, I can’t paint,’’ says owner Erica Jones. “We try to make art an experience, where everyone who comes in can feel like they can walk away with something beautiful.”
Jones got started in pottery as a child growing up in Chicago, where she learned about the power of artistic creation at the classes her mother signed her up for.
“I made this big coil vase that my mom still has,” says Jones. “It was a good 18 inches, and it coils all the way up. I added texture to it, and in my 8-year-old eyes I was making high-end art. But I look at it now and it’s all lopsided and not symmetrical at all.”
Though Jones continued to take art classes sporadically while attending high school in Phoenix, she put art on the back-burner while attending college at Rutgers. In New Brunswick, Jones’ initial goal was to become a sports agent. She participated in sports like track & field, ballet and dance, and wanted to stay in the sports world, but not as a professional athlete. But during her time in college, she realized that she didn’t want to partake in the daily grind that accompanied a job in law.
“I enjoyed the competitive nature of sports, and always wanted to be a lawyer,” explains Jones. “But seeing what those professions were really like and what the lifestyle of those jobs were didn’t seem desirable to me. Life is short and then once life is done it’s done. We can’t be here just to work and that can’t be what life is. For me I wanted to find my path that allowed me to enjoy life.”
For Jones, the path to finding what she loved in life took her through rather mundane work at research firms in New York City.
“I did that for six years” says Jones. “But it was not for me, and I got laid off and got a decent severance package. I realized that I had some wiggle room with what I wanted to do. At that point I was really miserable and over the 9-5 thing.”
In 2009, Jones opened up her first art shop, The Crop Shop, in Hoboken, but Hurricane Sandy inflicted major damage on the studio and the inventory.
Jones did see a silver lining in the aftermath of storm. Sandy provided Jones with a chance to start over and focus on turning her craft shop into a pottery studio and cafe. Even though Jones now had a vision for her future, she had to return to working a 9-5 to cover the losses in the meantime.
“The way I handled Sandy was making plans to subsidize the losses that happened,” says Jones. “After Sandy happened, I had to go back to work, and had a 9-5 while holding down the studio.”
She ran The Turquoise Cup in Hoboken for a few years until she decided it was time for change and moved to Burlington County, and so far she’s loving the vibe in South Jersey.
“I found my group of people,” says Jones. “There’s a great artistic community out here and people have been supportive of the business. It’s also not as congested, and there’s parking here.”
The Turquoise Cup had their grand opening in Burlington City in March, which was attended by Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03). Even though Jones is loving the experience of running her studio in South Jersey, there still are challenges that she is facing.
“I’ve hit the same challenges that everyone else is facing,” says Jones. “COVID was hard, and building materials were super expensive. I’m also facing challenges with back orders and delays. My order for red and black paint finally came after two months. It’s really hard getting stuff and specialty items.”
When people enter the Turquoise Cup, they can take classes on pottery, or guests can walk in and select a piece of pottery to paint.
“There’s a studio fee and the cost for the pottery,” says Jones. “Our art assistants will help you with picking paints, and tools. You’ll spend an hour or two painting. Then you’ll leave the pottery here and we’ll fire it in the kiln to about 1800 degrees and then you pick it up here in a week. When people come back for it, everyone is always surprised and the kids love it. People are always so shocked that their pottery turned out the way it did, and will come back and talk about how they still use the mug they made.”
The kiln, if you’re unfamiliar, is a chamber that heats up and turns what you made with clay into reality—”The lowest temperature we fire to is 1888 degrees, and it takes about seven hours to get to that temperature,” explains Jones. “Then it takes another 24 hours for it to cool down for us to take it out.”
Also included at the painting stations are selfie sticks for people to record themselves painting their set of pottery. Jones wants visitors to remember the whole experience of doing pottery.
“The point of the selfie sticks isn’t to record you, but to record the work that you are doing,” says Jones. “We encourage people to use time-lapse to record whatever they are doing for a really cool memory … but also the phone is out of your hands and you are interacting with the people at the table.”
Even though people won’t have phones in their hands, they might have a drink instead. Jones is teaming up with Evermore Coffee, a Burlington City-based coffee shop for beans. There’s also a speciality drink that Jones has in mind as well.
“I started this speciality drink that is popular with kids, but adults love it as well,” explains Jones. “It’s called unicorn hot cocoa and it’s a white hot chocolate, but then it has a rainbow swirl.”
In the long term, Jones would like to expand The Turquoise Cup to other parts of South Jersey, but right now her main focus is making sure guests leave with a memorable experience.
“The goal is to have this place filled with people looking to spend time together,” says Jones. “I want this place to be a destination for people looking to spend time together.”
The Turquoise Cup. 325 High St., Burlington. theturquoisecup.com