Why Is It Called East Fork?

Alex Matisse, East Fork’s founder, on how the company got its name and why it represents a “little private victory” for him.

When I bought the old tobacco farm in 2009, I had no idea it would lead to all of this. I only knew that I wanted to make “pots,” and that to do it in the way that I wanted, I needed to be in the countryside, where the smoke from the occasional firing of the wood-kiln wouldn’t upset the neighbors or attract the fire department.

I bought the farm, complete with a falling down barn, ramshackle farmhouse, and outhouse, without a thought of what I would call the pottery. The name, I trusted, would come to me.

Photos of East Fork founding team at original East Fork location on Ras Grooms Road: Alex Matisse, Connie Matisse, John Vigeland

The story behind the name itself is pretty pedestrian: East Fork was the name of the community where the farm was located. The name had a sense of expanse and mystery to it. The East Fork of what? It conjured visions of valleys and watersheds, opening out into an unknown horizon.

There are East Forks all over the world; almost every river has one. In our case, it was the East Fork of Bull Creek, a small mountain stream that drains the larger Grapevine Community in eastern Madison County. The reality is often not as grand when the curtain is pulled back.

The more interesting (and loaded) question was why, with such a recognizable last name, I didn’t name the pottery after myself but the answer to this is also quite simple: I wanted to make something that would stand on its own, separate from what at the time felt like an omnipresent and inescapable family legacy.

Original East Fork pottery at the company's first location on Ras Grooms Road outside of Asheville

I didn’t want the name of the thing I was going to build to constantly remind people of someone else, even if that reminder was of one of the most famous painters in the world. I wanted it to have the freedom to become something solitary in how it stood in the world. It was a little escapist, but the fact that many of you reading this probably had no idea that it was founded by the great-grandson of Henri Matisse is my own little private victory, and now years later, it’s just another interesting side note to this peculiar and wonderful company.

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An animated image that says "East Fork is a vessel for" a rotating number of things

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