The Madd Potters’ Studio
In Cape May, there are shops of all varieties. From crystals and soaps to local merchandise, clothing and gifts, there’s a store dedicated to just about every type of product. And while they’re all part of the fabric of Cape May’s shopping district, there are only a few venues that provide activities along with shopping. Enter The Madd Potters’ Studio.
Started in 2008 by professional potters Amanda Leipert and Julie Hickman, The Madd Potters’ Studio began as a storefront, a place to house the ever-growing collection of goods made by Leipert and Hickman, who met when they were both potters at Cold Spring Village.
“We hit it off pretty quickly,” says Leipert of meeting Hickman. “It took her all summer to convince me to go into business, but by that fall, we opened The Madd Potters.’”
Of course, that first incarnation of The Madd Potters’ Studio was distinctly different—and a whole lot smaller—than the current version. The original location was in a shed-like structure at Woodland Village in Clermont, and as it moved from place to place over the years—from Clermont to the basement of The Merry Widow in Cape May—it also grew. A lot. The Madd Potters’ Studio also has a spot at West End Garage.
“We could never have jumped into where we are now,” says Leipert.
Initially, The Madd Potters’ Studio carried the pottery of Leipert and Hickman exclusively. However, with only their own work on hand, busy days could wipe out their inventory. The solution was to collect and carry the work of other artists in their retail space.
“We started to branch out and go to American professional handcrafted trade shows,” says Leipert. “And then we just kind of collected people who would come into the store and want us to look at their work, and if we really liked it and thought it was cool, we started to carry some of it.”
And though The Madd Potters’ Studio started carrying more retail options, it wasn’t until they moved into one of their current locations at the Cape May Airport Complex that the real magic began. In addition to a retail store, the venue at the airport complex houses a working pottery studio as well as an outdoor wine garden, making it much bigger than a simple stop on a shopping excursion. Among the variety of goods here visitors can find glass works, upcycled garden art, bags by Lydia, and other fun and eclectic items, as well as a wide assortment of pottery.
“You walk in the front and there’s retail,” says Leipert. “There are actually two rooms of retail, and then the third room opens up into our studio. Then we have a garage door that’ll walk you right out the back onto the wine patio. It’s dreamy. We love it there. It’s our happy place.”
Despite a prolonged setback—airport issues resulted in a two-and-a-half-year delay—the venue has been operational since 2019, much to the delight of amateur potters, shoppers, and wine drinkers alike. And though you’re likely to run into plenty of people shopping for gifts and unique, handmade artisan wares while at The Madd Potters’ Studio, you’re just as likely to catch the pottery bug from Leipert and Hickman.
“We were chomping at the bit to get in there because we both really wanted to teach,” says Leipert. “I taught at home, but we never taught massive groups outside of the library system. We wanted to go to the airport so we could teach ongoing classes, kids’ classes, adult classes, and private events.”
From Friday night kids’ classes and Thursday all-level wheel classes, to Sunday’s family friendly studio samplers, there are plenty of opportunities to learn the ins and outs of pottery in a friendly, supportive environment. The Madd Potters’ Studio also hosts two weeks of summer camp for kids and a variety of private events. In addition to open-ended sessions, there are also project-specific classes in clay and other mediums, with occasional guest artists like Patricia Neville and Paige Cunningham teaching their own classes.
“It gives folks variety,” says Leipert. “Not everybody likes pottery, and we get that. So, we want people to think of us as more than just pottery because we’re kind of a home. It’s a place where everything melts away. That’s the great thing about clay: you are so focused in the moment on what you’re doing that no matter what is going on in your life, that’s your time to just work on that. I’ve had several ladies in my Sunday class say it’s like church for them, because it’s this meditative kind of Zen state.”
The classes are meant to be fun and open to exploration and interpretation, but they’re also surprisingly affordable. Single two-hour sessions on Thursdays and Sundays are just $55 per session and include five pounds of clay, glaze, and firing. Not too shabby when you consider the cost of just about anything else these days.
“We’ve tried very hard to hold our pricing even though our own materials have gone through the roof,” says Leipert. “We had a couple that came down to take my class. They lived in New York City, and they said it was cheaper to rent a car and get an Airbnb for the weekend and take my class than take one in the city.”
No matter where you’re coming from, or what class you’re taking, don’t expect to go home with a finished product. While Leipert acknowledges that some studios are very quick to fire pieces and get them out the door, at this studio, they are very conservative with drying time.
“It’s usually about a month, and it could be a little bit less, but it could be more,” says Leipert. “We try to be really on top of it as much as we can, but we’d rather have you wait and have your piece come back to you than rush it and hand you a bag full of shards.”
Of course, the extended wait time is a perfect reason to come back to The Madd Potters’ Studio, whether for another class or open studio time, a peek at the new merchandise, or a bottle of wine in the wine garden. As an outlet for Auburn Road Vineyards, The Madd Potters’ Studio sells a variety of wines including Good Karma, Dry Rose, Sole, Gaia, and more, and — hooray! — flights of wine are also available.
“We have picnic tables and a big wine shed with a bar where we sell Auburn Road Wine,” says Leipert. “We’re a beer friendly wine garden—we let people bring their beer and food. It’s a really cool, cool space out there.”