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31 July 2021

All Fired Up: Q&A with Ceramicist Frances Palmer

A selection of Frances' ash glazed pots.

Frances Palmer’s hands are always busy—whether she’s spinning her world-famous pottery, arranging colorful bouquets from her own cutting gardens, baking cakes, or, most recently, writing a book. “Frances Palmer, Life in the Studio: Inspiration and Lessons on Creativity,” was released this past fall (2020). In it, she shares her artistic adventures, from studying art history to building her wildly successful pottery business. The Connecticut-based artist also takes you into her kitchen and garden. You can see her work at an upcoming exhibit, August 1-7, at North Haven Gallery in Maine. Peek into her life @francespalmer or

Janet Mavec: How did you get through 2020?

Frances Palmer: Being here in the studio without travel or interruptions allowed time and peace to focus on my garden and ceramics. I feel very lucky and my heart goes out to all of the people who have been challenged and suffered.

JM: What have you been doing/watching/reading/cooking?

FP: My book, “Life in the Studio,” was published by Artisan, so I’ve spent time doing lectures and having conversations via Zoom. I’ve been reading book on various subjects, usually photography, ceramics and gardening. I’ve been cooking lots of vegetables lately, as we have two organic farms about a mile away and the produce is divine.

Frances' dahlias at their peak in her Connecticut garden.

JM: What’s your favorite season?

FP: I look forward to spring and fall. I love spring because I adore the tulips, narcissi and fritillary. Roses, peonies and bearded iris. In the fall, I love the dahlias, zinnias and chrysanthemums.

JM: What’s your top 3 favorite plants and why?

FP: So hard to say. Tulip, bearded iris and dahlia... And chrysanthemum?

Flowers from Frances garden fill her vases with exuberance.

JM: What plant gets no love and why should we pay more attention to it?

FP: Gladioli. They are a mid-summer spectacular show.

JM: What’s one of your favorite gardens with “rooms”?

FP: Rousham House and Gardens has the most spectacular rooms (in England’s Cotswolds region).

JM: What’s the one garden tool you can’t live without?

FP: Clippers and string.

Mid-summer flowers sing a song in her vases.

JM: What’s gardens have you visited recently that you loved?

FP: Page Dickey, Leslie Needham and Dominique Browning. (Note: These are all private gardens of avid gardeners and designers who are friends).

JM: What garden has influenced the way you manage yours?

FP: I follow Dan Pearson’s personal garden closely as well as Issima in Rhode Island.

JM: When is the last time you hugged a tree?

FP: Quite recently. I just watched that documentary about The Hidden Life of Trees.

JM: What’s a sign of respect that you give to nature’s green beings?

FP: To do no harm. I keep bees.

The happy faces of sunflowers in one of her footed bowls.

JM: What’s one of your favorite resourceful/inspirational books on gardening?

FP: “Spirit: Garden Inspiration” by Dan Pearson

JM: What’s a non-profit you admire for their work on gardening?

FP: Wave Hill and the Garden Conservancy.

Frances wearing a Janet Mavec charm necklace she created including a pear, oyster and an acorn.