Spencer Wells, a New York City-based photographer, filmmaker and writer, visited and photographed Jono Pandolfi’s ceramics studio a few months ago. This photography essay is an incursion into a very beautiful and functional studio located across the Hudson River in Union City, New Jersey.
Text by Spencer Wells
Walking into the Pandolfi studio felt like walking into a familiar family kitchen. I was greeted by Nick Pandolfi, Jono’s younger brother whose enthusiasm for the work they’re doing permeates the atmosphere and keeps an infectious smile on his face. Nick introduced me to Jono and the familial feeling continued. Jono immediately put me at ease as he patiently walked me around the space before giving me free rein to document his process. Chatting all morning as I followed him around from slop sink to spray booth to slip cast station to desk, I got to know the humble, hard-working man behind the tableware that now sits at so many extraordinary establishments.
The space is incredible, you can see Jono’s imagination spread out across thousands of square feet of open warehouse space. Racks of semi-finished bowls, bags of clay, massive kilns and plants everywhere were bathed in morning sunlight streaming through the loft windows which faced the NYC skyline. Jono had a real calming presence. His patience and collaborative spirit were on full display as he and his small team transformed raw materials into beautiful finished pieces.
We made small talk while he filled slip cast molds, interspersing musings on his process with life-hacks. The topic of favorite beers came up, I revealed Miller High Life as my own guilty pleasure. Jono keyed into this and told me he’s really into “Spagetts” lately. Turns out a Spagett is when you “take a big swig out of the high life bottle and then pour in Aperol so it’s up to the top again”. This amateur mixology points to Jono’s deep connection to the restaurant industry. He’s become known for his work with culinary giants, from Eleven Madison Park to Eataly to a recent collaboration with Brad Leone on a fermentation crock. His work isn’t limited to dining either – he’s expanded into partnerships with homeware brands such as Parachute and sells a line directly to consumers. Still, every piece is produced under his watchful eye, constantly monitoring the processes and injecting his signature style into everything he touches.
Photos courtesy of Spencer Wells.
Spencer Wells is a New York City-based photographer, filmmaker and writer. His work explores the relationship between people and the natural environment, frequently introducing ethereal elements to create dynamic compositions. Visit Spencer Wells’ website.
Jono Pandolfi is a famous designer of handmade ceramic dinnerware and tabletop that you can find in some of the world’s best restaurants. His studio as a team of seven artisans that operate with several potters wheels and six kilns, producing orders that range from 12 to 500 place settings of custom dinnerware. He sometimes organizes open studios. Check the website for more details.
This photo essay was featured in Ceramics Now Weekly #6. Sign up for free if you’d like to receive our weekly newsletter dedicated to contemporary ceramics.