Clay Buddies: Virginia Knight
Jan 21, 2022 • Shannon Doyne
If you have ever had a comment, a question or, yes, a concern about East Fork, there’s a good chance you encountered Virginia Knight, who probably left you feeling like you just made a new friend. Here, Virginia talks comfort, favorite places, writing, fashion and much more, and shares five objects she cherishes.
Hi, Virginia! Tell us what you do here at East Fork.
Hi Shannon! :) I work on East Fork’s Customer Care Team. Essentially I virtually hang out on all sorts of platforms to be the first point of contact for folks with questions, comments or concerns.
Your job seems like it would introduce you to lots of people who want to talk about East Fork. Can you tell us a story or two that helps us get a sense of what your days at work are like and what our customers really care about?
I think what sticks with me most (perhaps more than any one particular story) is the combined total of all the customers who take time to send in photos of our pots in their homes. We see holiday spreads, seasonal tablescapes, and people adventuring with their Mugs all over the world. It closes the feedback loop of excitement, if you will. We’re proud of our work and excited to get it in people’s homes, and then those people are so excited that they take time to share with us, and we all get to be excited together! It’s very sweet and never gets old.
As we’re working on this interview, we just ended the holiday shopping season a few weeks ago. How do you approach this extremely busy time of the year, a time when you might encounter customers who are really stressed out and maybe even give off some frantic energy?
We made it through Pandemic Holiday Season #2, yes! I am lucky to work with an incredible team who supports me at every turn, and I’m also lucky to work for a company that makes it very clear that we do not subscribe to the idea that “the customer is always right.” If a customer is rude or harassive, I am allowed to end the conversation! That is huge for my mental well-being.
Aside from that, I like to go for a walk on the way home from work at Riverside Cemetary. It’s my favorite place in Asheville, and I find the physical movement at the end of the work day really helps move the stress out of my body. Absolutely necessary during the holiday season!
And, we’re about to re-release Utah, a seasonal glaze that people are getting really excited about. Why do you think certain glazes elicit emotional reactions?
I love this question! While this may not apply to 100% of our customers, I would say most people who shop with us do so in order to fulfill a specific vision for their living space. Maybe they’ve always wanted handmade dishware to eat off of, or they have a favorite color that they’re trying to bring more of into their kitchen.
My home and my space is deeply important to me, and it’s a reflection of my inner world. It’s a constant work in progress, evolving as I do: a place of experimentation and expression. I would say many of our customers feel the same, and when we find objects to bring into our space that align with our inner vision—of how we want to feel in a space, of how we see ourselves, of how we want to be—it’s exciting! To paraphrase something I read once, good interior design is just portraiture. So of course a certain color or glaze can end up causing a lot of emotional resonance, when you think about it as a piece of that larger portrait.
Speaking of seasonals, what’s your favorite current or retired glaze? What’s your favorite core glaze?
My favorite East Fork glaze of all time is either Poinsettia or Wine Dark Sea, I can’t pick! Followed closely by Night Swim. Clearly, I am a sucker for our dark and moody seasonal glaze colors. And in my opinion red is a neutral, so Poinsettia is really just a lifestyle.
Of our core glazes, my favorite is easily Panna Cotta. I was surprised by how much this creamy, warm white won me over: maybe it’s because I keep describing the color as “a very lightly toasted marshmallow,” and I love dessert! It really does look good with everything, and I love the unexpected combination of Soapstone (which I have a lot of in my collection) + Panna Cotta.
In general, what do you do to stock the pond, so to speak, in your life? Where and how do you find inspiration and wholeness? What brings you comfort?
What a good question! Part of the reason I have stayed in Asheville as long as I have is because so many of my friends live here. Being able to see my people is restorative in so many ways, and I am always nourished (literally and metaphorically) after a good, long meal with friends.
For inspiration, I turn to the past. (History nerd alert!) My library of fashion history books, the smell of antique stores, historic places: all of these open my eyes to connections I want to explore, which forms the basis of my creative life. Every good writing idea I’ve ever had has come to me while in Riverside Cemetery. (Marissa, our CX Manager and my boss, refers to the cemetery as my “charging port.”)
As for comfort, how lucky am I to have so many soft places to land! My apartment brings me great comfort: a space all of my own, to do exactly as I please with. My friends, a good night’s sleep, my therapist and Prozac. The knowledge that in ten years I won’t remember the thing I’m worried about now, and that I have survived all of my hardest days thus far.
I’m going to take a moment here to really think about what you just said. I want to remember what you said about surviving all your hardest days so far. That’s going to be helpful for me, and I suspect for many others who are reading this, in difficult moments. Thank you, Virginia. Okay, moving on to the next question now. You’re also a writer. What do you write?
Primarily personal essays, but I also write about various facets of fashion history. It’s a pretty fun life when you can get paid to talk about the history of the chenille robe! I’ve also written a few East Fork blog posts in my day as well. [Editor’s note: Virginia has written about, among other things, a woodworker, a glassblower and a weaver whose work is available at East Fork.] For inquiring minds, you can find a selection of my published work on my website.
You are a trained fashion historian, too! What’s your favorite sartorial era?
I am indeed! A Master of Dress, if you will. (Being able to say that is half the fun of having a Master’s degree.)
I have strong feelings about many eras, but I always return to the 1940s, particularly in Western European/American fashion. The impact of WWII on fashion is fascinating, and the 40s silhouette was all the more striking considering it was bracketed by two very distinctly “feminine” decades (the 1930s and 1950s) for women’s fashion. Also, this is the time period in which American sportswear really starts taking off, and one of my favorite designers, Claire McCardell, was creating my dream wardrobe.
Where are you from?
Born and raised in Atlanta, GA! I lived there for the first 18 years of my life, and then moved to Asheville in 2011 to attend UNC Asheville. Aside from a brief interlude to attend graduate school, I like Asheville enough that I haven’t left!
What are some of your favorite places?
In no particular order: Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, any antique or thrift store, my bed, Scotland, my best friend’s house, the Glasgow Necropolis, anywhere cold, my best friend’s couch, the back table upstairs at Kember & Jones in Glasgow, the entire city of Glasgow, my apartment in Asheville, Crow & Quill, my regular spot at Curtis Creek in Old Fort, and anywhere my best friend is.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
I will admit right off the bat that I love organizing, and spending time re-organizing my linen closet is a deeply fun activity for me. That said, other things I do for fun include: reading, sewing, watching horror movies, prowling antique stores and estate sales, cozying up on my couch and playing video games on my Switch, and seeing all my favorite people as much as I possibly can. I also eat a lot of decadent desserts, which I’m absolutely categorizing under “things I do for fun.”
What five objects have you chosen to share with us?
Reliquary urn necklace - This is a custom necklace made by Margaret Cross, which contains a piece of fur from our beloved family dog. I collect mourning jewelry, particularly Victorian hairwork pieces, so having this commemorative piece is so special to me. I wear it every day.
Domino magazine collection - When I was a kid, the number one thing I was excited for when I grew up was to have my own space to decorate. My mom and I both love Domino magazine, and for years I’ve been collecting old issues off eBay (and keeping track of which ones I own on a spreadsheet, naturally). I own several dozen, I just grabbed four for the photo…lest y’all doubt my commitment!
Vintage anthropomorphic lettuce chalkware - Every single thing in my home came from a thrift store, but since I can’t show off my entire collection I have picked this very glamorous lettuce friend. This actually belonged to my mom, and I loved it so much she gave it to me. Long live kitsch and maximalism!
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - If I absolutely had to choose a favorite book, this would be it. I adore the story, and as a writer I’m consistently impressed by the sheer scale of the plot and Chabon’s language. I read somewhere that the ending of the story is what you give the reader to reward their attention, and the ending of this book distills the giant scope of this book into one beautiful, sharp, and emotional point. That mastery of craft floors me every time.
“History of Costume” final exam paper - My paternal grandmother received a Master’s degree in Textile Sciences in the 1940s, roughly seventy years before I would get my Master’s in Dress and Textile Histories. She taught me how to sew and so much of what I know about clothing, and this was her final exam for a “History of Costume” course she took. As a historian it’s fascinating to see what the field looked like in the 1940s (“fashion history” wasn’t widely recognized as an academic field of study until the 1980s), and I adore these line drawings for each decade. (That’s my grandmother in the photograph, hi Marian!)
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I needed this reminder today, “I have survived all my hardest days thus far”. This was a great read!
Plus, I need to know what lipstick you’re wearing please.
More of this, please.
Marion, wonderful share. I have to ask if you are familiar with the Texas Fashion Collection? Its an archive of nearly 20,000 historic and designer garments and accessories spanning 250 years of fashion history. Give them a follow!