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Frost Ceramics and Mercantile to help keep the arts alive in Sea Cliff

Pottery shop brings artists together

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The newest addition to Sea Cliff’s arts community, Frost Ceramics and Mercantile, opened last week on Sea Cliff Avenue in the village’s downtown. Owners Kimberle and Chris Frost, 58 and 56, respectively, said that opening the shop and studio was the next logical step, as Chris, a potter, had been creating and selling ceramics out of the couple’s Glen Head backyard for nearly a decade.

“We just decided, after years of Chris working in a backyard studio, to bring this craft to the community,” Kimberle said. “The art of making things is important, especially today.”

At the front of the shop, the Frosts sell pottery, textiles, linens and gift items. Kimberly said there are four pottery wheels in the back, where Chris creates his pieces and gives classes and workshops. Much of his pottery will be made in the studio, and passersby will be able to see him at work, which Kimberly said would offer insight into how  items are made, similar to a restaurant with an open kitchen. All of the items for sale are from local artisans, she said, and each has a personal story.

The couple met while studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in the 1980s, where they both earned degrees in fine arts. They married in 1988 and moved to Glen Head three years later. They have two children — Theadora, 28, and Ryland, 23.

Kimberle said she has designed textiles for offices and hotels for years. Chris spent much of his career in the fashion business as a textile designer, but he said he has experimented with many forms of art. He doesn’t like to make art for art’s sake, he said, because he prefers his work to serve a function. That, he said, is what sparked his passion for pottery seven years ago.

“When I decided to give pottery a try, it seemed to check all the boxes,” Chris said. “It was very sculptural. It engaged my entire body, and I could make things that are functional.”

Frost Ceramics and Mercantile occupies the space that was once the Creative Arts Studio, which closed last summer after 15 years as a collaborative space for artists to gather and the community to experience the arts. When owner Tracy Warzer began planning to close the studio early on during the coronavirus pandemic, she said wanted to wait for the right people to whom she could relinquish her lease. She had created a place for the Sea Cliff arts community to come together and collaborate, she said, and the Frosts made perfect successors for her.

“They’re both very motivated to fulfill this dream,” Warzer said. “I’m very happy to promote what they’re doing because it continues the concept of keeping the arts in the community.”

Joyce Segall, of Sea Cliff, was among the first people to sign up for a private pottery lesson with Chris, having taken the first of her four courses last Saturday. Although she doesn’t consider herself an artist, she said the experience was great, because the lesson was very personal. She said that Chris takes the individual into account, and told her that every person has a different toolset.

“I really enjoyed Chris’s teaching style,” Segall said. “He really helped me get a sense of what I was trying to get a sense of — how to get a feel of the materials rather than just give instructions. He was really trying to teach me to get the clay to do what I wanted it to do.”

Sea Cliff’s close-knit feel makes the location a perfect spot for the business, Kimberle said. It provides the couple with the chance to engage with people who love the arts. She added that newer, younger people are moving into the village, and being part of that change is energizing, she said.

Kimberle said she is often asked why the couple decided to open a business during the pandemic, which has hurt business communities across the world. She is optimistic about their ability to succeed, she said, because people want to create and express themselves no matter the circumstance.

She also said the studio is conscious of customers’ health needs, with pottery wheels spaced out far enough apart to give users a comfortable distance between one another. 

“It’s very rare that people get to do what they love in their life,” Kimberle said, “and we feel really lucky that we’re able to do that and share it with the community.”