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Connor McGinn: Local Ceramicist Combines Artistry with Restaurant Expertise

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March 16, 2021

By Linda Viertel--

When Sleepy Hollow resident Connor McGinn was searching for space near home in which to create his pottery studio he happened upon the former Elben Auto Shop garage at 84 Central Avenue in Tarrytown. Essentially, a big empty shell with a concrete floor and fire-proof ceiling, there was more than enough safe space for his pottery wheels, kiln, glazing bins and shelves to cure his ceramic creations:  tableware sets, vases, mugs and more. Too much space, in fact. So, through outreach, friends in the restaurant business, and connections to other makers, he created the community of artisans that became Makers Central in 2019. (“Makers Central: A Rising Tide Approach To Business,” The Hudson Independent, March 5, 2020.)

Makers Central - Connor McGinn
Photo by Clarence Morey III

McGinn’s journey toward becoming a ceramicist may have started in college when he took a few pottery classes, mostly to avoid courses in statistics and business. But, he honed his skill while serving in the Peace Corps for two years in Togo, West Africa, where local artisans hand-crafted their pottery without using a wheel or even a kiln – they just created a huge fire and nestled their items into the coals. He gained a sense of personal artistry, the surety plus expertise to create  his own ceramic designs and glaze recipes.

Makers Central - Tarrytown - ceramic bowls
Photo by Connor McGinn

But McGinn discovered his true calling after a stint in the restaurant business, first at Restaurant North in Armonk, then at The Twisted Oak in Tarrytown, where he started creating  dinnerware. Word of his pottery skills began to spread. And his first profession as sous-chef has since informed his pottery work in  multiple ways: he knows how a well-presented dish should look, how to plate food, how comfortable a server needs to be handling a dish and how cozy a mug can be. He has an innate sense of what color glaze might enhance a certain dish or how important it is to be able to stack tableware on shelves or in small spaces. Experiencing a restaurant’s need in combination with his pottery skills has given McGinn a unique perspective on his craft. Functionality and aesthetics are equally central to him.

Makers Central - Westchester
Photo by Connor McGinn

When designing tableware for a specific restaurant, “each relationship with the chef is different,” McGinn said. Recently Goosefeather chef Dale Talde asked McGinn if he made ramen bowls, and McGinn said “sure.” Talde was at his studio in 20 minutes. Together they designed what Talde thought was the perfect ramen bowl for his pop-up event. Chefs often want a custom design, as did Blue Hill Chef Dan Barber for Valentine’s Day. Together McGinn and Barber worked on the size of the bowls, edge curvature and color glaze: the 30 bowl order was ready on time.

Watch McGinn create ramen bowls:


Video by Patrick Johnson

Not only does McGinn design and create special tableware for restaurants, including My Tokyo and The Cube Inn in Tarrytown, but he also now has a wedding registry and an extensive stoneware collection, family style serving ware and porcelain sets online. McGinn Studios tableware contains no heavy metals or lead  in its glazes; all ceramic pieces are stackable and dishwasher safe. And each distinctive piece has McGinn’s home-made feel, often times with organic edges, a rustic quality and uneven shapes.

Makers Central - bowl with sushi
Photo by My Tokyo

Kelsey Connelly, a former co-worker at Twisted Oak helps McGinn with production, and McGinn is grateful for Connelly’s restaurant background. “She is meticulous and knows what it takes to get a piece just right having worked in an exacting kitchen.”  Skilled assistance gives McGinn more freedom to work collaboratively with a variety of chefs: to get a feel for their aesthetic and collaborate on design aspects takes time. He often creates multiple iterations of serving platters, dinnerware or vases until they agree on a final product.

Makers Central - photo by Margarita Garcia
Photo by Margarita Garcia

“An artful canvas for food,” is how McGinn describes his pottery, which is why both chefs and home cooks enjoy enhancing their dining experiences with his creations. McGinn might make dozens of test creations for a high-end farm-to-table chef or retail store, but he will also work with a customer to choose colors and shapes for online ordering.

Makers Central - Tarrytown ceramics - bowl

For McGinn, much of his creative work at his studio is enhanced by the community he has created in his Makers Central Space where a keen sense of hospitality and often a connection to the restaurant world is shared. To have Natalia Woodward hand-crafting printed menus and stationery on her 1903 printing press, Matt Yazel creating one-of-a-kind knives, and  a woodworking team, Carlos Chimborazo and Elena Krougliak, all in the back portion of the building, creates a hive of activity. They share ideas, customers, and professional resources.. And, they have fun together when they gather for monthly communal suppers in the kitchen they designed and constructed or prepare for their monthly pop-up retail events.

Makers Central - Westchester ceramic arts
Photo by Connor McGinn

Once the pandemic subsides, McGinn hopes to bring back the festive retail shopping experience where all the makers display their wares for sale, lights twinkle overhead, food trucks appear on Central Avenue, and the residents can wander inside Makers Central’s creative warehouse. Until then, McGinn is busy designing tableware sets for his online marketplace, special vases for decorative flower arrangements, filling wedding registry orders, and collaborating with chefs as they ramp up restaurant openings. In addition, Connor McGinn’s wish to become a part of Tarrytown and ”improve the village as a whole,” has already happened due not only to his creative presence but the collective contribution of all the makers on Central Avenue.


Photo by Joseph Dalton Dehart

Watch McGinn craft unique flower vases:

Makers Central - Tarrytown - Vases

Makers Central - Tarrytown Ceramics Space

Videos by Connor McGinn

To view McGinn’s ceramic collection, see him at work, visit his online marketplace, and sign up for the newsletter, please go to: connormcginnstudios.com.

 Makers Central: To meet the makers, learn more about the market, become a member, sign up for the newsletter, please go to: admin@makerscentralny.com.

connormcginnstudios.com
Photo by Connor McGinn

 

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