For twenty years, Paul and Tonya Romanick have combined their talents to make beautiful and practical art in Newark.
The Romanicks are ceramic artists. When you walk into their Main Street gallery, you are hit by a dazzling display of colors, shapes and textures that includes bowls, plates, platters, mugs and growlers (a popular ceramic pitcher used to carry beer for extended periods of time), along with whimsical items like fish, animals and jewelry.
Both Tonya and her husband Paul have specific talents they bring to these creations. Paul makes the complex shapes and forms on the potter’s wheel, with Tonya adding handles, trees and other embellishments to the work.
She calls it “hand-building.”
It has taken the pair many years to attain their level of proficiency: Paul estimated he has created around 30,000 pieces in his 20 years at the potter’s wheel, but said that time flies while he is working.
“Tonya and I have something we call ‘potters time,'” he said, “because when you’re busy and you’re involved and your immersed in your work you forget and you lose track of the time.”
Any given piece can consume three to sixty hours. But were you to ask Paul how long it takes him to finish a piece, he would probably tell you twenty years, referencing his cumulative years of experience.
Two decades of trial and error allows Tonya to know what the clay can and can’t do, such as how to attach a handle and how to properly balance a piece to hang on the wall.
More than shaping clay
But there’s more to their craft than shaping clay: The couple has had to reinvent their work and business over the years. A recent success for them has been growlers.
Paul was approached with the idea of creating a growler with a flip-top on it. After a few prototypes, Paul came up with a design that worked, and they have been flying off the shelf ever since. Two local breweries, Dogfish Head and Twin Lakes Brewing, both purchase and sell growlers made by Romanick Pottery, who also sell custom growlers to the public and other brew houses around the country.
Both Paul and Tonya take great pride in their work and sharing it with their customers.
“While I’m creating is the most gratifying part of the process.” Paul said. “I love creating the pieces on the wheel. It’s wonderful to be recognized and be able to create something with your own hands.”
“Its nice when people come in, they start looking at the pottery,” Tonya said. “I’ll hear them say, I love your colors, I love the shapes. I know than that they really appreciate what we do, they get it. Those are the kinds of things that make me feel good.”
One might think that boredom could set in after 20 years, but Paul observed that to have somebody express interest in one’s work, and want to buy that work, “is what helps to feed the energy to want to make you do more”.
Paul takes the experience of each piece he creates to whatever his next piece or project may be. He learns from each piece.
“That’s what feeds my energy to go back and make more, because of the reward I get from seeing the completion of my work,” he said.
“We really feed off of one another’s talents, that’s what has really kept us going here for twenty years, our love of the art. It’s what we do,” Tonya said. “I don’t know what we would do if we weren’t into clay”.
You can see a slide-show of the Romanick Pottery gallery below. For gallery times, ordering info and information on classes, visit their website.