For two decades, potter Vaughan Smith turned out tableware, tiles, bowls — the potter’s usual stock in trade. Then in 2002, a friend asked him to cut a hole in one of his large decorative bowls so that it could be used as a sink. “It’s hard to cut a hole in a bowl, so I just made him a new one with a hole in it,” says Smith. And that was the start of a charming addition to his line of pottery.
Smith, who is from Yorkshire, England, trained as a sculptor and printmaker. Back in 1983, he and his American wife, Jacqueline Cohen (a painter), were teaching art in southern England, and took up pottery for a hobby, setting up a studio in their basement. “It was a space about six feet by eight feet,” Smith recalls. “We lived in an old farm cottage, and the rooms upstairs were equally tiny — put one couch in and a room was full.” Westcote was the cottage’s rather grand moniker, Bell was a favorite family name, and so they called their micro studio Westcote Bell.
Sinks can be undermounted, dropped in, or installed as vessels. “They’re thicker than a traditional sink and very sturdy,” notes Smith. The decorative process involves up to four layers of colored clay, with details painted and carved by hand
In 1985, the couple moved to Ohio, where Jackie entered graduate school. Westcote Bell flourished. “I was selling to over 100 galleries, expanding big time, doing tableware, large sculptural pieces, all with motifs of landscapes, cats, and folk art imagery,” says Smith.
Designs are under the glaze, so they won’t fade. Animals are a recurring theme, with cats (the ”Prowler series”), a Westcote Bell classic
On their way to Maine to buy a house in 1994, the couple made a fateful detour to High Falls. “We stopped to have dinner with a friend at DePuy Canal House, and we really enjoyed it,” Smith recalls. Strolling around the little town afterwards, they saw a house with a “For Sale” sign and a big red barn that would make an ideal studio. Five weeks later, they owned the 1824 house. “Unfortunately, the people selling it wanted to live in the barn, so we had to build one,” says Smith. Westcote Bell has been ensconced in its new red barn ever since, with one end of the showroom devoted to Smith’s colorful sinks.
Prices range from $150 to $350 for the more simple models in bronze, copper, moss green, “or any color you want,” Smith says. One-of-a-kind painted sinks range from $350 to $650. Custom work takes four to six weeks to complete. “I just did one with rats,” notes Smith. “Although the most popular are ones painted with people’s own landscapes.”
For more information, call Westcote Bell at 845-687-7256 or check www.westcotebell.com. â—