The Adirondacks has a long, amazing history of luring and inspiring artists, as well as being home to some truly independent, awesomely cool women. One of those women, a talented artist and key part of the area's artistic community is Cheri Cross, whose studio is located at the Jay Craft Center, which she runs with her business partner. Cheri is a potter and the sunny craft center — centrally located in Jay near the four corners — is filled with finely crafted art from throughout the Adirondacks, and numerous examples of Cheri's work, which takes inspiration from the bountiful natural beauty of the Adirondack landscape.
Cheri has been selling her wares and working out of a studio in Jay since the 1970s, shortly after graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh. Although Cheri wasn't an art major, she was drawn to art courses, and ceramics held a special interest for her. It was in a ceramics class that she met Lee, her eventual partner in life and art. Together, they set out to develop their craft and attempt to make a living as artists, with each exploring their interests within the world of ceramics, whether it is subtleties of glazing or hand-forming unique shapes. Cheri and Lee landed in Jay, at the same building they are in now, which was originally a Grange Hall. Much of the original character and vintage charm of the building remains, although Cheri notes with a smile that it can be difficult to heat. Visitors still come by who remember it back then, as a social gathering place, and when dances were held upstairs. Then, as now, it was a key part of the community. When Cheri first arrived, she and Lee had a small space and the store wasn't very big. It was run by another artist, but when he decided to retire in 1980, Cheri and Lee took on the adventure and bought the building, expanding the store and establishing the space as a must-visit destination for quality local art.
Every summer, the Jay Craft Center is a stop on the Ausable River Valley Studio Tour, a weekend in which artists in five towns throughout the area open their studios to visitors. This year it takes place July 18 - 19 and it's a fun opportunity for people to meet and interact with artists, see them at work, and ask questions. In talking to Cheri, it becomes clear that she loves the studio tours (she helps organize the event every year, too!) and the opportunity for her to meet new people and share the joy she finds in her work. I spent time with her in her studio, watching, learning, and asking questions, and she was a joy to spend time with. Watching her work was mesmerizing and relaxing. She had a few objects in different stages of work, enabling me to watch her utilize different techniques and stages of completion. Bowls were shaped, mug handles were "pulled" by hand, and clay labels were shaped, applied, and hand-stamped for a private client. I learned a lot and was intrigued and impressed by Cheri's delicacy and thoughtful designs. Many potters use molds, but not Cheri. Each piece is completely and utterly unique, made by hand every step of the way. There's a great beauty in that.
As fun as it is to watch — clay transformed from a true lump to something refined and useful — shaping and forming the objects is only one aspect of what Cheri creates. The finished works feature hand-applied glazes and hand-painted details inspired by the Adirondacks. Lively trout, pine cones, black-eyed Susans, and irises are among the natural elements Cheri enjoys painting. When she paints leaves, she tries to make them look like they are moving, giving the inanimate piece a sense of life. She's working on hand-painting birds now as well, honing her technique until she gets the images just as she wants to, what she refers to as her "latest challenge."
In addition to being passionate about her own work, which she truly enjoys, Cheri is also keen to celebrate and help support other artists. As a result, the shop contains a carefully curated selection of works that all complement each other. The Jay Craft Center features works by artists from the Jay area, throughout the Adirondacks, and beyond. Highlights include the lifelike works by wood carver Allen Aardsma (his painted turtles are astonishingly handsome), printmaker Joann Wilson, and photographer Jeri Wright, all of whom live in Jay or nearby Wilmington. The pastels and oils of Robert Selkowitz, who is not from the Adirondacks but visits regularly, are lovely, evocative images of Adirondack scenes, including lakes, mountains, and the ubiquitous Adirondack chair. Selkowitz's bold colors are lively and cheerful. As Cheri notes, "there is a lot of local talent in the area. The community is wonderful." The whole shop radiates liveliness and feels comfortable, as though if you bring home just the right thing that you like, your home will be that much prettier.
In her pottery, Cheri believes in creating items that are beautiful, but also functional, that can and will be used and loved by their owners. Therefore, the Craft Center shelves are stocked with mixing bowls, mugs, vases, colanders, lamps, butter dishes, and more. It's a family affair here, too. Cheri and Lee's son Kaiden has a line of farm-themed pottery, decorated with whimsical cows, pigs, horses, and tractors. They're perfect pieces for children, but if you ask me, everyone should have a cow bowl for their morning cereal.
During winter, the Jay Craft Center is open by appointment or "by chance." Cheri is a welcoming host, so don't be shy to call her up to arrange a visit. If you visit in summer, the Jay Craft Center is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Stop in, browse, and enjoy. Cheri is an Adirondack treasure, a fun woman to spend time with, and a unique artist.
The Whiteface Region, home to the Jay Craft Center, Cheri Cross, and so many other talented, engaging Adirondack artists is a relaxing location for your next getaway. Visit us, grab a bite to eat, and get comfy. We have plenty of special events throughout the year, including the Ausable River Valley Studio Tour. We'd love for you to join us!
Read more about other inspirational Adirondack women...
Inez Milholland: Forward out of Darkness
Andrea Kilbourne-Hill: From the Adirondacks to Olympics and back