Louisville's Hadley Pottery Celebrates Unique Collaboration With Hawaiian Storybook Artist

The collaboration builds a bridge between Louisville and Maui.

Jun 14, 2024 at 2:02 pm
Louisville's Hadley Pottery Celebrates Unique Collaboration With Hawaiian Storybook Artist
Julia Allisson Cost

Multidisciplinary artist and Hawaiian local Julia Allisson Cost is coming to Louisville to celebrate her collaboration with Hadley Pottery. "The Girl and the Boat" tells a wordless story of friendship in a sequence of 30 oil paintings, some of which feature Hadley Pottery in domestic scenes. In collaboration with the picture book, Hadley Pottery is releasing a set of designs that bring those illustrations to life.

Cost is a dancer, painter, textile designer, sewist, and now, a picture book author and illustrator. She was born in Maui, Hawaiʻi. Her childhood home was "upcountry," a term used by Hawaiians to describe not only the geographical location — on Haleakalā (the dormant shield volcano) side of the island — but also, the way of life so far away from the shoreline. She left the islands for undergraduate and graduate programs in California, but has since returned and started a home of her own. Her home is filled with Hadley Pottery.

Although the Hawaiian Islands are separated from the pottery studio in the Butchertown neighborhood by more than 4,300 miles, Mary Alice Hadley made sure her distinctive hand-painted designs would traverse that distance. Hadley opened her business in 1945, and by 1952, was awarded a Good Design Award from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York for her Brown Fleck pattern. Her work is now in the permanent collections at the MOMA, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the Smithsonian (in the National Museum of African American History and Culture), and the Speed Art Museum. Hadley Pottery has also been sold at department stores like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's across the continent, which is how they eventually made their way to the volcanic islands in the central Pacific Ocean.

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Julia Allisson Cost
Cost earned a double BA in Studio Art and Dance from Scripps College and a MFA in Dance from the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in 2011. In an interview with the UCI alumni journal "CONNECT," she says there are parallels between her dance studies and her picture book: "The book is wordless, so like a dance, viewers read the story through the body language and expressions of the figures I painted. It works as a children's book, or as an art book for adults, and people of all ages have been discovering their own stories in it."

"The Girl and the Boat" took six years to create. Its visual narrative of friendship, love, and imagination follows the journey of a girl who discovers a wooden boat in a field of wildflowers. The field of wildflowers is near Cost's home. As she painted scenes from inside her home, Hadely Pottery designs — horses rendered with playful brushstrokes,"The End" painted on the bottom of bowls — began to populate her backgrounds. Now, Cost is traveling to Louisville for a book release event in the Hadley Pottery retail space at 1570 Story Ave.

Sarah Baker, Sales and Marketing Manager at Hadley Pottery, says that Brooke T. Smith, our owner, is "putting some wind in the sails of a very storied business. I know — very appropriate for Julia's beautiful book."

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Julia Allisson Cost

Baker recalls the facts of how the collaboration began, as through reading from a storybook herself. "We got an email from Julia saying, 'I've created this picture book based on my oil paintings and it features Hadley Pottery, which is in my home here in Hawaiʻi. Would you would you guys be interested in selling my book?' And we were just blown away."

Cost sent Baker a sample of the book and was immediately struck by the quality of the printing and binding. The clothbound book has a textured fabric cover. As soon as she opened the book, she started thinking about what Hadley Pottery might do with it. She shared the book with the painters and decorators who work in the studio upstairs.

Artist Elizabeth Aldridge came up with a design that combines two of Hadley's classic motifs: the farm girl and the sailboat. "Those already existed in our catalog," Baker says. "But it was wonderful the way Elizabeth came up with a pattern that really reflected the character in Julia's book. And then Julia was happy with the design because it picked up some of the colorfulness Hadley is known for, the blue and white glaze."

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Julia Allisson Cost

Cost designed the dress that the girl in the "The Girl and the Boat" is wearing, and its pattern is visible in the pottery design too. "It has been a really special collaboration," Baker says. Walking through the retail shop, where Hadley Pottery sells its seconds and other merchandise unique to the brand, shop cats Jigger and Jolly (named for the use of a shaped tool that forms a rotating workpiece) walk by, fortifying a feeling of home.

Cost's picture book arrived at an auspicious moment. Baker says that since Smith bought Hadley Pottery in 2022, the business has been focusing on maintaining the high quality that customers have been used to for generations, repairing machinery and equipment, and introducing modern marketing techniques. "We're having a lot of fun, and it's a great opportunity to be able to do this type of thing … to find a fresh audience and also keep happy our beloved core customers."

Cost will be present for the book release at the Hadley Pottery, signing copies of her book throughout the day.

The Girl and the Boat
Hadley Pottery
1570 Story Ave.

Saturday, June 15
9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m